Mike Nash, CEO of Tall Emu, talks us through customer relationship management (CRM) system challenges and why they’re a necessity.
Historically, small to mid-size enterprises have shied away from CRM systems, perceiving these systems as too large and too complicated for their size of businesses.
They believe it doesn’t make good business sense to invest a lot of dollars in acquiring customers that may only be around for a few years. However, that’s my argument for investing in more automated ways of getting them on board and servicing their needs efficiently.
The likes of Salesforce and Microsoft Dynamics have brought CRM to the masses. When these launched to a huge fanfare, SMEs were supposedly given access to tools and functionality that had previously only been on offer to companies in the top end of town. SMEs began to envisage a customer insight nirvana - “If I implement a CRM system, my sales should go up, my staff will have customer information at the tip of their fingers at all times and my business costs can be reduced, right?”
With that ambition in mind, many SMEs started to explore the possibilities that CRM could offer their businesses, only to later put it firmly in the “too hard basket”. So, why are many Australian SMEs so reluctant to take the plunge, or do more with the systems they currently have? There are a number of reasons why not:
1. “Off the shelf CRM systems don’t work!”
Many SMEs have been burned by previously purchasing a budget “off the shelf” package that was a standalone application offering no integration to their other business systems and wasn’t easily customisable to their business.
Even if they did try to integrate the systems, it was a complex and costly process, with most giving up the process before getting any return on their investment.
2. “CRM systems are just too expensive!”
A lot of the major CRM vendors can price many Australian SMEs out of the market through a total lack of understanding of what constitutes an SME in our market.
Many have experienced being quoted by these major vendors then experiencing price-shock at the excessive pricing offered and, as a result, never taken it further.
The average Australian SME with 3-50 staff essentially wants the same functionality that these vendors are offering – but cheaper, faster and easier.
They also don’t have time or resources to assemble a huge team to deploy a CRM project over six months, so they need help with that.
3. “Why do we need a CRM system when what we have works already!?”
Implementing a CRM system is often initiated from the “top down”, so in many cases staff may not buy in because they claim to already have some process that “works for them” and often view CRM as another process to add to the workload.
For the CRM to work correctly it needs to deliver something for all of the stakeholders - simplistically, they all have to be better off with it than without it.
For employees, that means giving them less work to do by removing time-consuming tasks like manually generated activity reports and double handling of data.
To make a CRM system enticing for staff, all the relevant required information should be viewable on a single page through customisation. Sharing and using data across departments should also be easy.
4. “CRM systems are just a database!”
Many SMEs still view CRM as a simple database that spits out sales reports and they don’t understand that the capabilities of CRM have changed - and become more affordable - over the past 10 years.
As well as being integrated into existing business systems like MYOB, Reckon and Quickbooks, CRM can pull in customer data from the ever growing number of marketing channels available to SMEs, like social media and offline channels like phone records.
5. “There’s too much data!”
Most would agree that giving employees a centralised repository of information in an easy-to-use system will give them a more holistic view of the customer. However, with the sheer amount of customer information available to businesses, it can become overwhelming if not managed correctly.
An integrated CRM system filters through the data available and presents the most relevant data. The system needs to be able to pull data from many sources within and outside of the business to provide a complete view of every customer in real-time.
So why do SMEs need to change their views on CRM? It’s pretty simple – the concept of the aforementioned “customer insight nirvana” is no longer “nice to have” - it’s a necessity.
The business landscape is changing dramatically and customers are more discerning than ever. They expect fast transaction times with very little effort on their part. To keep ahead of their competitors, SMEs need an integrated CRM system that enables them to correspond with customers, employees and partners within an anticipated time window.
An integrated CRM system will reduce the manual effort and risk of errors, deliver a centralised view of company information, enhance the functions of the business’ existing systems and maintain the consistency of data between systems.
SMEs need to look at their business and ask themselves – “Where are we wasting time?” “What could be automated?” “Are we getting the most out of our social media and marketing channels?” “How can I get these two systems to talk to each other, so we can save time?”
Implementing a good CRM system is no longer the colossal task it once was. SMEs need to realise that an integrated CRM system is far more affordable these days and integration is far less complex and not a drain on resources, as previously thought.
A good CRM will enhance a business, no matter how small or complex, by building on the systems that already exist in the business and keeping them ahead of the game.
Mike Nash is the CEO of Tall Emu, a CRM provider.
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