How CRM software can help your small business compete

Man and woman looking at a computer on a table in a business setting

As a business owner, you know how quickly negative customer experiences can impact your business – and how critical good customer service is to creating a foundation of repeat customers. However, many companies – from small businesses to enterprise organizations – are failing to deliver positive customer service experiences. In fact, according to NewVoiceMedia’s 2018 “Serial Switchers” report, “poor customer service is costing businesses more than $75 billion a year,” which is up from $62 billion just three years ago. In addition, Forbes reports that “brands are failing to create the positive, emotional experiences that drive customer loyalty,” which has resulted in 67% of customers becoming “serial switchers,” – or “customers who are willing to switch brands because of a poor customer experience.”

Fortunately, by making customer service a priority, you can build a strong customer base that will help you weather any storm. However, how you do it is up to you.

You could, of course, provide customer service the old-fashioned way – tracking your clients’ purchases and questions, problems and requests on a spreadsheet or calendar – or just winging it and hoping you provided information to everyone who called or emailed you today. But with customer relationship management (CRM) software, you can know that you’re reaching your clients (current, former, and potential) when they need you – answering all of their questions, tracking their experiences with your company, and delivering incredible customer service along the way. And by doing so, you can not only save time, but build and maintain your relationships, improve your customer retention, and gain fans who can evangelize your business to others – which will make your company even stronger.

That said, CRM software can be an expensive investment that you may not be ready to make. Fortunately, there are CRM solutions for small businesses that are less expensive than many of the enterprise-grade solutions you may have seen. And while they may be somewhat more streamlined when compared to an enterprise relationship manager, they're certainly not bare bones – delivering everything you need to take care of your clients. You just have to know what to look for.

Customer Tracking

Any CRM software should provide you with a simple, efficient way to manage all of your client relationships. In order to do this, you'll need a solution that not only allows you to keep up-to-date records of customer history, but one that helps you understand where to focus your efforts, and when. By providing you with customer tracking information as your clients progress through the sales funnel, your CRM can help you gain insights and make targeted offers at critical touch points along the way.

Customer Management Dashboard

With a CRM that provides you with a well-organized customer management dashboard that shows you everything you need to know at a glance, you (and your team) can save time, stay organized and manage customer-related tasks.

Of course, if you're really going to manage your clients effectively, you'll also need a CRM that offers individual customer dashboards, so you can track them in the sales funnel and see all past communications. This way, no matter which customer relationship manager is working with a client, they will understand the situation and can provide an appropriate, consistent level of care.

Integrated Communication Tools

No customer management tool should force you to leave the system in order to communicate with your clients or your internal team. By choosing a solution that allows you to send messages, set meetings, and share contacts directly from the dashboard, you can work more efficiently.

If you do plan to use your dashboard to send meeting requests, be sure to look for one that allows you to include past communication about the subject being discussed. Many of us get dozens of meeting requests each week, and by including threaded messages about the topic(s) you want to cover, attendees can be prepared to make meaningful contributions, solve problems, and answer any questions necessary. And whether the meeting is internal only or with a client, it gives you the chance to deliver a better customer service experience.

More Reasons for a CRM

CRMs give you the power to provide a more thorough, more thoughtful, and more efficient, customer service experiences from end to end. And while that may seem a little esoteric or overly touchy-feely, good customer service – the kind that allows you to connect with your customers when they need you most – can also improve your bottom line in a very real way. In fact, according to Entrepreneur, CRM software can "improve customer retention by 27%," and an article published by IBM indicates that "leads that are nurtured in the CRM system convert 47% of the time." The article further notes that 50% of teams that use CRMs are more productive – which means that your team can work more efficiently while still providing critical customer care.

Incorporating a CRM into your daily operations may seem like an extravagance, but what facts like these illustrate – especially to small businesses – is that CRMs can help you compete head to head against larger companies, and win the hearts (and business) of customers far and wide.

About the author

The Microsoft 365 team is focused on sharing resources to help you start, run, and grow your business.

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The Growth Center does not constitute professional tax or financial advice. You should contact your own tax or financial professional to discuss your situation.