Less than one third of SMEs are extending their CRM deployment across all departments in a way that enables company-wide, data-driven, strategic decision-making.

This is the key finding from our recent research[1] that investigates the business objectives and key operating benefits of the CRM solutions deployed within 300 SMEs. Although it is positive that nearly a third see CRM as sitting at the heart of their business, the overall picture is that most organisations remain focused on achieving operational benefits through process efficiency improvement – such as centralising customer data (87% of respondents), improving data quality and value (70%) and customer segmentation (52%).

Using CRM solutions in this way will certainly deliver return on investment. But process improvement should be a starting point; the building blocks underpinning successful CRM that helps a company meet its strategic business objectives. So how can companies extract further value from their investment?

Link Operations and Strategy

Pioneering companies are harnessing CRM to drive growth, customer satisfaction, loyalty and revenues. In these organisations, senior management have visibility of activities across the business, including up-to-date customer interactions.

They have data at their fingertips to make informed business decisions that go beyond the operational. In particular, this leads to a greater understanding of how their products and services are delivering value to customers – crucial knowledge that can be channelled into future product development.

This is a prime example of how process improvements go hand in hand with harnessing the strategic power of CRM. Companies that are in a position to deliver this level of insight to their managers can do so because their information is no longer stored in various silos, but in a central repository that enables real collaboration and sharing of information.

Control the Customer Journey

CRM provides a critical solution in assisting a company track and understand the characteristics, behaviour and preferences of prospective customers, helping to spot the right time to engage with them most effectively.

In our survey, just over half of respondents cited segmentation as a key operational benefit of CRM, yet this is precisely the practice that is necessary to understand buying habits and target prospects accordingly. Of course, segmentation also underpins ‘the journey’ once prospects are converted to customers, enabling the in-depth profiling that is necessary to deliver a high value, seamless customer experience.

Segment beyond Marketing

It is a frequently-held belief that segmentation is the sole domain of the marketing function. Yet all areas of the business need to understand their customers and their overall value (or potential), in order to decide how best to allocate resources.

Take customer service, for instance.

Being able to quickly access information about a particular customer’s profitability could help a manager decide whether to continue spending hours dealing with a challenging situation or whether, in reality, further communications will bring little value to the business.

CRM offers substantial value to the sales team, such as providing real-time data on trends in customer behaviour which can help identify possible high value customers or those who are likely to defect.

Deepen Technical Knowledge

It is increasingly the case that software providers have a responsibility to help clients reap full benefit from their investment. In fact, we are seeing growing demand for proactive business advice alongside more traditional technical support.

Less than a third of research respondents said that reducing manual processes was a key benefit of CRM. Although they may feel that this particular capability is eclipsed by other, more advanced software functions nowadays, our own experience confirms that many companies are not automating as many manual tasks (such as data cross-referencing) as they could be. Reducing administration is an immediate way of freeing staff up to focus efforts on skilled customer management.

Only a quarter of respondents are making use of dashboards to view and report on KPIs and other metrics, and less than 10% are accessing advanced Excel to further analyse their data.

In summary, it is evident that SMEs are at varying degrees of CRM ‘maturity’. In most cases, there is still substantial opportunity to extract further value from current investment, especially at a strategic level. A sophisticated, company-wide approach to managing the customer journey is imperative in today’s quest to retain customers and win new ones; and those companies that are able to make every customer touchpoint intelligent, and every customer interaction informed, will set themselves apart.

[1] SME Benchmark Study 2017: Measuring Value & Success from CRM

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