Customer relationship management, or CRM for short, is a broad term for which there is not only a lot of literature, strategies, CRM consulting and concepts, but also many tools and software that can support it. The abbreviation CRM can stand for a strategy, a process, but also for a technology. It refers to tools that map and accompany the entire customer lifecycle. In essence, it is about creating an excellent customer experience and outstanding customer journeys. A very broad term that can also mean different things for many companies.
The fact is: every company can benefit from a CRM and in our eyes it is hardly possible to work without one. Because no matter what industry, maybe even niche, what product or what service, how big your company is - at some point you will have contact with customers. And a CRM is there for precisely this contact, the communication but also the targeted approach.
We don't want to go on at length about the benefits of a CRM, but rather about CRM tools - what to look out for and how the CRM can be tailored to your business.
What is a CRM?
A CRM, or CRM software, is a central place for all information about customers, contacts, partners, suppliers and so on: emails, conversations, company information, personal preferences and communication in general are recorded here. This data is then structured to provide an overview of people and companies that are important to your business. It doesn't just have to be about customers who have already made a purchase. Interested parties, so-called leads, who are registered in your newsletter or have clicked on a social ad of yours, can also be included here.
But why go to all that trouble?
To gain and maintain a competitive advantage, it is necessary for companies to understand their customers and be able to tailor offers, adapt approaches and communication, and make customers feel understood. This is exactly what the data mentioned above can help with. For example, whether your customers want to be called by their first name is a very personal preference. However, if you know from past contacts, even if it is only through an ad in which you were on first or last name terms, which preference your clients have, the communication by e-mail or telephone can be geared towards this. Your colleagues can also take a look at the CRM and know immediately whether you are on first or last name terms.
The latter also applies to all other data collected: If all information is collected at a central point, such as a CRM, the entire team knows about it and is always up to date.
What makes a CRM, what should a CRM be able to do?
The market for CRM systems is broad and there are a large number of providers, some with different focuses. Some tools focus on agencies, others on logistics companies, others on shops. The choice is so huge that the overview can quickly be lost and you find yourself in a "decision lethargy": The choice is simply so high that you would prefer not to make a decision at all.
The following points can help you narrow down your choices:
A good CRM is cloud-based
Basically, two technologies can be distinguished: Cloud and on-premise. Simply put, you do not have to install a cloud system on numerous PCs, laptops and mobile devices as you do with an on-premise system. Access is via the browser. What does that mean in concrete terms? All data is automatically synchronised and available to all users at the same time. But the advantages are even more far-reaching:
A cloud CRM can be deployed quickly: No installation processes and no hardware required
Updates are carried out automatically for all users: no downtime or upgrade costs are incurred.
Access is independent of location and time: Sales staff, for example, can quickly view the latest data on their way to customers and update it immediately after the meeting.
Cloud-based CRM systems are often highly scalable and can thus grow with the company
Cost reduction for support, as long-planned and time-consuming updates are a thing of the past.
A good CRM has a high-performance API
An API is a programming interface provided by the software. This is already taken into account during development and is decisive for later processes. What exactly an API is and what API integration means can be read here. It is important to know: An API enables us to link the CRM with a variety of other tools that also have an API. In doing so, the APIs enable the exchange of data between the two applications. But why is this important?
It is unlikely that a CRM is the only software in your company. Most likely there is also mail, accounting, internal communication, SharePoints, a website and much more. However, much of the data is needed or processed in several of these applications.
A simple example:
The billing address of a company has changed. You are informed of this by e-mail by the contact person there. You open the CRM and take over this new address. Of course, this address must also be communicated to the accounting department. Depending on how your company is structured, you write an email to the accounting department, tell the person in the hallway or by phone, or simply enter the information into the accounting software yourself. Roughly speaking, there are five to six small steps that you have to take - from opening the mail to updating the bookkeeping.
But what if all steps could run completely automatically? Guess what, that's exactly what's possible: if all programmes, emails (e.g. Office365 or GMail), CRM and accounting (e.g. Lexoffice) have an API, all three can be integrated, i.e. linked with each other.
If an email is received in the future and the requirements, such as the keyword "change of address", occur in it, the information is automatically extracted from the email (regardless of whether it is in text form or as a file attachment), transferred from there to the CRM and from there to the accounting department. You may only save a few minutes, but this is a recurring process whose time adds up in the long run.
As you can see, an API can be decisive for how your CRM fits into your existing IT landscape. You should take this into account in any CRM consultation and ask specifically about it.
CRM consulting - where to start?
The previous two points are important to know and to demand in a CRM consultation. Because as individual as your requirements may be, every company benefits from these two factors - cloud-based and equipped with a good API.
All other aspects that could be relevant for you and your company build on this. You should ask yourself the following questions:
What is my core business?
Which data on which people and companies do I work with most often?
What goal do I want to pursue with a CRM? Better communication, more sales, more targeted marketing, fewer errors?
Which area of the company should particularly benefit from CRM? Sales, marketing, personnel, logistics?
What existing IT infrastructure do I have? How does the CRM fit in there?
Is an existing CRM to be replaced (keyword data migration) or is it a new acquisition?
Choosing a suitable CRM tool is usually not enough. On the contrary, only then does the real work begin. Especially when dealing with existing data, the introduction of a CRM is a long process that should be well planned. This is another reason why it can be important to seek external CRM advice.
Cloud Integration, iPaaS, SaaS, BPA… Ough, hard to keep track of all these terms. They are currently used frequently (and increasingly) in the context of automation, and it is sometimes difficult to make a clear distinction and distinction. We have already written blog posts on the terms iPaaS, SaaS and BPA, but we’ll take them up again here to make the difference.
But let’s start with cloud integration, because that’s the central umbrella term in which we embed all the other technologies in this blog post.
To illustrate these advantages, an example is suitable that we know well from our everyday work as an automation agency:
The central data to be used here is the data of a major customer. This can be the simplest information, such as the address. This address is required in numerous but completely different processes in the company: on the one hand, for correct invoicing in accounting. On the other hand, in the CRM system, where all the data of the large customer is also stored. But the address is also important in sales, for example, when employees go to the sales meeting on site.
Now the customer announces that the address of the company has changed after a move. This information will reach you by e-mail. There are now two options:
01. The e-mail is forwarded to all affected departments, accounting, sales, customer service, marketing… All persons open their corresponding program, CRM, accounting software, marketing tools (such as newsletter marketing) and change the data already stored there of the customer. This means that in multiple applications, different people do exactly the same thing: change one address. 02. But there is also an alternative: By connecting your applications, thus by integrizing them, the customer’s e-mail, or rather the information it contains about the address change, is automatically passed on to all affected applications: CRM, accounting, marketing, ERP. This does not require any clicks, because the cloud integration detects a trigger, i.e. address change, and thus automatically starts the process.
What sounds unimpressive in a single process becomes more effective when such a process occurs several times a day or weekly. Because there is a lot of data that is available in different applications and should always be correct. If these applications are cloud applications they are suitable for cloud integration.
But cloud integration doesn’t just happen. There are now a variety of applications that enable and implement this. Such tools usually allow us to link the relevant cloud applications on a central platform and define clear rules on when, how, where, how much data should be passed on and what happens to them.
IPaaS, SaaS, BPA, ABC – who can still see through it?
To realize cloud integration, there are various applications and technologies that are sometimes used interchangeably.
Cloud integration cannot be done without SaaS, iPaaS and BPA
Cloud integration is rather an umbrella term that includes numerous technologies, such as SaaS, iPaaS and BPA, and this is also absolutely necessary. Cloud integration is a concept that is made possible by appropriate technologies.
However, all terms share the commonality that they are cloud-based and thus offer enormous potential for growth and scaling. In addition, they are often cheaper to implement and maintain because changed requirements are easy to implement.
As an independent automation agency, we implement cloud integration according to your requirements. We use a variety of SaaS tools and iPaas (strictly speaking BPA) software. Together we find individual solutions that are flexible and scalable.