If you have ever started a business – you know that you want to start as lean as possible. This has forced you to use applications such as Excel and Outlook to manage your entire business and client database. Pair this with a smartphone and you have a pretty good combination of software that is cheap and effective for any start-up business to find their feet. But – when do you need to take the next step?
The problem is – the business has grown, but systems and platforms have not. You may have invested in an office. You may have even hired some of your own employees to work with you towards your business goals. Congratulations!
The next question you need to ask yourself is, has the platform to hold your customer information changed? Have you consolidated a solid lead / account management strategy or are you still using multiple silos of data to run the day to day business?
In most cases, businesses that have seen significant growth are still using their Excel / Outlook combination because they just don’t have the time to explore any other options. Then – suddenly, they are stuck with a system that is more of a hindrance than a benefit. The business then has a knee-jerk reaction to get a CRM system in place as soon as possible.
We have compiled some ‘red flags’ that you might see within your business which could mean you need to consider a CRM system to consolidate all of your customer data and business processes.
You are reliant customer information from a persons memory
There is almost no bigger downfall in business that not consolidating customer information in a platform.
If your business is reliant on you (or your staffs) memory of phone conversations, emails, orders and tasks to action – Ask yourself this; What is the cost to the business if it is missed or forgotten? What would happen if a staff member leaves and takes all that knowledge with them?
Sadly, this is a common situation with many small businesses. An employee leaves, you are stuck picking up the pieces and calling customers to find out missing pieces of information.
You’re spending hours shuffling through one or more Excel spreadsheets
Let’s face it – Excel is a fantastic application. It is cost effective, simple and easy to use – even for people who are not very computer literate. It works very well for small businesses with a small client base to track and store their customer information.
The downside of excel is that it is a very flat database. How long does it currently take you to trove through your spreadsheet/s (you may have multiple across multiple users or computers!) to find the data you want to see? How many tabs do you have to click and scroll through to find the information you need? Does it show one single view of the customer and all of their sales history?
With Excel, the more data and more formulas in your spreadsheet (I’m looking at you VLOOKUP) – the more load time. Why? The spreadsheet is stored physically on your computer or shared drive. When opened, your computer must do all the heavy lifting and calculations of all the formulas – again and again. Basically, as your customer database gets bigger – Excel gets slower. Not a very scalable solution if you ask us!
You have numerous people working on the same databases
In the days before collaborative document editing took hold, only one user at a time could write to a file at any one time. We now have software solutions like Google Sheets that allow two people to work on documents at the same time, with effective collaboration and issue resolution.
However, platforms such as Google Sheets are not particularly powerful in this regard. While they have been developed with this feature in mind, they are not built specifically to always have multiple people working on the same elements.
You have multiple data ‘silos’ both on your computer and online holding the same data
These days, there are many great small applications that can make our business life easier. Excel, Outlook, Gmail, Xero, MYOB, Trello, DocuSign, Slack and WordPress just to name a few.
If you are using any of the above, you will already know that you need to enter your customer data in each of these separately to utilise each product. Even something as simple as keying in information from a customer inquiry e-mail into your current database leaves room for human error before the customer is even contacted. Not to mention, as the business scales and more leads are generating – you could be employing somebody full time just for data entry.
Sales and Service are disjointed
There is nothing worse than a business that presents to their customer as ‘disjointed’. Today is the age of the customer – businesses and staff are expected to know everything about transactions with the business before you even pick up the phone – along with customer queries sorted in a single call.
Let me run you through a scenario that I saw recently (which includes name changes, of course):
Peter, a regular customer of Universal Container, places approximately 4 large orders per month and is a premium customer of the business– recently received a delivery that included broken goods. Universal Containers shipped out the goods in perfect condition. However, they appeared to be damaged in transport. Peter needs these products to resell to his customers.
Peter called Universal Containers and was redirected through to their service department, after putting Peter on hold multiple times to try and find the order, the operator – Jenny – assured Peter that a replacement would be sent out immediately.
A few days went by and Peter had still not seen the replacement items. Again – he called the service department and spoke to another operator – Steve. After 10 minutes, Steve could not find any record of Peter’s replacement order over the phone. The issue is that Steve needs access to Jenny’s e-mails to see if the new order has been placed to the supplier – however, Jenny is sick today and will not be in until tomorrow. Steve hangs up the phone without a resolution, waits until the next day, speaks to the Jenny, finds the replacement order e-mail and calls Peter back. (Lucky that they remembered…).
A few more days go by – The replacement has still not been received. Peter receives a call from his Universal Containers Account Manager, Jeff. Jeff asks Peter if he would like to place another order for a new product that has just been released. You could imagine Peters reaction – which takes the Account Manager by surprise – he had no idea that Peter was going waiting on a replacement order which is inhibiting his business making revenue.
As bad as this sounds – the above scenario is a very regular occurrence for businesses without totally visibility into their Sales and Service processes. Most of these issues could be solved by utilising one platform for both sales and service. Both service operators would have clearly been able to see Peter’s order and replacement information and the sales team would have been able to see Peter’s replacement order and able to call him just to ‘touch base’ about the replacement and then talk to him about the new products. Today, you need to be equipped with all customer information.
You need measured metrics
Right now, are you able to easily see any of the following information in less than a single click?
- Sales this Month / QTR / Year
- Growth Rate % Month on Month
- Conversion Rate of Leads and Sales
- Sales Leaderboard by Employee
- Lead and Sales Pipeline
- Activities (Calls, Meetings, Emails) by Employee
If you are answering ‘No’ to any of these – then your current strategy needs to be looked at. These are some simple metrics that are critical in giving you an overview into the current status of your business.
Business is starting to get busier
Business is starting to grow? Congratulations! It’s time to get serious about your management systems. The more your business grows, the more incoming sales data that you will glean.
With more data coming in, you have more chance of certain things “slipping through the cracks”.
It’s time to get with the times
If you’ve still got the same systems around from back when you started the business – or using a system that falls under any of the above categories – then you could be doing business better. The age of the customer is well and truly upon us and if you are not using a single platform to manage your data you will already be behind your competitors.
Think about it: are you still using a street directory to navigate, or have you switched over to Apple or Google Maps? Implementing a CRM simply makes your life easier – and everyone else is learning so, too.
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