The use of Customer Relationship Management systems by SMEs varies widely. Often this is dependent on the industry or sector they are in but perhaps these days, all businesses should consider what they need in terms of tracking and maintaining their customer relationships.
Those who have a very small customer base often say that CRM is not needed as they have a close watch on all the interactions. However, particularly in the age of electronic communications, it is essential to have all the dialogue together and easily accessible. That’s where CRM comes in.
A huge range of software tools are available, usually fitting into easily defined categories and have clear target markets. For example, Salesforce.com is a high spec system covering sales, service and marketing for medium and large companies. It is a complete cloud platform on which other applications can be developed. This is typically used by companies with a high number of customer or prospect records.
At the other end of the scale are such as Highrise, a much leaner cloud based system which is ideally suited to SMEs providing they are happy with the limited functionality. The learning curve is low, deployment quick and can be accessed from virtually anywhere.
One key area for SMEs to consider is email integration. If the objective is that every email to and from a customer or prospect is logged or referenced in the CRM tool then this must be a critical area of functionality. One solution I am currently investigating is Collabspot which is for linking Highrise (which I use) to Gmail, my preferred email platform. This claims to seamlessly manage the syncing of email between the two so I am looking forward to seeing if this is true.
In fact the way in which CRM links to other systems in the business is critical if we are to prevent multiple instances of the customer relationship appearing across the organisation. Anyone considering a CRM implementation should spend some time looking at this area and process mapping how the proposed solution will integrate with existing processes.
This is a vast topic with many good resources available online to gain a far better understanding of CRM before committing to a particular solution. My main point would be to ensure that you understand where it all fits into your business process.
by Tim Lawson