Equal parts strategy and technology, customer relationship management (CRM) is about using data to understand your customers—and boost sales.
CRM is an abbreviation for customer relationship management , a method for managing a company’s interaction with current and potential customers, and storing and analyzing data about past interactions. We can define CRM as “a process companies use to understand their customer groups and respond quickly—and at times, instantly—to shifting customer desires.” But CRM can mean both the process and philosophy for meeting those goals, and the technology used to implement that process.
CRM software grew out of the contact management software of the 1980s, which in turn was meant to provide a digital version of the rolodexes that were so important to sales professionals. At first, CRM software lived on individual PCs; later, it migrated to servers where it could provide services to an entire organization, at which point people started using the phrase CRM system ,reflecting the fact that it spanned across an enterprise’s infrastructure. One of the most important things to keep in mind about a CRM system is that it is ultimately less important than the data you put into it. That’s one reason to think of CRM as a philosophy and set of practices for recording data about customer interactions, not just a software package you buy.
What is CRM software used for?
Customer relationship management is a strategic process that helps you better understand your customers’ needs and how to meet those needs and enhance your bottom line. CRM systems link up information about customers from a variety of sources, including email, websites, physical stores, call centers, mobile sales, and marketing and advertising efforts. CRM data flows between operational systems (like sales and inventory systems) and analytical systems that sort through CRM data for patterns. If you don’t have an accurate view of who your customers are and what their needs or desires are or will be at any given stage in their lives, or if you are losing customers to a competitor, that’s a clear indication that you need a CRM system. There are many technological components to CRM systems, but thinking about CRM in primarily technological terms is a mistake. Instead, CRM should be viewed as a strategic process to better understand and meet your customers’ needs. A successful CRM strategy depends on bringing together lots of pieces of information about customers and market trends so you can more effectively market and sell your products and services.
These revenue gains don’t happen by simply buying software and installing it. For CRM to be truly effective, an organization must first understand who its customers are, their value, their needs, and how best to meet those needs. For example, many financial institutions keep track of customers’ life stages in order to market appropriate banking products like mortgages or IRAs to them at the right time.
Next, the organization must look into all of the different ways information about customers comes into a business, where and how this data is stored and how it is currently used. One company, for instance, may interact with customers in a number of ways, including email campaigns, web sites, brick-and-mortar stores, call centers, mobile sales force staff and marketing and advertising efforts. CRM systems link up each of these points. This collected data flows between operational systems (like sales and inventory systems) and analytical systems that can help sort through these records for patterns. Company analysts can then comb through the data to obtain a holistic view of each customer and pinpoint areas where better services are needed. For example, if someone has a mortgage, a business loan, an IRA and a large commercial checking account with one bank, it behooves t he bank to treat this person well each time it has any contact with him or her.
Best free CRM software with unlimited users and contacts
With most CRMs, especially free CRM versions , you are limited to a certain number of users and contacts.
Bitrix24 is the lone exception in our selection to offer unlimited for both ( HubSpot offers unlimited users and 1 million contacts). This, combined with its other features, makes it stand out from the crowd—and makes it hard to find true Bitrix24 alternatives. Aside from contact and deal management, the app also has team collaboration tools such as workgroups, chat, internal activity streams, and polls. Bitrix24’s many features make it feel a bit overwhelming at first, but you can hide, delete, and change the order of the various menu items. Then, from inside each menu item (e.g., CRM), you can configure the order of items (e.g., deals, contacts, companies, analytics). If you ever want to see everything at a glance, click the Sitemap icon toward the bottom-left of the menu.
With unlimited users, you can invite your entire team to use Bitrix24 , slotting them into the app departments you create. Once your employees accept the invite, they’ll be given access to their own customizable version of the app. However, you must upgrade to the paid versions to assign permissions to each user for viewing and making changes. In a contact record, you can configure the menu to show only what’s important to your company, and you can add fields or rearrange them while you’re in a record just by dragging and dropping. For each record, you get all the details and functions (email, call, notes, etc.) at-a-glance with no need to click around a record just to see activities. Clicking on the Profile tab toward the top of a record shows you various reports related to the contact, such as sales, calls, emails, and activities. The entirety of these activities is calculated as a “communication load” or the number of activities per deal that’s acceptable to your company. This can show you how specific customers like to communicate to better understand them for future opportunities.
Within the Activity Stream, you can chat internally, assign tasks, design and distribute a company poll, and make announcements to your entire team. Clicking on Workgroups lets you create private or public spaces to collaborate on work, assign tasks, share a calendar, and develop knowledge bases. Invite employees or external contacts to each group. You could spend weeks learning all the available features, so to make good use of your time, pick a few goals (e.g., get my team communicating only using Bitrix24), focus on these, become proficient, and move on to a new set of goals.
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