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What is a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) System?

A Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system enhances a business’s ability to cultivate and nurture customer relationships. The system provides a unified approach to organizing customer information while also streamlining processes.

Traditionally, due to the customer focus, CRM has been used primarily as a sales and marketing tool. However, in recent years, certain CRMs have evolved to play a more central role, expanding beyond sales and marketing into almost every department.

CRMs that can be leveraged across business units are typically very robust and highly configurable. For example, Microsoft CRM is configurable to the point where it can provide “no-code” solutions to extremely complex scenarios. So while the primary function of a CRM is to manage customer relationships, modern CRMs that offer configurable platforms are now able to offer significantly more.

As a sales tool, the traditional purpose of CRM is to track customer information in order to help drive revenue. But with a more modern, robust CRM platform you can also reduce costs by aligning departments and streamlining processes; the net effect is higher profitability.

What are some CRM features?

Every CRM system will provide the ability to manage and track customer relationships. This includes the ability to log customer contact information, notes regarding the account, as well as meetings and associated tasks. These capabilities define the traditional CRM. So if your primary goal is to organize company contacts and track interactions, a basic CRM system will suffice.

Modern CRM systems, however, provide significantly more. Here are just some of the features you may find in a more robust CRM:

  • Sales Force Automation provides users an easy to follow process to navigate the sales cycle. Tracking customer interaction, analyzing sales forecasts, visualizing sales trends and automating business tasks are a few examples that help to maximize productivity.
  • CRM platforms with Marketing Automation help to reduce repetitive tasks. With Marketing Automation, a potential customer might get an automated email or tweet after requesting information from the company website. Additionally, if a prospect expresses interest in a new product line, details of the prospects’ interest can inform the sales user to follow-up with a phone call.
  • Mobile with Offline Access allows users the flexibility to utilize CRM regardless of their internet connectivity.
  • Field Service Automation is another great feature which leverages the mobile capability. With the ability to locate a technician in real time, users can help route the next closest call, improving response time as well as increasing the number of daily calls serviced. Field users love that paperwork is eliminated, that complexity is reduced as the result of intelligent forms, and they have the ability to get a customer’s signature on a mobile device.

While there are certainly many more features that a top of the line CRM could offer, including workflow automation and reporting and analytics, the CRM you choose should be able to mold to your business’s needs.

When evaluating the premier CRM applications, the ability to adapt to the business (versus the other way around) is a critical feature. It is similarly important your CRM partner trains your organization on being able to modify the system to fit your business requirements.

How difficult is it to implement CRM?

The key to success isn’t the installation, but is instead the user adoption (i.e. people are using the system).

At Hitachi Solutions, we recognize user adoption as critical. As such, it is a constant topic of conversation and analyzed measurement. Prior to implementation, we like to start with a high level roadmap. The roadmap helps us define a shared vision and gain key stakeholder support. We also engage users very early in the process. A pillar of user adoption is ensuring users “want” to use the system and that their input is part of the process.

In addition to soliciting input from users, we work with the business to keep value in mind. Spending a week of time to simplify a process that happens once a year by a single user who currently spends an hour to do it, wouldn’t make much sense. This is why we look to balance the user’s request with the expected value gains (i.e. return on investment).

While it’s easy to set up and deploy CRM, a successful implementation takes effort. Make sure you choose a CRM company that will work with your business to focus on the processes and users to ensure you are receiving value based enhancements.

What are the typical challenges with CRM?

With any CRM system, the challenges are primarily the same:

  • Do the users have everything they need within their process and or data that they are leveraging? We strive to provide a complete picture (or a 360° view of the customer).
  • Are we getting the expected user adoption (which is a measurement of whether or not people are actually using the system)?
  • Are we ensuring that everyone has a voice within the project?
  • Does the budget fit the user’s desires?
  • Are we timing the transition appropriately?

Look for a CRM company that has processes in place to help you mitigate these challenges and identify unique risks early in the process. This will allow you to work together to diminish any potential problems.

What advantages will my organization achieve with CRM?

All CRM system should help you become better organized, provide continuity for your data, and help with tracking customer relationships. Far too often businesses without a CRM run a greater risk of a salesperson taking customers with them when they leave. While a CRM system can’t guarantee customers will stay, a CRM system certainly mitigates this concern.

Premiere CRM systems are much more than a virtual rolodex.

What’s important when choosing the CRM platform is recognizing which platform can yield the greatest productivity boosts as well as the lowest total cost of ownership. A top tier platform and partner will ensure sales users are maximizing facetime with the customer by seeing a complete picture of the customer (sales trend, credit, purchasing by product, relationship, notes, etc.). It’s also important to listen to the sales user to understand what can help them sell more.

Similar to that of a custom web site, a premier CRM system can do just about anything you want, because they are designed for flexibility — versus a one size fits all type fit.

Microsoft CRM has continually been a premiere CRM platform and is a leader in the CRM industry. The extensive flexibility has led to CRM becoming the hub of many industries. From private equity to manufacturing to healthcare to retail, the possibilities with Microsoft CRM are unlimited.

How is CRM evolving?

There are plenty of CRM providers and partners with a constantly evolving landscape. Most are enhancing CRM in one of two ways: developing features and/or targeting specific industries. The premiere CRM platforms are ramping up on social networking, business intelligence, and predictive interaction.

  • Social networking hooks are providing a more complete picture of the customer while also incorporating a bevy of data many customers are not currently leveraging.
  • Business Intelligence is allowing for insights into data and is seeing explosive growth and adoption.
  • Finally, predictive interaction is allowing businesses to act proactively as opposed to reactively, see behavioral trends sooner, and better enhance cross-selling and upselling opportunities.

Many CRM platforms are also engaging in a boutique type focus through packages (add-ons) or by tailoring the platform. By focusing on a specific industry or niche, customers are able to get further faster.

Microsoft CRM is at the forefront of CRM evolution. They have invested heavily in Power BI, Social, and AI. These enhancements are available today and Microsoft is continuing to improve upon them in exciting and new ways.

At Hitachi, we are continuing to build out our Industry packages. By providing the boutique experience on top of a fully flexible platform, we feel customers are truly getting the best of both worlds. We’re leveraging the most robust CRM platform available and utilizing a pre-built industry package which covers 80-90% of a customer’s initial needs. We of course work together to close the gap, but the gap becomes much more affordable and offers a significantly faster implementation time.

This combo of reusable features and industry specific solutions allows for CRM to be more versatile and competitive every day.

The landscape is always evolving and Microsoft has proven to be an industry leader with CRM. At Hitachi Solutions we have a long track record of project success. If you feel Microsoft CRM could be the platform for you, please contact us. We’d love to learn about your business and discuss how a CRM can help you drive results.

Have more questions about CRM? Visit our website to start a conversation with our team today!