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What is CRM?

Updated: Sep 16

The words Customer Relationship Management (CRM) in terms of company software really came to the fore in the 1990`s, in particular, with call centres for larger companies and a way of tracking sales data on customers. Jump forward to today and the scale of a CRM is hugely complex, very powerful and very different from them.


So, what is a CRM today?

The current CRM is still driven by sales, but now includes key components on a customer's journey including customer service and also accounting. The modern-day CRM is actually a customer lifecycle tracker, plotting every interaction from prospect to customer, including initial activity when visting a company website through to records of a webchat and even creating service tickets.


Why would a business use a CRM?

The key components of a CRM are for storing data on customers and on prospects. The CRM then is able to provide multiple tools for servicing existing clients and for generating new clients through the ability of the business to communicate effectively with an individual. A web enquiry will be added to the CRM from this there will be a number of interactions and internal processes that are triggered, this then begins the customer lifecycle.


At any one time the CRM can show the latest interaction with a customer, can create tasks on due dates, can schedule sending invoices, can produce quotes and can track anything form email through to phone calls and in most cases when someone has actually opened and read an email.


Can any company make use of a CRM?

Today any company servicing B2C or B2B can take advantage of a CRM and it is proven that those that do see an increase in business when compared to those who don’t use a CRM system. The key reason for an increase in business is automating some key tasks within a business, but also making individuals accountable for the customer, actually putting the customer at the heart of the business.


Are CRM systems costly?

The simple answer is no in the initial stages and actually many smaller companies can happily use a CRM system for free for the livetime of a business. Hubspot offer a free version which in many cases can provide all the main tools that a business owner would need within a CRM. As you grow with a CRM and want to add more functionality then there is a cost, but the cost is relative to what you are achieving. In Enterprise operations then a customer built CRM can cost many thousands to run, but the costs are coming down all the time.


Surely I can use my accounting package to act as a CRM?

This is true to a point, but an accounting package was actually built to do an accounting function and as the need for CRMs has increased then the accounting software providers have bolted on a CRM element. One downside of using the accounting software as your database is that it only records customer present or past, not any prospects, so in many cases you are preaching to the converted when you use an accounting package as the CRM.


The best advice is to link your accounting package to your CRM. At iPlus Xero is the accounting package of choice and this seamlessly links to Hubspot. It is using the right tools for the right job and integration tools such as Zapier are able to solve many integration systems.


What next for CRMs?

The battle for CRM dominance is already well underway, Hubspot is one of the fastest growing CRM systems in the World and has really moved forward with adding additional functionality to the offering. SalesForce is probably the big Daddy of CRMs, but did stagnate for a while and concentrated much of its development on larger Enterprise salesteams and did not overly integrate with other departments within a business. Microsoft does have a CRM function and it is a powerful tool, but much of it is reliant on other Microsoft products, although it is growing at a pace in the development of more functionality.


CRMs are here to stay and the next step will be a full Ai CRM that automates much of the customer service needs, already Chat Bots are becoming more and more common on solving problems within customer service. Automated video “how to guides” will soon be available and many different functions that will help any business owner and any size of business. The key beneficiary will be the small to medium size business being able to offer Enterprise technology and solutions to customers at a fraction of the cost.