Customer relationship management

Small business customer relationship management (CRM) solutions can help you increase sales and customer satisfaction

Customer relationship management software can help small businesses and organisations to:

  • Better understand customers, supporters or donors.
  • Improve customer communications.
  • More efficiently turn leads into sales.
  • Develop powerful insights for future products, services or strategies.

Easy-to-use and affordable CRM software solutions can help organisations of all sizes.

Is a CRM tool right for your organisation?

Your customers (or donors, suppliers, etc.) may be your organisation’s most important asset. Maintaining records of their names and contact details is the basis for customer relationship management.

Consider what other customer information would be useful for your business to track, organise and analyse. For example:

  • Sales history (amounts, dates).
  • Communication contacts (who, what, actions taken).
  • Project estimates (accepted/declined, reasons why).
  • Project scheduling.
  • Service history/complaints (who, what, actions taken).

Maintaining this type of information with CRM software can help you work more efficiently, and increase the effectiveness of e-commerce and marketing.

If you are familiar with sending emails, doing data entry or using a word processor, you could probably learn to use an entry-level CRM program reasonably quickly.

How much do CRM tools cost?

Many CRM solutions designed for small organisations are available for purchase or subscription at low cost. Many also offer free trials.

Costs are typically based on the number of users, the number of contact entries, the amount of data and the system’s capabilities. You may just need a basic ‘contact manager’ or you may choose a solution with everything from bookkeeping to email marketing capabilities.

CRM applications can be:

  • Hosted locally, meaning you download and run the application from your computer or company server.
  • Web-based, (also known as hosted or online CRM) meaning you access the software online.

Web-based CRM solutions are generally affordable for most businesses. Here are some examples of low-cost, web-based CRM applications:

Capsule CRM offers a free edition for up to 2 users, and a professional edition at $12US/month per user*.

Really Simple Systems offers a free edition for up to 2 users and a premium edition with 2 users free and additional users at $16AUD/month*.

Insightly CRM offers a free edition for up to 3 users and is $29US/month for up to six users*.

*Note:  this information is based on June 2012 pricing and is indicative only.

CRM pricing can be significantly more expensive for custom-designed applications. It might be best for you to engage a professional adviser if you are considering deploying a complex CRM system.

How do I get started with customer relationship management?

It is a good idea to talk to friends and colleagues about recommendations for CRM solutions. You can also research popular CRM solutions online at small business sites such as:

lyingSolo.com.au
SmartCompany.com.au
SmallBizCRM.com

For further information on CRM tools, you might like to try some of the links below:

Goldmine
Maximizer
Microsoft Dynamics
NetSuite
Open CRX
SalesForce
SugarCRM
TechnologyOne
Xero

What is enterprise resource planning?

While CRM systems are designed to support client relationships, enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems integrate an organisation’s operations such as manufacturing, logistics and accounting with customer support (note that ERP often includes a CRM module).

ERP can help an organisation to improve its operational performance by enabling it to:

  • Improve work methods, streamline processes and workflows.
  • Synchronise all parts of the organisation (engineering, manufacturing, administration, accounting, sales, management, etc.) and improve collaboration.
  • Centralise information and reduce data loss.
  • Easily organise documentation.
  • Increase the detail of information and business intelligence.
  • Reduce carbon footprint (paper, stock, process).

ERP applications are typically more complex than CRM tools, so you might like to think about engaging a professional adviser if you are considering deploying an ERP system.