Before diving into the benefits of a unified customer relationship management (CRM) system, let’s revisit what a unified CRM is and what you should consider when looking for one.
What is a unified CRM?
A unified CRM is a software solution that combines various business functions—such as contact management, sales, marketing, and project management into one central data platform. Unified CRM systems streamline internal processes, automate manual tasks to increase efficiency and productivity, and help to align teams. As a result, they facilitate a better, more consistent customer experience and business growth.
Here’s a quick overview of the most important CRM tools and features to look for when evaluating unified systems and the top 10 benefits of a unified CRM.
Important CRM features
While some unified CRM solutions may include over 100 features, we’ve compiled a shortlist of must-haves.
- Opportunity management
- Custom data fields
- Thorough contact and company profiles
- Robust marketing automation features
- Project management capabilities
- Customizable dashboards
- An intuitive drag-and-drop user interface
- Integrations with third-party applications
- Robust reporting, analysis, and metrics
- Customizable, automated workflows
- Integrated telephony features
- Mobile access
- Lead management
- Automated lead routing for new leads
- Role-based user permissions
- Effective, reactive customer support
The top 10 benefits of a unified CRM
1. Increased efficiency, more time for customers
Through the use of automation, a unified CRM system completes loads of tasks automatically—tasks that you and your team would have to complete manually.
You can dramatically reduce (with few exceptions) the amount of time your teams spend on manual tasks such as data entry. This is because data gets populated from various points in the system, such as lead forms that automatically populate or update contact records.
Automated workflows, which we’ll cover below, save you even more time and allow your team to accomplish more. Your team can spend this extra time tending to customers’ needs and delivering a better customer experience.
2. Better customer experience, higher customer satisfaction
Did you know that by the end of 2020, the customer experience is expected to overtake price and product as the key differentiator in consumers’ purchasing decisions?(1)
Accurate data, time savings, the ability to spend more energy focused on understanding customers’ needs, marketing personalization, and the ability to form closer personal relationships with customers are all capabilities you’ll find in a solid, integrated CRM.
Those are key elements of delivering a world-class customer experience. A great customer experience increases customer satisfaction, customer loyalty, customer retention, and supercharges business growth.
3. Data accessibility and reliability
When data collected by every team is entered into the same system, you eliminate data discrepancies that occur when different contact or other data is entered into two separate systems. Everyone works with the same data, exponentially increasing data integrity. When new data is entered into the system it is updated in real time for all to see.
Plus, with comprehensive contact and company profiles and the ability to access your system from anywhere (assuming it’s a cloud-based system), accessing important, reliable data is easier than ever.
4. Sales and marketing alignment
Because everyone is working in the same unified CRM, sales and marketing must collaborate in a closer, tighter way. They are using the same data and working in unison to drive leads through the funnel. They no longer work in silos with their own separate software systems or have to figure out ad hoc data syncing processes.
Alignment across teams is critical to closing more opportunities and growing a business. Automated workflows and tasks with reminders—along with various other system features and functionality, including lead disposition—bridge the gap between the two teams. These features also lend accountability to each respective team, forcing them to collaborate in new and innovative ways.
As a bonus, storing all data in one central database, which is accessible by all, helps drive CRM adoption among salespeople. This is an ongoing struggle for many organizations. A unified CRM helps solve it.
5. Enhanced insight from reporting & analysis
Unified CRMs constantly collect data around a broad range of measurable metrics. You decide which metrics you want to analyze and report on. You gain actionable insight into performance and results against your defined key performance indicators (KPIs).
Tracking and analyzing metrics helps businesses identify which strategies and tactics are producing desired results and which are not. This allows users to focus attention on the tactics that are working and remove those that flop.
Moreover, higher-quality unified CRMs provide custom reporting that delivers insight into metrics you need to see most. Normally, these can be automated and sent to you via email or displayed on a custom dashboard that you configure to meet your needs. This enables upper management to test assumptions and make data-driven decisions.
6. Stronger, personal customer relationships
Unified CRMs store data about each customer and prospect—including demographic data, their behavior, interactions with your brand, purchase history, challenges, goals, and more. Quick and easy access to that data allows customer-facing teams to quickly gather insight into who the customer or prospect is, which products they own, and their satisfaction levels.
This gives those teams the ability to speak to customers and prospects on a more personal level. Your teams form close relationships with customers and prospects, know them by name, and personalize their interactions to make customers feel more comfortable and let their guard down.
Doing this sends the message that you’re invested in them and their personal success. That, in turn, creates loyal customers, generates brand advocates, reduces customer churn, and increases recurring revenue.
7. Mobile accessibility
Data from 2017 indicates that 87% of companies using a CRM were using a software-as-a-service (SaaS) system.(2) These are also known as cloud-based systems. They are accessed through a web browser, not an installed application that’s only accessible while you’re in the office. You can access cloud-based CRMs from your mobile device anywhere you have an internet signal or mobile data.
That statistic is huge considering that in 2008, a mere 12% of companies were using SaaS CRMs.(3) How do we account for the massive increase? Being able to access vital business intelligence and work in your CRM from home, while commuting, or waiting on a friend at a restaurant is an enormous benefit.
Users can check important metrics whenever they want, as well as take action when it’s needed. For example, when a lead becomes qualified, sales can reach out right away instead of and waiting until they are back in the office to do so.
Consider these additional statistics:
- 65% of companies with mobile SaaS CRMs achieve their sales quotas
- Only 22% of businesses that do not use a mobile SaaS CRM meet their sales quotas (4)
It’s easy to see why mobile access is such an important benefit to a business’s bottom line.
8. Increased sales conversion rates
A unified CRM with robust lead disposition capabilities makes a big difference in an effort to align sales and marketing and improve sales conversion rates. Lead disposition—or the rules that govern how sales moves a sales qualified lead (SQL) to an opportunity, disqualifies it as inappropriate, or returns it to marketing for further nurture—is a critical process in optimizing both inbound and outbound demand generation in companies of all sizes.
Closer sales and marketing alignment, insights into prospects’ needs, challenges, and goals, and the ability to form closer relationships increase companies’ sales conversion rates.
When using a CRM, businesses experience increases in conversion rates as high as 300%. (5) That number alone makes a strong case for adopting CRM technology.
9. Ease of dealing with one vendor rather than many
Businesses of all sizes are increasingly opting for unified CRM systems because they let users complete so many tasks in one, unified system. This means not having to flip back and forth between multiple screens to access various systems and retrieve the data you need from each, thus slowing you down.
It also means not having to purchase separate systems for various functions. For example, a unified CRM eliminates the need to purchase a separate marketing automation platform because you already have one built into your CRM. Plus, businesses that use unified CRMs don’t have to deal with three or four vendors.
When you deal with a single vendor, you only receive one invoice. You interact with one customer support team who gets to know you and your use case better than reps from four different vendors would. And you have a dedicated account manager who forms a closer relationship with you than anyone else in your vendor’s company.
10. Faster business and revenue growth
Rounding out our list of unified CRM benefits is faster business and revenue growth. Most of the benefits listed above—time saving, improved customer experience, more satisfied customers, increased recurring revenue, higher sales conversion rates, etc.—all add up to faster revenue growth, reliable business growth, and more dependable recurring revenue.
Use a unified CRM to align teams and better serve your customers, and you’ll see your business grow faster than ever before.
Ready to start shopping for your own unified CRM?
Many businesses increasingly feel a unified CRM is the answer to their challenges. I believe they are correct.
If you’re ready to start evaluating systems, I’d like to leave you with the following bits of advice to help in your search:
- Create a checklist of your CRM needs and requirements before you even start comparing options.
- Do your due diligence and research many options to see which ones best fit your budget and check the most boxes on your list of requirements. Then put those on a shortlist.
- Read user reviews on sites like Capterra, Gartner, G2 Crowd, and GetApp. These are among the most helpful findings you’ll gather during your research process. They provide valuable insight as well as system pros and cons from actual users, which is more useful than a company’s website. Go straight to the source and see what real users have to say.
- Don’t rush your decision. The stakes are simply too high to purchase a system that you later realize doesn’t meet your needs. Request product demos and talk to vendors before your commit.
- Remember that no matter how robust the system is, your ROI depends on its user adoption. Opt for a solution your team will quickly adopt and use.
Follow this advice and you’ll be reaping the benefits listed above in no time.
1. Customers 2020: A Progress Report, Walker Information, 2017
2-5. 2017 CRM Statistics Show Why It’s A Powerful Marketing Weapon, IBM, 2017