CRM vs. system of record: what’s the difference and why does it matter for your business?
Details about your customers are imperative for establishing and maintaining a relationship with them. CRM software takes what was once a contact card with a few bits of information scrawled in the margin to a cohesive portrait of customers based on data. A CRM puts information about your customers into a well-organized data warehouse right at your fingertips. You can then use this prized information to better your business processes, streamline workflows, and much more.
Comparatively, systems of record really only serve the function of storing information, where CRMs let you action it and serve as a tool for customer engagement.
We’ll take a closer look at the differences between a CRM and a system of records and explore how using a CRM can make dramatic improvements to the user experience.
What is CRM?
CRM stands for customer relationship management, a concept that has been important since there were customers to have. But what is CRM software? Simply put it is software for managing customer data. It was designed to be a digital replacement for one of the staples on an agent’s desk. No, not the phone. The Rolodex.
Today’s CRM is a powerful data management system that gathers all of the available information on your customers–from digital systems, sales data, communication channels, and more–in one place. Using your CRM you can search for customer details, pull up relevant history, and comb through previous emails and webchat logs. It can be accessed by the sales team, marketing team, and anyone else in the company so that everyone is on the same page when it comes to managing the customer relationship.
Aside from making record-keeping incredibly efficient, a CRM is a must-have for businesses that want to provide the best possible user experience over the life of the customer’s relationship with the brand.
Isn’t a CRM just an SOR?
Yes and no.
A system of record (SOR) is a decided place where your data lives. A CRM takes that further by storing customer data while simultaneously helping maximize its usability. CRMs help you to make hyper-informed decisions about how to approach and interact with your customers.
Why is a CRM system important for your business?
Bolstering your customer-focused strategy with technology is like supercharging a battery. CRM systems give you access to a clear overview of your customers all in one place. You can streamline sales processes and develop more informed marketing campaigns. Agents have a complete view of customers in real-time. This allows them to provide a better customer experience, generate sales, and increase efficiency. A CRM system ensures customer needs are at the forefront of your business process.
In fact, a recent survey revealed that for companies that use a CRM, the average return on their technology investment is $8.71 for each dollar spent. That ROI is possible because an integrated CRM streamlines and automates manual processes so your agents can spend less effort on time-consuming manual processes like data entry and direct more attention toward interacting with customers.
Basic functionality of a CRM
All users can have the ability to access a unified set of customer data. At a glance, agents understand each customer’s preferences for communication, their past interactions, the service history, etc. The customer no longer has to remind different agents at different times of their different interactions. Every agent gets an identical portrait of each customer.
Continuous Information Analysis
Data is constantly being input and organized within the CRM system. The portrait of your customer is constantly being revised to better match their preferences. Customer preferences and requirements are constantly changing. CRM systems help you stay up to date with these changes.
CRM’s are not one size fits all
A lot of CRM’s are, in effect, beefed up accounting and financial systems. Many lack the ability to make workflow changes as well as configurability. CRM features are useful tools. But, these tools are useless if it is difficult for agents to interact with them.
CRM software that works with a configurable agent desktop gives agents access to
- Account information
- Multichannel interaction history
- Service ticket status
A configurable agent desktop gives agents access to the right information at the right time. Without the need to toggle through windows or look up necessary information, agents can make the most out of their conversations with customers.
CRM software can use configurable agent desktops by providing data fields and layouts that best serve each customer’s needs. Bringing in 3rd party information allows agents to provide informed customer service.
CRM and the agent experience
Unified CRMs allow agents to have a unified view of customer interaction history. Agents that can identify customers, their needs and their conversational preferences are empowered to provide a great customer experience. Unified CRMs give agents the right tools to do just that.
CRM software in should
- Provide relevant information across channels.
- Use data to provide an informed communication path
- Provide a holistic view of the customer through conversations
CRM software allows agents to make sure that every step of the customer service journey is smooth and efficient. Quality customer service depends on this. When the relevant information is provided across channels, agents can use this big picture to make informed decisions about how to interact with customers. The more informed an agent is, the smoother the interaction.
It’s easy to understand why a CRM is so essential if you think of it like your relationship with a friend. Every time you see that friend, you don’t introduce yourself and start over like you’ve never met them. Instead, you interact with them based on your holistic experience–every interaction you’ve had and all of the information you’ve learned leading up to that point. A good CRM makes your relationship with a customer unfold in the same way.
A unified CRM takes the whole customer experience into account when presenting a customer portrait. Feedback data drawn from past customer interactions allows you to pinpoint places in the customer journey that can be improved. Points of friction are easily seen and resolved.
When your customer data is integrated into your workflows, agents can develop a plan of action that best suits each individual customer based on history or campaign treatment automatically. They are tuned into the customer as much as possible going into every conversion.
And, because the use of an integrated CRM greatly improves data accessibility, contact centers using a CRM are able to shorten their customer interactions by 8 to 14%. With 360° views of the customer, agents have deep insights readily available to their fingertips before and during any touchpoint.
Data piped straight into the workflow allows agents to be more efficient with their time. This enables them to deliver excellent performance in the call center. Marketing automation gives agents the tools for how to best approach each customer. Customer’s social media can even be drawn upon to paint a cohesive preference portrait. Agents can give customers answers they need quickly by anticipating their needs.
To optimize customer interactions on an ongoing basis, you should:
- Continuously update your record and systems. Take advantage of their configurability to adjust for what your business needs today instead of simply relying upon what worked yesterday.
- Leverage CRM analytics. Mine the rich data your CRM provides for insights on where the customer experience can be improved. Where are sales falling through the cracks? At what points are customers leaving for a competitor?
- Automate processes. If it’s a task a typical agent does 10+ times in a day, chances are it can and should be automated.
- Zero in on high LTV customers. Your CRM offers features that allow you to give priority treatment to your most profitable accounts.
Data collected is even more powerful when it can be shared across channels. Data from phone calls is more powerful when it can be integrated with data from digital messaging or email. This is called omnichannel communication, and it is an important tool for providing optimal customer service.
Today’s customer doesn’t just use a phone to make calls or their Facebook profile to message friends. Instead, they use a wide range of channels for multiple purposes, choosing the one that suits their needs best at any given moment.
It makes sense, then, that they want to interact with companies in the same way, using the channel that’s most convenient or comfortable for them at any given time. An omnichannel strategy accommodates this while increasing customer satisfaction, boosting agent productivity and unifying your brand’s voice.
Every day you have to make decisions about running your business efficiently and effectively. The more informed in your decision you can be the better. Using a wide set of data that is organized in a unified manner can be a great boon when it comes to understanding your customers. CRM software helps you take the guesswork out of excellent customer service.