How important is CRM today

What is CRM - Customer Relationship Management?

 

What is CRM

CRM stands for customer relationship management, or in German customer relationship management or customer care. It describes a company's strategy of consistent customer focus as well as the systematic design and management of customer relationship processes. The aim of the CRM strategy is to increase sales and profitability, reduce costs and strengthen customer loyalty.

In most cases, a CRM system is a software tool for contact and sales management. A CRM software summarizes all customer-related information from the various departments of a company. In this way, customer-oriented employees receive a holistic view of the sales, marketing and service data of each customer.

The different touchpoints, such as phone calls, e-mails, website visits or actions via social networks, are recorded and stored for the entire team. The system structures all information on orders, service requests, discounts and individual agreements with employees. This gives you a 360-degree view of your contacts. This allows you to improve the relationship with your prospects and customers over time, as well as adapting your conversations and e-mails to your interests, wishes or needs.

Why is CRM important to your company?

Fiercely competitive markets, often comparable goods and the competition that is just a click away: Companies today need a clear, customer-oriented strategy in order to stand out and assert themselves in the competition. The way in which you advise your customers and how they feel understood determines whether they remain loyal to the company. Customer relationship management is therefore more crucial than ever to the success of any company.

By using CRM systems, customers can be looked after in a targeted and comprehensive manner and customer relationships can be designed to be long-term and profitable.
Because in most cases it is much cheaper to get regular customers to buy again or to reactivate inactive customers instead of acquiring new customers.
However, this assumes that, even after years, you can still understand the relationship between your company and individual customers. Which goods was the customer interested in? Who were the contacts? What agreements were there?

But the functions of modern CRM software go far beyond customer care and sales management. In this way, you can also map your service and marketing processes as well as the relationships with all your stakeholders, such as partners and suppliers.
In addition, customer relationship management facilitates virtual and cross-departmental collaboration. Especially in times of digitization of the working world, CRM software is one of the most important tools for digitizing processes and creating a central hub for all data and documents as well as for collaboration.

Benefits of CRM

1. Better customer knowledge thanks to customer relationship management

In CRM you have a 360-degree view of your customers and all information at a glance: contact details, contact persons, tasks, telephone notes, correspondence, sales opportunities, complaints, orders, contracts, appointments and projects. The data from other systems such as ERP or BI can also be merged and called up via an interface. If all information about your contacts and customers is stored in one place, all employees also have access to this important information and you avoid dangerous data silos. If an employee is not available or has left the company, this data remains in the company.
When talking to customers, service and sales have all the information at hand and can organize the conversation personally. The customer analyzes in CRM allow you to identify hidden potential and offer and expand your products and services accordingly.

2. Better relationships with customers, partners and suppliers

Customer relationship management helps to build better customer loyalty. Thanks to the central database and real-time analyzes, you can look after customers personally and in a targeted manner. The better you look after your customers, the more loyal they become and the higher the Customer Lifetime Value, their long-term value for your company. A CRM system automatically reminds you of appointments, resubmissions and follow-up emails. In addition, you can derive, control and monitor tailor-made marketing measures that are precisely tailored to your customers. These functions also offer advantages for relationships with partners, employees and suppliers.

3. Real-time evaluations and forecasts

CRM analyzes enable you to understand your customers better on the one hand, and measure the success of your previous sales, marketing and service measures and optimize them on the other.
Modern CRM systems use algorithms to determine customer segments themselves and calculate customer value and potential. Using artificial intelligence, probabilities and decision options can also be calculated in real time:
What is the probability that an order will be placed? Which other products will the customer choose with what probability? Where is cross- and upselling potential? This makes economic decisions easier and increases sales.

4. Transparency and better collaboration

In addition, a CRM solution has advantages for cross-team collaboration, for example for agile teams. All departments of a company use a central platform and can access standardized information.

5. More efficiency and productivity

Structured and automated work processes ensure greater efficiency. With numerous automations, templates and fast document creation, CRMs make everyday work easier. This enables employees to work more efficiently and concentrate on strategically important tasks, such as optimal customer care.

What types of CRM are there?

Modern solutions usually combine all types, but differ in the scope of functions in the individual areas:

  • Operational CRM focuses on day-to-day communication with the customer: All information is stored centrally, thus enabling optimal support. Every service employee knows what the colleague last discussed with the customer or what the current status of a project is.
    The operational customer relationship management interacts with the analytical CRM (see below): It supplies the data for analyzes and derives further steps from it.
  • The analytical CRM evaluates the data obtained and enables conclusions to be drawn about trends or further sales potential. The functions do not provide direct support in day-to-day business, as is the case with operational CRM. However, valuable insights for sales and marketing can be gained from the analyzes.
  • The communicative CRM bundles all communication channels for contact with customers. Whether by email, telephone or social networks: All inquiries are recorded and processed centrally. The customer can be addressed at any time via the medium he wishes.
  • Collaborative CRM stands for collaborative work among users. The focus is on cross-departmental collaboration. On the one hand, all interactions with customers, partners and suppliers are documented and managed. Every employee has access to all information and is up to date on projects and agreements.

Different areas of the company benefit from CRM

The administration of contact data is one of the basic components of customer relationship management. However, the functions in contact management may differ depending on the department and industry.

marketing

  • Lead management
    CRM solutions support both lead generation and the further development of so-called lead nurturing.
    A large number of contact details are generated during lead generation. These come from different sources such as social media channels (e.g. the social media platforms LinkedIn, Facebook or Instagram), SEA, content marketing, download offers, registration for newsletters, webinars or events and trade fairs. All of this data is brought together and can be managed in a structured manner. With lead nurturing, potential customers are provided with relevant information, depending on the phase in the purchasing process they are in. The aim is to further qualify the leads and turn them into customers. For this purpose, nurturing routes can be set up and mapped. Ready-made mailings and content modules are then automatically sent to the right customers at the right time.
  • Marketing automation
    This not only facilitates lead nurturing but also other tasks and processes. Fixed Triggersuch as registering for a specific event, trigger actions defined in advance, such as sending a registration confirmation, automatically adding it to the relevant campaign and automatically sending suitable information about the event and relevant additional content.
  • Campaign management
    The customer information stored in customer relationship management can be analyzed, filtered and used for targeted marketing campaigns. It supports not only campaign management, but also monitoring and evaluation.
  • Measurement and analysis
    The customer analyzes and evaluations can in turn be used to identify customer needs and create targeted campaigns. The measurement of certain key performance indicators (KPIs) provides information about how successful certain marketing activities were.

distribution

  • Cooperation between marketing and sales
    The lead management functions are also essential for sales. Particularly when transferring leads from marketing to sales, the customer history and the 360-degree view of the customer are important in order to provide them with the best possible support and further qualification. On this basis, joint activities that build on one another can be centrally planned and controlled via customer relationship management. The individual sales phases can also be mapped in CRM and leads can be graded into the next phase using checklists.
  • External sales
    Customer relationship management also offers many advantages for the collaboration between field service and office service. Both can access and maintain data from anywhere in real time. Thanks to a mobile system, the field service can use all functions while on the move: view customer data and customer histories, create visit reports and offers directly on site. Thanks to the intelligent visit and tour planning, the sales representative automatically receives suggestions as to which customers should be visited next. In addition, the CRM calculates the most efficient route for multiple customer visits.
  • Multi-channel sales
    Points of contact with interested parties and buyers have shifted due to digitization. In order to offer them more comfort and service, multi-channel sales are also playing an increasingly important role. In good CRM systems, customer data can be managed from all channels. In addition, sales areas can be planned digitally and a transparent overview of products, prices, listings, promotions and supply chains can be created.
  • Sales forecasts and evaluations
    In the CRM, forecasts and sales as well as other sales key figures, such as conversion rate, are visualized and clearly displayed in a dashboard.
    Using artificial intelligence, customer relationship management also uses customer data to calculate probabilities of completion or cross-selling and up-selling potential. This enables the software to support sales in managing measures, improving processes and making profitable decisions.
  • Opportunity management
    The sales funnel is also visualized in the sales dashboard. The sales department can keep an eye on the customer and knows which phase in the sales process the respective customer is currently in. The entire process is mapped using opportunity management. The sales department maintains the sales opportunity before and after every contact with the customer or prospect. By evaluating sales opportunities, sales focus on those contacts that are really promising. You can close unprofitable sales opportunities in good time. This means that resources are used optimally.
  • Customer recovery
    It is often much cheaper than acquiring a new potential customer to win back customers. Using the data in CRM, you can see where there is potential for recovery and which wishes and requirements you have to meet in order to reactivate the customer.

service

The key to a long-term customer relationship is above all the quality of service. A CRM system can make customer service a lot more efficient and strengthen customer loyalty.

  • Complaint management
    Good complaint management decides whether customers will migrate to the competition or whether they will remain loyal to your company and brand. A customer complaint in itself is unpleasant, but you should not see it as a problem, but as an opportunity to convince the customer of yourself and to improve your product. The advantage of customer relationship management is that your service employees can strengthen their loyalty to the customer, as with just a few clicks you have access to the customer history and all the information you need to process a complaint to the customer's satisfaction.
  • KPIs and success measurement
    With CRM systems you can measure the success of your service team using various service KPIs. In this way, the efficiency of the service team as well as customer satisfaction can be measured using CRM data. Regular customer surveys are also important here.

Managing directors

But not only the areas of sales, marketing and service benefit from good CRM software. This has developed into a platform that has a significant impact on internal company efficiency - and that for a wide variety of company areas. All employees work together across departments - from interns to management. This is precisely what the CRM solution has long been actively using for a comprehensive overview of the entire company and as a basis for sustainable business decisions.

How individual industry solutions help companies to be more efficient

Every industry and every company has its own characteristics. That is why there are various CRM solutions, adapted to the individual needs of the respective industry:

  • Mechanical engineering and plant construction
    Networking people, machines and products is one of the greatest challenges in digitalization in mechanical and plant engineering. In the area of ​​service excellence in particular, the good CRM systems offer a competitive advantage. Machine learning and predictive maintenance enable you to maintain and repair machines before a defect even occurs. Machine data acquisition systems (MDE) can also be connected in order to evaluate machine data in the best possible way.
  • construction
    The construction and construction supplier industry in particular is characterized by complex relationship structures that make it difficult to keep track of things. A CRM enables a complete overview of all stakeholders and a clear object management. In addition, customer relationship management provides information about the current demand for goods and materials as well as the current market situation.
  • trade
    Like any other industry, the retail industry has its specific requirements for a CRM solution. In retail, it is no longer enough to bring a good product to market. In order to convince customers of products and your company and to retain them in the long term, every point of contact with the customer must be made transparent. In this way, all employees know at all times which sales stage the customer is in and which further measures are necessary.
  • logistics
    In times of Industry 4.0 and the digitization of processes, the platform concept of good CRM software is of great importance for the logistics industry. All data, documents and all software solutions are brought together here in a central hub. Customer relationship management can not only improve customer service and customer relationships, but also digitally map tender and trade lane management.

What is xRM?

xRM stands for Any-Relationship-Management, often also Extended-Relationship-Management. What is meant is software whose functions go beyond those of a classic CRM system. In the xRM solution, not only customer relationships are managed, but relationships of all kinds: such as with partners, suppliers, dealers, but also machines, goods and objects. An xRM maps data complexes and company processes and becomes the central company platform. Today, most good CRM systems have the functionalities that are ascribed to an xRM solution. However, the term CRM is more common and is also often used as a synonym for xRM.

The aim of xRM software is to manage the existing complexity of data and relationships. In doing so, it makes a major contribution to securing the future of your company.The company's ability to innovate is strengthened, processes are accelerated and communication both internally and externally is improved. With the xRM software from ADITO in particular, you benefit from the following advantages:

  • Central data platform for all departments
  • Extensive analysis options
  • Budget savings through a central platform
  • Fast data maintenance without changing systems
  • Transparent and up-to-date information management
  • No process gaps

Current CRM trends

Many processes and systems in the company have to be adapted to the growing increase in home offices and remote work. Even if colleagues are not in the same office, the collaboration has to work well. In order to win customers, lead generation through inbound marketing and content marketing is moving further into focus. Companies have to respond better to the individual customer and his wishes.

1. CRM platforms as a central hub

Increased home office and remote work demands one thing above all else: collaboration that is as uncomplicated as possible, precise work processes and information flow between employees who work separately from one another. The CRM Report 2020 study shows that the current crisis is a driver for digitization in German companies.

On the one hand, CRM systems are tools for collaboration between the departments. On the other hand, they are increasingly becoming a hub for business software. Not only communication tools such as Microsoft Exchange or Teams are connected via the interface, but the link with ERP or PIM systems is also playing an increasingly important role. In this way, the CRM becomes the central workspace in the company.

2. Features and tools for remote sales will become standard

Digital sales pitches are increasingly replacing the traditional type of on-site sales pitch. Companies are therefore working on new workflows and processes that ensure that salespeople can work effectively regardless of time and place. Mobile CRM and the automation of tasks are not a new trend, but they continue to gain in importance. Features such as e-signatures, for digitally signing offers and contracts, and digital product presentations should be part of the standard repertoire.

3. Cloud First

Cloud-based applications make work in the home office and hybrid work between on-site and remote employees more efficient, safer and more reliable.
Make sure that you do not rush into software because of the pressure to digitize. It is more important to build up structural sustainability, think long-term and develop a solution tailored to your company.

4. Live chats

Real-time communication via online live chat is not new, but it is gaining in importance due to increasing online purchases. Potential customers are increasingly visiting websites and online shops and use chat tools for questions and individual advice.
With the help of real-time chats, interested leads can quickly become customers. In this way, customer loyalty can also be increased, additional sales generated or higher sales achieved through good advice and up-selling.

Communication via chat must, however, offer the user a corresponding added value. You should answer the question in real time if possible. For existing customers, this often requires a 360 ° view of the customer.
The exchange in the chat can also be stored in CRM, e.g. by entering the e-mail address, and assigned to the respective customer.

5. Email Marketing

Lead generation in the form of emails is still the trend. Rely on quality instead of quantity, otherwise your messages will quickly be classified as spam. Think about what content appeals to your prospects or customers and whether the information actually generates added value.

6. Marketing automation

Automation can be combined very well with a corresponding inbound strategy. Because the right leads receive the right content and relevant information at the right time. While saving time and budget as you can prioritize and automate certain marketing activities. In CRM, for example, you can plan campaigns and e-mails or automatically segment a large number of leads and evaluate them using what is known as lead scoring.

7. Language assistance

Voice assistants have been making our everyday lives easier for years, so why not our day-to-day work in customer relationship management too? This function can be particularly beneficial in sales:
The sales employee no longer has to open his laptop to prepare for customer appointments, for example, but can query customer data or appointments using voice control on the smartphone.

8. Artificial intelligence

Big data and a constantly growing database make classic data analysis difficult. By using artificial intelligence (AI), you can not only make existing work processes easier for your employees, but also create individual experiences for your customers.
Using AI, the optimal offer for a customer can be generated from the central database, closing potential can be calculated or cross-selling and up-selling offers can be determined.

9. Flexible CRM solutions

Standard solutions are slowly becoming obsolete. Processes in companies are becoming more and more complex and require individual solutions - or at least customizable standard solutions. By adapting to the exact requirements of a company, working with the systems is not only more efficient, they also enjoy greater user acceptance.

How is a CRM system available?

CRM systems can be made available in two different ways: as a cloud solution and as an in-house solution.

CRM as an in-house solution

As an in-house solution, the system is operated locally in your company and requires a corresponding server structure in-house with sufficient memory available. The software is then installed on the employees' computers. The data are internally available without restriction. If your employees also need access from home, an appropriate infrastructure with VPN access is necessary. All access (from outside) is 100% in the hands of the company. No company data has to be passed on to third parties. The operation and maintenance of the hardware as well as regular backups are also in your company.

CRM as a cloud solution

Like many IT solutions nowadays, a CRM system is also available as a cloud solution. With a solution from the cloud, this is not carried out locally in the company network, but on external servers. The software is thus made available via the Internet. The cloud thus enables basic flexibility and rapid scalability: customer data can be managed in parallel by numerous users and access is possible regardless of the end device.

The online solution is provided directly by the provider in the cloud and regular updates are also carried out by the provider himself. This means that the cloud-based solution is available quickly and easily and can also be accessed via mobile devices such as smartphones or tablets. Companies with many employees working in the field or working from home benefit from this online software in particular. Payment is usually made via monthly subscriptions, in which the maintenance and care of the storage is usually included directly by the provider. When choosing the provider, you should definitely pay attention to data security and have data hosting guaranteed in Germany.

Advantages of the cloud solution:

  • Fast availability: With the cloud-based solution, the secure provision of the IT infrastructure in the company and cumbersome installation and implementation processes are no longer necessary.
  • Low IT costs: Relief of your internal IT department through real-time maintenance and updates directly from your provider.
  • Simple scaling: As your company grows, more users can be added flexibly. The price depends on the number of users.
  • Flexible access: Cloud-based systems can be used regardless of location and device. You can access your data anytime, anywhere.
  • Efficient collaboration: Your employees are networked beyond their departments and locations and can therefore work together optimally.

Mobile CRM

Mobile CRM is especially available on mobile devices such as smartphones or tablets. It is a system from the cloud that makes access to data and current information flexibly available and enables work to be done anywhere. The solution is particularly suitable for employees in the field. In a mobile CRM, optimal mobile presentation and convenient usability, which enable easy access while on the move, are important. A distinction should be made between which functions deliver added value on the move and which are better left on the desktop.

Choosing the right CRM system

Anyone who wants to introduce a good CRM in their company is facing the start of a large project. At the beginning, an extensive requirements analysis in the company is necessary. These are the steps to consider when choosing a system:

1. Stakeholder Analysis

First of all, it is important to clarify which departments and different interest groups should be involved in your project. Not only later key users are decisive, but also, for example, IT, management and the works council. Make sure that you include all relevant stakeholders and get them on board at an early stage. If a staff or works council is involved, you should also draw up a works agreement for the project.

2. As-is analysis

With the as-is analysis, you determine the current state of your work and company processes. This will later facilitate the definition of your customer relationship management requirements and the definition of the work processes that you would like to map in the CRM system. Use the analysis of the current situation not only to examine your company processes, but also to optimize existing processes and to expand cross-departmental collaboration.

3. Target definition

Now that you know the current status of your processes and how they should look optimally, the next step is to use a requirements analysis to define which functions and processes the CRM solution should map. The requirements are defined in a specification sheet in which you describe your individual wishes for a CRM as precisely as possible. It is best to use a specification template with appropriate instructions to create a specification to define your catalog of requirements. As part of the target definition, you also determine which other IT solutions are to be linked to your software. For example, you can seamlessly integrate your telephone system, DMS solution, ERP system and much more.

4. Find a provider

Once you have defined all of your company's requirements for customer relationship management, you now need the right provider and partner for your project. To do this, send your specifications to selected providers with the request for evaluation and return. When processing your specifications, the providers can also provide an initial cost estimate for your CRM project. Then it goes into the evaluation of the provider. Which providers are you shortlisted for? Include your stakeholders and pay attention to the usability of the software.

Introduction of a CRM system

After the right provider has been found, the implementation phase begins. Your permanent project team, including the project manager, should be here at the latest in order to guarantee that the project runs smoothly. Before doing this, you should also determine which project approach you will choose for your CRM project and what budget you have available.

Step 1: Choose the implementation method

For your project, you can choose whether you proceed according to agile or classic project management. The choice of method must suit your project goal.

Step 2: budget planning

Depending on which project method you choose - whether agile or classic - your project costs also vary. When making an initial budget calculation, it helps to obtain empirical values ​​from other companies, project managers, consultants and your CRM provider. When planning the project costs precisely, different factors are decisive, such as the operating model, requirements and procedure. When planning your budget, pay attention to your specifications and don't lose sight of the benefits of customer relationship management.

Step 3: implementation phase

Once the approach and budget have been clarified, there is still a long way to go before the solution goes live. The implementation of the project consists of several workshops and phases according to the classic project management. In agile project management, these phases can differ and interlock.

  1. Kick-off workshop: The milestones of your project are defined here in the entire project group and together with the provider's project manager.
  2. CRM conception: The detailed specification and necessary system adjustments are now carried out in individual workshops. The results are recorded in a specification sheet.
  3. CRM implementation: This project phase involves developing the agreed functionalities. Your provider sets up the system environment for development and test purposes. Existing data is migrated to the new solution at this point.
  4. Test phase: Once the new system is up and running, it is time to extensively test the test system. Your project team and users test the functionalities in order to record errors or change requests and pass them on to the provider.
  5. Education and training: Once the solution has been accepted, the user begins training. It is important that you not only learn general handling, but also subject-specific processes.
  6. Go-Live: As soon as all future users are ready to use the new CRM software, you can switch it live and work with it. It makes sense to provide a contact person for your employees even after the go-live. This strengthens user acceptance.

Proper use of a CRM system

If a company uses a CRM system, the work is not done. In order for customer relationship management to be implemented and, above all, used in a targeted manner, there are a few things to consider:

  • Data up-to-dateness and quality: Data must be maintained carefully and continuously. With a structured and central contact management you can ensure optimal data quality.
  • User acceptance: Employees often react skeptically at first to changes and new work processes. In order for your CRM implementation to be successful, you have to take your users' concerns away and convince them of the added value with a targeted project marketing strategy. Make sure that your employees enjoy working with it with appropriate training.
  • Communication: Do not consider your project complete with the introduction. Maintain open communication with your project team and employees. In this way, difficulties or suggestions for improvement can be quickly identified and responded to.
  • CRM strategy: If a good CRM is in use, there is often still untapped potential. In order for you to take full advantage of this, it is important to link your CRM strategy with your company strategy. Only those who break their goals down to operational doings can achieve them in the long term.
  • Evaluation: Your company is constantly evolving. It is important that you adapt your customer relationship management to changes in the company and that you regularly check it with regard to processes, users and technology.

Conclusion

Good CRM systems support the individual needs of a company, especially marketing, sales and service, as well as virtual collaboration between different areas. The joint view of customers and projects enables the entire company to work together in a customer-centric way and not only win new customers, but also retain them in the long term and build customer relationships. In an xRM system, you can also map relationships with all other stakeholders, such as suppliers, partners and employees.

Published on 10/01/2017
Updated April 14, 2021