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Using customer relationship management software
Learn what customer relationship management (CRM) software is, and how it can benefit your business.
Ramon Ray is the editor behind SmallBizTechnology.com and is a paid contributor for Wells Fargo.
"Anticipating customer preferences is a big benefit of CRM software."
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Hi. I’m Tegan Jones for the Wells Fargo Business Insight Series. Today, we’re discussing how business owners can better engage customers by using customer relationship management software. Joining me is Ramon Ray, editor of SmallBizTechnology.com. Thanks for joining me, Ramon.
Tegan, thank you for having me, and I feel awesome talking to you today.
Ramon, could you start by offering a brief explanation as to what CRM software is, and how does it work?
Sure, and an explanation definitely is in order. Some people think it’s A, some people think it’s B, but really, in short, I like, Tegan, to think of CRM software as a customer retention tool. Small businesses have customers. Without customers, you don’t have any profit — no money coming in. Without that, you don’t have a business. So, CRM software helps you retain your customers.
And the second thing that I think is very important about it is that it takes your past customer behavior, what they’ve done, to guide and to mold what they will do in the future, so you can better meet their needs.
That’s really interesting. So, what are some of the business benefits of CRM software?
There’s a lot of benefits, and I think that if I listed all the benefits, we’d probably be here all day, so I’ll cut to the chase and be short. But really, in a nutshell, I think it’s a few things. One, there’s less of a need to manually create some of the mailings and things that small business owners do. Once you have that data in your CRM software once, it’s there, quote unquote, “forever,” and you can reuse that data again, whether it’s address information, email and et cetera.
The second thing that’s important is to help manage those customer databases. Instead of having your customer information in this software, that software and the other software, ideally, your CRM software holds all that in one place. Your databases are centralized, giving you one view of the customer.
Point two, which is important — since you have that one holistic view of the customer, that means you’re better able to make smarter decisions based on advertising and marketing. Your money is not going out of the window — “Hmm, let me guess where to spend my money.” You know exactly where you should spend your money.
And the last thing is customer preferences. We all like going to a hotel, and you’re wondering, “How do they know I like green mints?” That’s because you told them last month when you were there, and they have CRM software. So, being able to anticipate and know your customer preferences is another thing that’s really a big benefit with CRM software.
So, how have advances in technology impacted whether or not businesses need something like CRM software?
While, you know, traditional mail campaigns and yellow pages may be relevant for some, it’s a bit outdated, I think, overall, in many industries. And so it’s important to have technology that can meet that need, which is CRM software.
I think the other thing that’s important is that, you know, back in the day — “Can I have your street address so I can mail you a postcard?” Which again, Tegan, I want to caution — regular standard mail still has its uses. But what are we doing now? Email addresses, social media, Twitter handles. That’s the kind of communication we’re doing today, and the CRM software really has to address that.
In your opinion, if someone wants to use this type of software, what should they look for to make the right choice?
There’s a few things. One, there — of course, we know about cloud computing and those things, and I really think that in this day and age, Tegan, CRM software should be hosted online. It should be a cloud application or online software.
Point two, make sure the software you’re using is secure. Okay? As a small business owner, you don’t want to be someone else’s guinea pig, so make sure the vendor you’re using is reliable as can be. That means, thus, make sure it’s secure.
Three, integration with social media, Tegan, is very important. I mean, nowadays, in the days of Twitter and Facebook and LinkedIn and Foursquare and all these social media offerings, it’s important that your CRM software is plugged into that, easy to use.
Now, I must say, a lot of CRM software is going to take some element of training, so I do think some training is needed, but it shouldn’t be overly complicated. Scalability is critical. Yeah, you’re one girl and a guy in a garage, you know, in your parents’ house right now, or you’re that small accounting firm on Main Street, you know, just three of you. But what happens when you grow? You want your CRM software to be able to grow with you.
And the last major point, Tegan, is the extensibility of it. You want to make sure your CRM software, quote unquote, “plays nice” with other software, and the data can flow back and forth. So, those are a few high-level tips that I think are important.
Those are some great tips, Ramon. Thank you so much for giving us that advice. I think that this helps us get a better understanding of CRM software, and how it works.
It’s my pleasure. Thank you for the opportunity.
And thank you for joining us for this segment of the Wells Fargo Business Insight Series. To learn more about how Wells Fargo Business Banking can help you, visit wellsfargo.com/biz. In the meantime, we wish you continued success.
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