CRM system basics
A well-operated and maintained Client Relationship Management (CRM) solution is a critical component for any successful organization, whether it is a small or multinational corporation dealing with customers and suppliers, or a not-for-profit foundation managing fundraisings and projects.
The technology evolution has greatly expanded the capabilities of CRM systems available on the market. The first CRM systems were merely contact management tools, capturing only the basic contact information of clients or business partners. There was no tracking of communication, sales data, or other types of interaction. These systems have evolved over time to full blown, SAAS- & app-based solutions, that not only combine all sales and sales management automation functions (such as deal & funnel management, call scheduling & recording and activity tracking, on top of much more in-depth profile data), but also integrate communication components (like email capturing & phone functionality) and marketing management features (such as social media management, marketing campaign & SEO management, and website integration). Some CRM tools also offer complete order management & invoicing capabilities, forecasting & budgeting functionality, customer service tracking and reporting & analytics tools. Many systems have been developed in such a way now that they can interconnect with other applications, like HR or finance tools, to further enhance the functionality. For an organization implementing a CRM system, it will depend on the requirements and financial capabilities of the organization to ultimately determine which system to select, ranging from free, out-of-the-box (or maybe better, out-of-the-cloud) solutions to more costly, fully customized, on-premise installations. In essence, CRM systems have become the central repository of the organization’s operations and are a must-have solution for any organization to successfully handle, manage and monitor the interactions with its eco-system partners.
Now, while having a client relationship management system in place is absolutely necessary for any organization, small or large, none of the CRM components bring any benefit when the user isn’t doing her or his part: entering and maintaining the data properly. As much as data capturing and entering can be automated, and data management benefits from the continuous evolutions in AI-technology, the golden rule of database management still stands: “garbage in means garbage out”. Incomplete or incorrect data entered into the system renders that data worthless. When building a CRM system, the organization needs to create clear processes and flows around data entry, maintenance and reporting. This needs to be done prior to the CRM system being implemented and launched, so refinements to the process flows can be made in the testing phases and data integrity is maintained from the start.
When planning to set up the CRM system and developing the data entry processes, organizations should pay attention to a number of crucial points, that, when neglected, can quickly become a source of irritation and frustration (both for the user and the organization). You can refer to these at the 5 C’s for proper CRM system governance:
Data needs to be entered by everyone in the organization in a similar way, according to the data entry procedure defined by the organization. That does not mean that all data entered should be the same, it just means that every user at least completes all the required fields with the data required by the organization to make the data useful. Too many times, fields are skipped or entered with useless gibberish, which prevents productive actioning of the data and reduces the effectiveness of the tool’s analytics & reporting.
Entering and maintaining data in a CRM is a continuous effort, not something that starts and stops, in intermittent intervals. New data needs to be entered as soon as it becomes available to be reliable and accurate, and to enhance the quality of the database. Cleansing the database now and not ensuring that data is entered correctly and continuously later, guarantees you one thing: you will either be cleansing the database again in the near future or will be working with useless data.
Operating a CRM and entering relevant data is the responsibility of the entire organization, not just the sales and/or marketing teams. Regardless whether information is collected in the finance department, through a customer support representative or via the R&D group, everyone in the organization should have the means and be encouraged to enter data in a controlled & consistent way into the CRM, so the organization is able to capture a more complete picture of its business partners and operating environment.
While everyone must have access to some part of the CRM, not everyone should have access to the data in the system. Clear authorization rules and security check should be put in place to ensure data confidentiality and protection. It is also recommended that at regular intervals quality checks are done on the data and the entire database, to ensure data integrity is still intact and the data is not corrupted. The organization should also occasionally review its data entry processes, so these still serve the purpose they were created for: capturing useful & relevant data timely.
All CRM-related data should be captured in one central repository, there should not be any other independent or stand-alone CRM system being operated in the organization, disconnected from that central repository. Else the organization will not be able to maintain control over the data and will not be capable of keeping data integrity. Having one central repository will also lower the likelihood of activities being overlooked or critical data being missed, as well as reduce security risks.
I2ACT Canada has extensive experience with implementing, launching and operationalizing different CRM systems and can provide support to organizations in defining, creating, managing and maintaining their CRM solution. If you want to learn more about the services I2ACT Canada can offer and the CRM support it can bring to your organization, visit the website or contact Dirk Baerts.