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9 ways to improve your company's CRM system

Jennifer Lonoff Schiff | May 20, 2014
Customer relationship experts share their top tips for managing customer interactions and getting the most out of your CRM software.

Organizations spend thousands (make that hundreds of thousands) of dollars on customer relationship management (CRM) software. Yet getting a positive return on that investment can take time, especially if your employees are loath to use the system — or are not updating customer-related data regularly.

So what can companies do to get the most out of their CRM system? CIO.com asked dozens of CRM and sales automation experts to find out. Their top nine tips for how to improve CRM appear below.

Make the CRM software easy to use for your internal customers, your employees. "Research the potential CRM ROI for every concerned employee and department before CRM purchase," says Nikolaus Kimla, CEO of Pipelinersales, a provider of sales management software. "Find out what each of them really wants from CRM, and what it needs to do for them. If you skimp on this point, CRM adoption is going to be difficult to say the least," he says.

Then "design [or customize your CRM] with your end-user in mind," says Phil Nieman, senior marketing and sales operations manager, SAVO, a provider of sales enablement and social productivity software.

"It's easy to forget that not everyone works at company headquarters or logs into the system every day. Abbreviated field names may make perfect sense to sales ops, but may leave the field rep confused," Nieman says. So it's important to customize your CRM to fit the needs of all end users, or at least the ones who will be using the system most often.

"Pay attention to the interface design; human factors are important," says Alan Baker, president and chief consultant, Spitfire Innovations, a consulting firm. "Group logically related fields together and make sure the flow of the field tabbing makes sense - or hire an expert to help you. Ensure that that the flow of the screens matches the business workflow." You should also consider using "role-based security rules to hide (or display) fields — and only display the information that is relevant for a given user. It declutters the screen, and it's an easy way to help manage security/privacy/confidentiality issues with customer data."

Provide CRM training to all employees."Companies need to focus on training employees to consistently utilize the CRM effectively, says Miranda Palmer, business consultant, ZynnyMe business coaching. One way to do this is to identify and teach tech savvy or eager employees on the system. Then "schedule regular mastermind sessions to [teach] employees [how to] train their colleagues how to best utilize the CRM for maximum results."

Track customer behavior throughout the sales cycle. "Before the sales call, gather data about the prospect on social media and identify what types of information they share across channels," says Loren Padelford, vice president of Marketing, Skura, which provides an adaptive sales enablement platform.

 

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