CRM (Customer Relationship Management) is an app that helps you manage your relationships with current and prospective customers. Most CRMs are designed to help you string together the relationships in your contacts: the messages from the same person, the team of people you've talked to at the same company, the person on your own team who knows someone on your client's team. They'll help you see the big picture, and then know exactly what to talk about the next time you email someone—or what your colleagues have already asked them.
So in simple terms, a CRM helps to you to manage the business relationships that you have with your customers, which in turn helps you to grow your business. In fact, CRM goes far beyond customers, allowing you to focus on your organization's relationships with all sorts of people – colleagues, suppliers and service users as well as customers.
So how does a CRM mange all this? Explaining it in the most basic terms, a CRM system provides a central hub where you can store all the customer and prospect contact information and share it with your colleagues. By doing this, you can track the history of all the interactions that you have with your customers including phone calls, emails sent, meetings held, presentations delivered, enquiries received. So essentially it keeps track of all your interactions with your customers.
The greatest merit of having a CRM system in place is that every question, every service request, every preference and every past contact detail about all your customers is at your fingertips. And that means that each contact you have with your customers is always personal, relevant and up to date. Therefore you will be able understand your customers better.
Fundamental features of CRM system
The following are the most common features in a CRM system.
Customer contact details
This is critical for any CRM solution, as they provide the foundation to communicate with the customer. These details enable sales teams to quickly view all past interactions with customers and leads, ensuring stronger ability to close sales, faster resolution of customer issues, and enhanced customer intelligence.
Every CRM software solution will need to have this feature. Lead scoring enables your sales teams better utilize their time by being able to contact the "hottest" leads first and nurture the "colder" leads.
Quoting, help desk software, and invoicing tools
Having these tools within a CRM software means that users don't need several programs to manage all customer facing activities. Make your life easier by finding a CRM software that either integrates easily with other systems or comes out of the box with all the features you need to run your business.
What makes CRM more useful for managers? It is the ability to create dashboards to take a quick glance at the sales, marketing, and customer satisfaction performance. Dashboards allow users to see whatever is most important, including number and quality of inbound leads, number of service calls resolved, and dollar amount of revenue in opportunity pipeline.
Nowadays, CRM has gone beyond simple contact management to include project and task management. With task management you can delegate tasks and projects to specific employees and follow through until close.
Do you know how much time your employees actually spend physically dialing phone numbers for their sales and outreach calls? Those seconds can add up to minutes and hours over a year's time. Ensuring that your CRM has click-to-call, means your employees are as productive as possible.
Common CRM terms explained
The simplest of all, Contacts are the records of the people you've listed in your CRM. Just like in your address book, they can contain the names and personal info of your customers and clients. You'll likely also see Company and/or Account in your CRM; these are specialized contacts for the organizations you work with, and you'll likely link your individual contacts to a Company or Account.
Some contacts are special, they seem likely to want to do business with your team in the future. Leads are these special people, to whom you'll want to pay particular attention.
Turns out, that lead was really interested, and you think you're going to be able to sell them your product or service. Now they're an Opportunity, and you'll want to list info about what exactly this opportunity is and track it in your CRM.
You've worked with a Contact, turned that Lead into an Opportunity, and now you're almost ready to make a deal—and so you'll Quote them a price and the service or products they'll get for it. That's what Quotes are for—and no, it's not the place to store your inspiring business quotations.
Everything worked out and you've sold your product—or perhaps it didn't, and the Opportunity fell through. You'll track both of those with Deals, which will show your Won and Lost Deals.
Typically, these would be the people inside your own company that are using your CRM app. Each of them may have a Role, or a particular set of permissions in the app.
Marketing is one of the main reasons you'd use a CRM and Campaigns refer to your marketing campaigns. As such, they'd list the contacts and companies most crucial to your next marketing campaign, along with results, notes, and more.
Similar to tags in Gmail or metadata on your photos, tags give you a way to add extra info to a Contact, Deal, or anything else in your company. This extra data gives you more ways to filter and sort through your CRM.
CRM's comes in all shapes and sizes. However, they are all designed with the same goal in mind: to help businesses understand their contacts better and act on that understanding. But the ways of understanding are diverse as each CRM system has its own special features.
These are the basics of a CRM system. However, modern CRM platforms like Salesforce go much further, integrating with marketing automation and customer services systems to provide a complete cloud based ecosystem for customer data. Salesforce is undoubtedly one of the best CRM platforms out in the market. It is the CRM choice for many successful business groups. The greatest advantage of Salesforce is that it is cloud based thus eliminating any need for physical storage in your system.
Activity in a CRM typically refers to anything that's happened in the app—new Deals, Contacts, Opportunities, or perhaps just a message from your colleagues. They'll usually be listed in a Facebook-like news feed so you can look over them easily.
Easy to Use
Salesforce is as easy to use as the applications you use every day. You can log in from anywhere, view and update customer data, and work with your colleagues—anytime you want. Get started right away and see a big impact on your business in no time.
Click to customize
Really, it's that easy. With a click of a button, you can change workflows, add fields, and create sales processes resulting in higher productivity and automation like you've never had before.
With Salesforce, you can take care of business, anywhere, anytime, on any device. You can track and crush your growth targets with real-time dashboards.
A typical enterprise uses many applications, many or most of which are not designed to work with one another out of the box. Integrating separate but related apps helps organizations achieve greater levels of operational consistency, efficiency, and quality. Integration makes it possible to monitor business performance in real time, dramatically increase productivity, and end IT bottlenecks. By getting all the benefits of integration without any complexity, businesses can focus on how integration benefits their core competencies and frees IT resources to create business value.
For customers that means the end of broken integrations, intricate technology dependencies, and vendor lock in. For partners who want to become part of the on-demand ecosystem, it means that they can develop, package, and deploy a single version of their integration solution to all salesforce.com customers.
Types of Integration
Integration depends on a customer's business process and requirements. Therefore, different integration solutions are needed as a single solution rarely satisfies all the requirements. Integration is as much a business decision with strategic implications as it is a technology issue. Depending on your business, your users, and your existing technologies, your integration solutions are likely to fall into one or more categories. These are the prebuilt integration solutions available in the market place,
- Mashup integration
- Application Integration
- Data Integration
- Data cleansing
1. Mashup integration
Mashups, sometimes called "composites," are hybrid applications created by bringing together several data sources and Web services to create a new application or to add value to an existing application. Behind the scenes, mashups may require different levels of integration, depending on whether the mashed-up data is only meant to be viewed, whether it can be edited, and whether data is actually transferred between systems
2. Application Integration
In contrast to a point-to-point integration, where two applications are directly connected, application integration generally refers to using so-called "middleware" or EAI (Enterprise Application Integration) solutions to provide a more consistent approach by adding a layer of abstraction between the applications. This layer uses either messaging middleware or an application server to pass communications between applications or Web services, either in real time or in batch mode. Application integration is now evolving into service-oriented architectures (SOA) where hundreds, even thousands of heterogeneous services are combined to create end-to-end business processes. With SOA strategies, applications are broken down and abstracted as services, with well-defined APIs that provide access to the relevant functions and data.
3. Data Integration
Data integration is the process of consolidating, managing, and moving information from different data sources, including databases, data files, and applications including ERP, CRM, legacy, and data warehouses. Data integration provides a proven, cost-effective way to share data among multiple systems. In most data integration scenarios, data is moved on a regular schedule that ranges from real time to nightly or hourly intervals. Data integration is usually used in conjunction with data services that ensure data integrity, such as data de-duplication and data cleansing. Data integration is the most popular and well understood integration scenario today. Data integration includes ETL (Extraction, Transformation and Loading) tools, replication engines, and migration engines. Many data integration tools support complex business scenarios and provide connectors to all major enterprise applications, data warehouses, and web services. Data integration is recommended for organizations that need to connect their back-office data with front-office applications.
4. Data Cleansing
Data cleansing is good business practice generally—for integration projects, it is essential. During data cleansing, data that is incorrect, incomplete, improperly formatted, or duplicated is either corrected or deleted from the database. Data cleansing tools systematically examine data for flaws by using rules, algorithms, and look-up tables and then take appropriate action to cleanse the database. Such tools are particularly useful for data-intensive applications such as CRM, or for applications in industries such as banking, insurance, retailing, and telecommunications.
To make integration with both existing systems and emerging Web services possible, salesforce.com provides the following nine integration building blocks. The first four, which are an integral part of the Salesforce architecture, are used in all integration projects. The others are optional tools that can be used as needed.
- Multitenant architecture
- Salesforce.com's security model
- Force.com Web Services API.
- Force.com Data Loader
- Force.com Builder
- Realtime outbound messaging
- Apex call outs
- Apex custom web services
Salesforce API Integration
Salesforce API (Application Program Interface) is one of the hot prospects in the tech arena. The Salesforce API is part of the next generation of integration technologies that are based on platform-based API's that are accessible over the Web, with the same proven availability that saleforce.com provides for all its applications. The Salesforce API is fundamental to all integration paths. It provides access to all data stored in the Salesforce database. By using this API, developers can access and interact programmatically with any standard or custom objects, Web services, Salesforce applications, or other applications that run on the Salesforce platform. The API functions as the access point for an integration—the business logic, connectivity to other systems, and data transformations are managed either in Salesforce, a middleware or SOA technology, or by custom programming. A critical benefit of the Salesforce API is that, by monitoring calls to the API, it is possible to closely observe traffic and use that information to maximize the system's performance with real-time tuning.
Salesforce Mobile Integration
Mobile Internet is one of the most progressive and exciting channels for businesses and consumers. The benefits of having a window into the online world from anywhere are endless, but its integration that opens up new doors. Mobile enterprise apps support users to interact with corporate backend systems anytime from anywhere. Since those apps are mostly used on the go they have to be designed to enable users to complete tasks in a matter of seconds instead of minutes. Apart from that, every action started in a mobile app must deliver results in nearly real-time. All of this usually results in a large number of transactions and higher data traffic. Network issues such as bad or no connectivity can cause crashes, lost data and frustrated users. To avoid security risks proper authentication and encryption methods are required as well as fine-grained policies on app and device level. These are just few things to consider for mobile enterprise strategy along with lots of other technical and organizational topics.
Salesforce provides mobile integration which is highly efficient. It is primarily designed for the development and deployment of cloud-based, employee-facing apps using Apex as its programming language. It allows developers to create apps and websites through the cloud IDE (integrated development environment) and deploy them quickly to Salesforce's multitenant servers. Apex can be used to execute programmed functions during most processes on the Salesforce platform, including custom buttons and links, event handlers on record creation, updates or deletions, and via the custom controllers of Visualforce.
Another platform that can be used is the Heroku Enterprise which is similar to Salesforce. Its primary purpose is to give developers the tools they need to build apps. However, the key difference is that Heroku Enterprise is designed for the development and deployment of code-based, scalable apps that deliver engaging experiences. Heroku Enterprise also allows developers to build in any programming language rather than just Apex, including Ruby on Rails, Node.js, Python, Java, and more. Heroku Enterprise apps can run on any device and can link to social accounts so that customers can like, share, and take other public actions straight from the app.
So, how to make the most out of Salesforce?
On a final note, Salesforce is like an ocean. The possibilities for growing your business through Salesforce are endless. However, for any company, devoting time and effort in implementing Salesforce effectively can be tedious. The best option for any company or firm is to hand over its Salesforce operations to a Salesforce consultant. Salesforce consultants are companies which are focused on providing Salesforce solutions to companies. They provide services which ensure that you derive the maximum out of Salesforce thereby making your CRM efficient. An established Salesforce consulting partner can deliver Consulting, Implementation and Administration services for your company using Salesforce. They provide Sales force support services including Salesforce custom development, Salesforce cloud implementation, Salesforce app development, Salesforce mobile integration, Salesforce accounting integration, Salesforce ERP integration, Salesforce data integration, Salesforce CRM integration and more.
Using CRM correctly should mean that all customer transactions and interactions are fluid and efficient. Customer relationship management is becoming one of the most fundamental aspects of any business and it can mean the difference between increased profits through repeat sales and customer satisfaction. CRM also plays a large role in targeted marketing, it can help a business plan a marketing strategy based on previous sales figures. This means that money is not wasted on marketing campaigns targeting the wrong demographic, something which all too often happens to many businesses.
Using CRM in any business is a step in the right direction, especially if you've been using spreadsheets to manage customer relationships. Thankfully, CRM providers recognize how difficult it can be to implement new software, and training materials are readily available from any CRM provider you choose. CRM can make all the difference to any business that values its customers and wants to implement more streamlined and efficient working practices.