CRM Essentials

If you don’t manage your customers, someone else will.
For the last 20 years, CRM’s (Customer Relations Management) have developed side-by-side with other software and have become an established part of doing business wherever customers are involved. They have evolved way beyond the simple Rolodex idea of customer information kept on a card and have become much more extensive and effective. Most CRM’s have various capabilities, allowing the business owner to accomplish different tasks within one program, with information kept neatly in one place. Following are several different ways a CRM works to organize your customer interactions:

  1. Basic customer information, such as address, contact numbers, employee names, etc. can be kept in one place. A good CRM will allow space for private notes where you can list items such as personal likes and dislikes, a spouse’s name, important personal dates (birthday, anniversary, etc.), etc.. There will also usually be a section for a history of communication between the customer and your company, so everyone can see what has been discussed and not fall off track or waste time duplicating information;
  2. A CRM might also include financial information, such as previous transactions, sales, etc. Having important information literally at your fingertips when speaking to a customer helps maintain an image of professionalism and reliability, and the customer will feel taken care of. Any method that allows you to bolster the feeling of genuine trust and respect on the part of a client should be embraced;
  3. One of the best parts of a CRM is that it can normally be accessible by whomever in your organization needs to interact with the customer (sales person, IT department, etc.). This means that a customer can have interactions with various representatives within your company, but each of these representatives will have access to the history and “picture” of the customer that comes from the information kept within their profile, making their work with them that much more effective and, hopefully, long-lasting.

The more effort you put into cultivating your relationship with your customer, the more focus you put on responding to their needs, both spoken and unspoken, the greater chance you have of maintaining them in your client base into the future. Know they have a grandchild due in 6 months? Note it in the CRM and you can mention it later in phone calls. Have they already stated that they don’t like aggressive sales pitches? Note that in the CRM, too, and develop a method of communication that is created just for them. Everything you do to create a relationship, maintain the relationship and deepen the relationship through intelligent contact will only help to keep them as clients, and appreciative ones at that. No company is ever the only guy on the block, and if you don’t take care of your customers, someone else will.

Superstar counter guys and their coworkers
You know that superstar counter guy you have whose way with the customers is amazing, and his memory for their interactions is so impeccable he doesn’t ever write anything down? Well, I hate to say this, but that’s not actually a good thing: not only was he the one who consolidated the business relationship with the customer (without taking notes), if he is sick one day and hasn’t left any information behind, how will the other counter people know what he has discussed with different customers? Or, worse, what if he quits all of a sudden? He will be taking all of the highly valuable customer data with him, in his head, as well as the personal contact that makes up so much of the non-financial relationship: he’ll be taking the glue that makes things stick! It is highly doubtful that you want that for your business. While it is normal in business for one person to maintain relationships with different customers, the relationships need to be with the company, not completely with that person. If that person leaves, the use of a CRM will ensure that the handover to a new representative (or representatives) will go over with relatively fewer bumps than without the CRM.

On the other side of the counter, a CRM is also helpful in terms of managing employee activity, which will assist in gauging how often your sales people are interacting with their clients in outbound calls, and to what degree. If you have goals that salespeople are to meet, you will be able to see how they are approaching it, and how often. If they are not meeting their goals, the CRM will let you see which “tools” the salespeople are using and if they need to be guided in a different direction, using different techniques. Once you have invested time and other resources in training an employee, you don’t want to see them go simply because of frustration or missed goals. If you can see where they are strong but also where they might be re-directed or given different tools, you will create stronger employee retention. Employees want to be recognized, they want to know that there is a manager actually managing them, and using the CRM can be a highly effective tool in doing this.

How much more business is left on the table?
The rewards of a CRM are not necessarily immediate, beyond the obvious sense of efficiency in having all of your contact information in one place. However, with each interaction, with each communication entered and noted, with each successful resolution of a problem or thoughtful suggestion based on the information in their file, you will find yourself in a win-win situation that continues to grow and deepen. It is at this point that CRM can start to be used as an effective tool to increase sales from your current clients: together with your sales figures, you will be able to use the information found in the CRM to approach your clients with ideas and suggestions based on their history and preferences. For the 20% of your clients who are creating 80% of your sales, you will be able to follow up on their sales, maintain the relationship on an ongoing-basis and continue generating income. For the 80% of clients who contribute 20% of sales, you can more effectively create tailored pitches that might expand their sales contribution, and you will be improving relationships with them at the same time (everyone wants to be paid attention to, everybody wants to know that someone is aware of who they are and what they are doing). During quieter moments, you can be introducing customers to other parts you sell or different services they may not know about. As well, the organizational component of a CRM will allow you to easily export customer lists in order to automate marketing.

All in all, if you work on maintaining and deepening a relationship, your customers are more likely to stay, even if there’s a new guy coming down the block, waving a bigger sign and handing out free donuts. Know, like, and trust: your customers will stay because they know you, they like you, and they trust you. They have invested in you and your system, you are investing in them, and as long as you continue to treat them with respect and thoughtfulness, addressing their unique concerns, they will most likely stay.

So, after all of this, where does TPI come into play? Well, TPI’s inventory management system actually has an integrated CRM that is full of many different, helpful features and capabilities to help you with the management of your customers and their data. For example:

  • Customer Information Page: the starting block. Enter all of the information for your customer (contact numbers, addresses, etc.) as well as optional information such as assigned Sales Person, their maximum balances, payment methods, and many other different details. You can also include the personal bits of information you gather over time about birthdays, anniversaries, etc. in individual files within the company profile;
  • CommLogs: TPI’s communication logs section that allows you to record all of your interactions with customers, whether they are phone calls, emails, or financial transactions. Any employee who has access to the CommLogs will be able to see the history and therefore be able to interact more completely and professionally with that client. The CommLogs also offer the incredibly useful option of being able to conduct financial transactions with the customer while still inside the CommLog. If you want to issue a credit note, it can be done right there with all of the relevant sales information at your fingertips. Quotes, payments and refunds can all be effected through the CommLog, and all of this is also automatically updated in the transaction history and reports sections of TPI;
  • Reminders: within the CRM, you can indicate when reminders need to be sent with regard to certain issues. Need to let another employee know that they need to call ABC Inc. on October 14th about their bill? Create a reminder, and it will go to them. Need to remind yourself that you promised information on a certain part by the end of the week? Create a reminder and it will prompt you;
  • Transactions: TPI’s CRM also has a section where all of the company’s financial information is kept, so that you can easily access their sales history, etc. while speaking with them or doing your own analysis.

Like so many other TPI features, the CRM was created with the intention of saving you time and helping you make money, thereby increasing the efficiency of your workspace as well as the size of your bottom line. A CRM is oftentimes a third-party addition to a program (therefore an extra cost, usually per user) but with TPI, it’s all included. Everything functions together as one whole, providing you with the many different parts (no pun intended) that are required to make your Customer Relations process a smooth one.

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