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CRM Software Helps Small Businesses to Manage Processes and Deliver Value
Managing customer relations is one of the most important parts of any business--and can be especially important for small businesses who may rely on a few valued customers. Yet customer relationships can be tricky, often involving several staff members who interact with clients in different capacities and generate mountains of paperwork. How can a business stay on top of it all?
Small Business CRM
CRM (customer relationship management) software offers businesses a variety of ways to streamline customer relationships. The right CRM software helps companies:
The benefits of CRM software are numerous--almost as numerous as the kinds of software available for purchase.
CRM Software: How To Choose
The first step is to clearly define the business needs. Many CRM (customer relationship management) companies offer software in modules so small businesses that do not necessarily need the full range of functions can purchase specific applications. Other software vendors offer a full, integrated suite of software, but sell their product by the number of users, so small businesses can afford their products.
When evaluating CRM software, prospective purchasers also need to consider how they will access the software. The choices are to purchase or lease the software, install it on a server and make it available on client computers, or to access it from the Web. Web accessible software is sometimes referred to as Software as a Service (SaaS), or cloud computing, alluding to the fact that the software resides not on local hardware, but in the ether of the Internet.
Some vendors offer a free 30-day trial. Although the free use of software for 30 days can be an enticement, a trial implies a fairly high level of commitment on the part of the prospective customer. Data will need to be loaded into the system, and the people who will use the software will need to be trained. Free trials should be considered only after narrowing down the options to one or two top contenders.
Finally, when selecting a CRM vendor, it is important to research the options. CRM vendors will provide case studies and references, and of course these will all rave about the product. Do not discount this information, but do not rely solely on it either. There are many places to get information about CRM vendors including industry analysts, web searches, industry conferences, and word of mouth. Due diligence can make the difference in use and satisfaction with the CRM application for years to come.
Small Businesses Are Built on People
Once the CRM software is purchased and installed, dont forget that people are still necessary to manage customer relationships. Having an implementation plan for how the CRM software will be used, making sure employees understand and support that plan, and anticipating potential problems that may arise are all key to ensuring that the CRM software is used to its maximum potential.