What is a CRM and Why Would I Want One?

CRM BASICS

CRM (Customer Relationship Management) software consists of a database that stores customer information and other useful business information and allows users to produce that information back out in some type of useful format to managers, executives or end-users.  This information could be sales statistics, invoices, customer support cases, employee info, inventory data or any other type of information that is relevant to the user(s).

Many these days are web based, meaning the users need only access a web browser or mobile app to access the information that is hosted by the software provider rather than the organization using the CRM.  This has really opened up a large market since a company no longer needs to pay very large sums of money to buy hardware, a site for the hardware or a team of IT experts to keep it running just to have access to this software.  Many CRMs also provide significant ability to customize them to the existing processes of a business rather than compelling a business to use a software that is hard coded, often forcing a business to adjust their business processes to the software rather than the other way around.  Other CRMs are more “niche” and tend to focus on managing specific sets of data that have a focus, such as typical sales data.  Often these niche CRMThis ease of access makes enterprise level software available to much smaller companies that could never really afford the costs of entry into such features.

CRMs are a fantastic way to keep track of information, and as even a small business owner can tell you there are mounds of data in running any company.  The sad fact is a lot of small and medium sized companies don’t do much with this data, if they even keep reliable records at all.  Only the most crucial data (like payroll or invoicing) gets the attention it deserves while other, less critical (but no less useful) data tends to end up in a file cabinet or spreadsheet that may never see the light of day.

CRMs also do more than just store data, they can execute a lot of routine actions with that data (send an email/text to that new lead?) or modify that data over time (inventory statistics or PTO Accrual).  They often also employ various methods that allow team members to communicate effectively and quickly with each other, including task systems that allow action items to be assigned and viewed by the whole organization.  When all is said and done this information is on one place rather than spread out among several different sources or spreadsheets. If the CRM is even half-way worth its salt, it is also easy to get to that data in the form of reports and dashboards.

With a reasonably well thought out CRM system in place a company can be quite specific about keeping track of anything they feel is important, helping executives or managers start making decisions based on objective facts rather than “shooting from the hip”.