How to get the most out of your CRM system – and keep your customers from the brink

Acquiring new customers requires investing significant time and money, so it’s always more prudent to make every effort to keep the ones you have. Even a modest improvement in customer retention can significantly help grow your business.

You probably have all the tools you need in your CRM system, but it’s possible that your employees aren’t using the system fully. Perhaps they think the system doesn’t make their job any easier, or the data is unreliable.

Here are five pointers to keeping your customers happy by enticing your employees to get the most out of your CRM system:

Train users on an ongoing basis

Frequent software changes, both vendor driven and internal can make users lose awareness of system capabilities. With each new product release, dozens of new features are added and IT departments need to make sure that business users are aware of how the new functionality can be used. There is a need to train new members of the business community as well as experienced users on a regular basis. Veterans also need frequent refresher courses.

Don’t work in silos

Keep your CRM system strategic and in the center. Avoid using separate systems for different functions. Many companies are burdened with separate databases for inside sales, field sales, online sales and large orders. If all the data is not integrated within the same CRM system, there are separate reports and valuable information about customers can fall through the cracks. Sharing information between all systems that touch the customer, including professional services, CRM, e-commerce, and ERP systems, enables companies to achieve new levels of efficiency and provides their customers with superior user experiences. With all the emphasis on digital transformation and the benefits it brings, organizations can’t let siloed systems be the bottleneck for innovation.

Make CRM easy to use

Many business users bypass the system because the data isn’t integrated with the business process. They have the data, but choose not to access it. When systems are created, many integration consultants focus only on the data flow, but it’s even more important to understand the task, so that the automation flows naturally with the business process. The system should be implemented in a way that improves customer service. The flow of screens should match each stage of a task, and only the data that’s necessary should be displayed. The screens should be self-explanatory and not assume that users will remember abbreviations or technical jargon.

Have executives use the CRM system

System adoption should be top down. If it’s not used by management, the workers won’t use it either. During the selection and development phase, feedback about needs and use cases is often solicited from a cross section of employees, including management, and a strong effort is made to get buy-in throughout the organization. But after implementation, if managers don’t use the system for the “big picture” analysis and encourage (and enforce, if necessary) other users to use the system faithfully, the system could suffer from lack of use.

Scrub your CRM data regularly

It’s important to keep the CRM system in line with current business strategy and make sure that the data it captures is relevant and up to date. One of our customers, for example, had inconsistent data between car dealerships, which resulted in employees losing trust in the system, and eventually abandoning it. We cleaned the data and unified it in one system and their CRM is back at the helm. You need to maintain the data and keep it reliable and current to keep adoption high. It’s strongly recommended that there be a dedicated system administrator assigned to manage system security and maintenance and to keep up with functional system updates to make sure that they support the current business strategy.

Your CRM system shouldn’t be a bottleneck for business development, or an impediment to delivering an excellent customer experience. Initially, the focus may be on keeping all customer information in one place for internal users but, eventually, suppliers, partners, and distributors may need to connect to the system as well. By using middleware to connect all of the customer information wherever it may be, and making the data accessible in a user-friendly way, everyone will want to connect. Your CRM system will become a vital information hub that enables you to build lasting and loyal customer relationships.

First published in EnterpriseCIO

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