People want to do business with companies that offer excellent customer service, but customer service goes beyond a warm smile and saying “Have a nice day.” Using your customer relationship management (CRM) software more effectively can help boost your business’s customer service game. We’ll explore ways to make the most of your CRM software so your customers reap the benefits.
CRM software stores prospect and customer data, including contact information and transaction records. Ready access to this information helps a business’s sales and marketing staff acquire and retain customers.
CRM software also tracks lead and customer interactions to help optimize sales processes, customer service, tech support and marketing campaigns. CRM software allows you to track your customers’ behaviors and needs and pivot to meet them.
“Many small businesses today still handle customer interactions and data using old-fashioned Excel spreadsheets or filing systems,” explained Arun Upadhyay, founder and CEO of LionOBytes, maker of cloud- and mobile-based CRM LionO360. “These methods, while useful for a time, offer little long-term value on scalability, shareability and customer insights. A CRM, however, can help small businesses better understand the needs and concerns of its customers and be more precise and deliberate in nurturing those relationships.”
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Important CRM features and functions include managing customer data, lead management and answering customer feedback requests. However, more robust functions exist. “When looking under the hood of a CRM solution, however, you’ll see that there are far more powerful features that can give a company the edge it needs to compete and grow,” Upadhyay noted.
CRMs can help you elevate customer service in impactful ways. Consider some of the following CRM software benefits for small businesses.
Most businesses understand that CRM software stores customer information. However, using a CRM solution to track customer interactions can be a customer service game-changer.
“Imagine tracking all the touchpoints with each client — phone calls, emails, orders,” said small business owner Ben G. Smith. “Now imagine your CRM opens every time you want to communicate with that customer. You can see prior responses from your team, issues and what they have done. Now you are prepared for anything.”
CRM’s ability to track customers enables personal connections. “CRM software has allowed me to personally connect with each of our customers who makes a purchase,” explained David Pietig, senior appraiser at B. Riley Advisory Services.
Before starting his current position, Pietig was the general manager of Arlington Plastics Machinery, where he managed the company’s daily operations. Pietig used a CRM system to assist with customer follow-up. During conversations, he accessed all pertinent customer information, including how long they’d been a customer and all previous communications, to inform and personalize the interaction.
According to Pietig, CRM insights can be crucial when managing customer relationships, particularly when you need to engage with unhappy customers.
“It’s not the customers who are happy that are the key. It’s the ones who are not that you really need to be in touch with,” Pietig said. CRM insights can help reps communicate with customers when unforeseen situations arise, helping resolve issues and ensure they don’t recur.
It’s all about communication: A CRM helps you stay in touch with customers so you can continually gauge their level of satisfaction with your business. “As a customer, sometimes just knowing that someone cares is enough to bring you back from the brink,” Pietig explained.
CRM software can empower your customer service team and help them provide better support.
When consumers decide which company’s products and services they buy, quality and pricing aren’t the only factors; they also consider the customer experience. In an Emplifi survey, 1,064 U.S. consumers shared their opinions on the importance of having good customer experiences. Among respondents, 46 percent said that a good customer experience with a brand greatly affects their decision to do more business with it.
Additionally, the Emplifi survey found that 65 percent of customers would be willing to pay a premium to receive excellent customer service. The survey also reported that 63 percent of respondents would leave a brand if the customer experience was poor.
CRMs provide structure and systems for resolving customer issues and complaints.
“One way to improve customer service is through a CRM help-desk ticketing system, which allows internal teams to prioritize customers, where managers can assign accounts to team members,” Upadhyay explained. “It can also organize all tickets and cases to ensure customer issues are resolved promptly and with recorded notes.”
Additionally, your CRM can circumvent future issues and complaints by helping you learn from past encounters. Without a CRM, client complaints can come down to an undocumented exchange between your associate and an angry customer. When you make full use of CRM software, drilling down into how things went wrong, how long responses took, and what was said is much easier.
Most CRM systems automatically log emails, but many also record and log phone calls. If a customer complains about rude service, you can listen to a recording of the call they’re referencing. Or, if an associate swears they responded quickly and politely to a query (even after getting a customer complaint), you can cross-check the claim by looking through your associate’s communication log.
Although CRMs are designed to help you manage customer relationships, they can also help you manage other aspects of your business, such as employee productivity, that indirectly impact customer satisfaction.
“Because small businesses operate with fewer employees, it’s important to know how and if individuals and teams are working efficiently and effectively,” Upadhyay explained. “Most CRM solutions have an integrated field service management feature. This enables you to know what customers your sales representatives have visited with real-time tracking and check-ins. Field representatives can access this feature on their mobile devices and input information about site and customer interactions, ensuring maximum productivity.”
CRMs extend into inventory management as well.
“Small businesses that have inventory needs but lack internal resources can utilize a CRM to manage purchase orders, customer product orders, and even monitor all inventory in multiple warehouses,” Upadhyay said. “With real-time tracking, you can know where products are always, from sitting on a shelf in a warehouse to sitting on a truck waiting to be delivered. “
Below are four ways to harness CRM software to enhance your customers’ experience with your business.
CRM tools help you streamline early communication with clients via automated email responses and email marketing automation. Automated emails give customers instant confirmation that their requests and messages have been received. You can also add links to automated emails so customers can easily request forms and access FAQ pages, wikis, price lists and other relevant documentation.
Creating different canned responses for each departmental email address (e.g., customer service, IT, billing or HR) can reduce the number of basic questions from customers and employees. Too often, companies spend time creating FAQ guides and technical documentation that no one uses. In contrast, automated emails are a great way to direct people back to resources you’ve already created.
Email templates are an easy way to ensure email communication with customers is consistent and professional. When previewing different CRM systems, check whether email templates are available and ask how customizable they are. Lightweight systems usually offer some leeway in terms of customization, while more sophisticated solutions like Salesforce allow users to create their own templates from scratch using a drag-and-drop interface.
Users can add images, including logos, to their email templates and save and share them with other users. Templates are also helpful for seasonal promotions and direct email marketing, especially for small businesses without in-house graphic designers.
“Imagine sending campaigns to certain customers based on orders or issues and doing it automatically,” Smith said. “We have developed dozens of templates that trigger based on events and send on behalf of a rep after a call but are done automatically by the CRM. Also, we flag customers to reach out to every three months and check in. A CRM can assign those calls and put them on a daily task list for your team to follow up on.”
Remember, customer service isn’t just about responding to queries; it’s about creating consistent communication across all channels.
Quality customer relationship management software is loaded with reports that summarize valuable CRM analytics and key performance indicators. Some systems even allow administrators to compare customer interactions based on employees, enabling managers to see which associates have the longest and shortest response times and who gets the most customer complaints. As with most features, the more sophisticated your CRM system is, the more options you have for pulling reports.
“One of my personal favorites is to have reports that tell me who is buying what and where,” said Smith. “For example, we have found that our skincare products are being bought by an almost equal number of men as women, which is not what I expected. This directly alters our advertising design.”
If you make reviewing customer service reports part of the employee evaluation process, you can increase accountability and let your staff know that every single call and email matters — for customers and employees.
One of the most valuable features a modern CRM offers is the ability to capture in-depth client information. Unfortunately, many companies spend time and money implementing CRM systems without adequate CRM software training. When an associate speaks with a client, they should use in-depth CRM data to inform the conversation.
Personalizing a call with someone’s name is the bare minimum. Customer-facing employees should understand the client’s business type and review past orders as well as previous communication. This can give them genuine insights into how to communicate best with each customer.
Many CRMs allow you to create custom fields to personalize interactions further.
“For companies that want to go above and beyond, little additions to your interactions being captured can make a real bond,” Smith advised. “For example, in our company, we have a field [in our CRM] for the names of customers’ pets. It sounds silly, but getting a person to talk about their pet is easy, and capturing that takes less than a few seconds. Then on a future call, our team can casually ask, ‘So Janet, how is Rex doing?’ That bond creates a warmth and humanity, even though we do not sell products that relate to pets.”
Giving your customers the best experience possible is crucial to running your business. CRM software can enhance your current efforts and help your team carry them out more easily. When you use a CRM to power your business’s customer service, you implement a win-win solution for your customers and your team.
Shayna Waltower contributed to this article. Source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.