6‌ ‌Best‌ ‌Practices‌ ‌for‌ ‌CRM‌ ‌Implementation‌ ‌in‌ ‌Small‌ Businesses‌

So, great news: your business is looking good. Sales are solid and contacts have grown to the point that your trusty spreadsheet won’t cut it anymore. A better way of organising is required, and CRMs will deliver this. Indeed, a good CRM system will offer a panoply of game-changing benefits. 

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It’s not for nothing that CRM software is now the world’s biggest software market. CRM systems are an example of web application best practice in action. To be intuitive, user-friendly, and genuinely useful. CRMs are indispensable tools for most businesses, and SMEs are no exception. 

The benefits that CRM can deliver in terms of communication, proactive customer care and insight can be transformative. However, several key steps should be observed when considering CRM implementation in small businesses.

An SME can ensure a greater chance of success if it keeps the following six steps squarely in mind.

What Do You Want?

There are many factors that make SMEs distinct from larger-scale operations, but perhaps the most relevant one here is budget. So, give this investment proper consideration.

Start by examining what features are relevant to your business. For example, retail CRM systems can enable your sales team to organise contacts and customers. They can automate processes that can get in the way of actual selling. 

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Your staff can be freed up to work on closing sales and the more creative aspects of the company’s output. 

CRM can deliver campaign tracking with real-time data that will help hone the organisation’s direction and improve overall performance.

There are deluxe CRM systems that can deliver in a plethora of areas. There are some that appear to give a business all it could ever need, including tools to manage things that strike fear into the hearts of some SME owners, like omnichannel marketing.

It’s tempting to think that, however pricey, it’s worth it: You can shell out and sit back and relax, confident that your work is done. However, a system that over-delivers in terms of what your business requires is a system not worth paying that much for.

Conversely, there are free systems available, but if they don’t deliver what your business needs, you’ll pay in lost leads and irrelevant data.

Some systems allow more scalability than others. This means you won’t have to purchase a more sophisticated system in due course. This will save on expense and data conversion, which is a key concern for a growing SME.

All these aspects of potential enhancement need to be addressed when you are starting out. You will then arrive at a system that meets your company’s specific needs.

Testing, Testing

As with most of life’s major new developments, it’s always a good idea to test things out as much as you can. This stage can boil down to a good productive meeting with some key stakeholders. Attendees should include your business’ project manager, the CRM project manager, and representatives of those who are to be the key system users.

Clear explanation of how the CRM will work and what user behaviours are expected will help alleviate problems down the line. Similarly, communication of user concerns will help the CRM project manager understand the operating environment. This can give rise to appropriate customisations.

Just as useful is the opportunity to put the system into action with dummy data. Issues will then be flagged up and solutions posed with no danger to relations with customers. Sometimes, you only get one chance.

Perhaps most significantly, whenever a company is considering a sizeable innovation, it is crucial to secure enthusiastic staff buy-in. New processes and implementing process tools can make staff insecure and uncertain of their role. This is where testing is most helpful.

In a risk-free environment, staff can get to grips with the new arrival and see for themselves how to operate it. Nothing embeds like practice, and this will give staff confidence to make the most of the opportunities that the CRM system will afford.

No Train, No Gain

It is vital that the competence that staff exhibits on finishing testing is kept up with regular training sessions. Quite often, second or third training rounds are needed. In this way you can ensure all staff have the capability necessary to make the system work to its optimal extent.

When money is spent on software implementation, it needs proper attention being paid to user skills enhancement. Otherwise that money might as well have stayed in the company account.

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Whether the training is delivered by the CRM body or by your organisation’s HR department is a matter for you to consider carefully. Often, especially with SMEs, it makes more sense to buy the training along with the software. 

The other option risks requiring your (probably already-busy) HR staff to familiarise themselves thoroughly with the new system. After all, they will have to be able to deal with possibly quite searching user queries.

There is a huge payroll advantage of using the CRM company’s services in training and support. This aspect of provision, known as Software as a Service (SaaS), means that expertise is available via the cloud. What is SaaS capable of delivering? Instant assistance for staff just when they need it, for one thing. 

Also, very significantly, it removes the need to have IT specialists on the company’s books. Studies have shown that business bosses feel that it is in the technical domain that staff skills are most lacking. It makes sense to outsource expertise to cloud provision, leaving you to concentrate on what makes your business special.

Simply: the Best

CRM systems can be complicated beasts. When you consider the wealth of information that a CRM stores in one location, simplicity can be an elusive factor. This is where design is key.

You need a CRM that allows you to use as much or as little of the system as you need to at that time. You also need a system that demonstrates good intuitiveness. Finally, you need a system that delivers greater complexity only when needed.

Interaction with the system should be as organic as possible. Users should not feel like they are struggling with a fantastically impenetrable puzzle. They should not feel like they are wrestling with an intimidatingly powerful adversary. It should be regarded by all as what you intended when you brought it in: A help.

You can assist in this by making it clear to your staff that although CRM offers a huge potential, its overall mission is straightforward. To improve customer experience. This of course should be what all staff want to deliver.

You can broach this message during the initial training, but it needs to be reinforced continually, especially when new features are implemented. You can then keep your staff focussed on what is most important about CRM. 

SMEs can often outperform their larger counterparts when it comes to keeping your staff on task. Your staff level will be at a size that is reachable and they will respond quickly to your input.

Communicate, Constantly

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Businesses thrive on communication, especially when it comes to new practices and tools. In recent times, in particular, the ability to liaise quickly and effectively has reached new levels of importance with the proliferation of remote working.

Telephone and email are of course still relevant. However, it pays to get on board with group-based forums, such as setting up secure video conferencing for instant effective group communication. The ability to team up immediately and conveniently is a boon when wanting to ensure staff are getting the most out of your new system.

Don’t forget about the possibilities afforded by social media, too. YouTube in particular, can be an extremely effective mode of communication. Producing effective videos is something you can do yourself with minimal experience, with a good YouTube video maker. Email newsletters are also an effective and proven team communication tool, with many newsletter software packages available.

Don’t Go Changing…

The standout reason for your company’s success is that customers love what you do. So, you clearly need to keep doing it. One of the things that SMEs are especially good at is maintaining individual relationships with their customers. But just because you are bringing in a revolution in how your company deals with the nuts and bolts of customer interaction, you don’t need to jettison that individuality.

A clever company can take the automation and efficiency that CRM offers and combine it with a personalised eCommerce approach. You can retain all that’s special about your company while offering new and exciting possibilities to the customer. 

These possibilities include offerings such as virtual events to launch a product or similar. A CRM will help to facilitate these in terms of selecting those customers who will benefit most from an invitation. Invitees will then have the experience of being favoured by being given the opportunity to take part and loyalty will be enhanced.

You’ll Get There!

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CRM is, for a good reason, enormously widespread. Though implementing it can be daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. Keep these six steps in mind and your SME will be reaping the rewards in no time.

Grace Lau – Director of Growth Content, Dialpad

Grace Lau is the Director of Growth Content at Dialpad, an AI-powered cloud business phone service for better and easier team collaboration. She has over 10 years of experience in content writing and strategy. Currently, she is responsible for leading branded and editorial content strategies, partnering with SEO and Ops teams to build and nurture content. Here is her LinkedIn.

Adam Hansen