No-more-Spreadsheets

 

Imagine you’re organizing a 90th birthday party for your beloved grandmother. You want to ensure a turnout befitting of this big milestone, so you and your cousin Amanda volunteer to collect invitee names and addresses from family members.

As emails, phone calls, and snail mail (yes, snail mail) lists come in from your aunts, uncles, cousins, and second cousins once removed, you use an Excel spreadsheet to keep track of all the information you’re receiving.

Since Amanda is also collecting invitees, you send her your full list when it’s ready. Being a diligent cousin, Amanda not only adds her information to your spreadsheet, but she also makes changes to the misspelled names and incorrect addresses that she notices.

Then, the inevitable happens: the stragglers start calling.

Can you add Mildred from next door? Did you know Candace and Howard moved last week? Can you make sure Stanley Wittmere isn’t on the list? (After that disagreement with Uncle Joe at the holiday party, chaos would surely ensue.)

You update your original Excel list with these changes and send the file to Amanda. She calls you immediately.

“What’s changed?” she asks.

“Oh, I corrected an address, added some names, and removed someone,” you reply.

“But I’ve already made changes to the other version you sent. What am I supposed to do now?” You hear her exasperation.

Two takeaways emerge from this story:

  1. When one person owns a spreadsheet with knowledge that others need, a silo of information is created.
  2. Once that spreadsheet is shared and utilized by more than one person, a new problem arises: versioning control.

This family-sharing scenario is a drop in the bucket in comparison to running a business where multiple people are talking to and acting on behalf of a customer. Is everyone working with the most accurate information at all times? How are account changes communicated across groups? How does information go from a sales person to customer support and up to the CEO?

While Excel can be used to keep lists, crunch numbers, create graphics, and run pivot tables for data comparison—functions it performs quite well—this tool was never intended to handle customer relations.

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems, on the other hand, are a reflection of their name. These database systems are specifically designed to complement the various activities needed for customer interactions, engagement, sales, support, and success.

If the prospect of an accidental invite arriving in Stanley Wittmere’s mailbox hasn’t convinced you yet, here are the top five reasons to utilize a CRM over spreadsheets.

  • Central hub of information

Sharing information is critical to business operations. Silos of information cause loss—both in knowledge sharing and in bottom line profits—because they create gaps in your business that your customers feel.

Customers expect that speaking to one person in your company is the equivalent of speaking to everyone. Anyone who picks up the phone should know what they’ve purchased, what promises have been made, what communications have occurred, and what goals they want to achieve using your product or service.

The best way to achieve that expectation is to provide one place where accurate, up-to-date information is stored so that anyone in your organization can be empowered to handle a customer interaction.

CRMs accomplish that goal by providing a single source of real-time data about each customer. Changes are captured immediately so that there’s never a conflict or loss of information, thus enabling individualized service to be provided to the people who matter most: your customers.

  • Standardization

As companies grow and change, institutional knowledge may get lost or overlooked if there isn’t a single system to capture information in a standard way.

If your sales team expands or accounts shift between salespeople due to new territories, how does that transfer of knowledge occur? If a manager wants insights into how his team is performing, both individually and at a group level, how can he quickly pull together comparable data?

CRMs provide consistency in the way information is captured and stored. Whenever someone calls a customer, sends out a marketing email or survey, or receives a customer inquiry, that conversation or interaction is recorded in a standard template, providing a clear path for anyone in the future to both access and contextualize the interaction.

  • Communication

Effective businesses run on efficient communication, both internally and externally.

How unwieldy would it be if just one person—let alone ten, twenty, hundreds, or thousands of people—updated you every time a customer interaction happened? Add to that challenge all of the myriad methods for communicating (texts, emails, instant messages, social media messaging, phone calls), and the exchange of information becomes cumbersome and challenging to track.

The beauty of a CRM is the security everyone feels in knowing exactly what information has been communicated and exchanged with every customer. Having a reliable single source lets an entire organization—no matter how large or small—be consistent in external communications and messaging.

  • Reporting

Besides more effectively serving and communicating with your customers, CRMs also allow for operational efficiency and reporting. The best way to understand key performance indicators and business operations is to use reporting tools that utilize standardized data and give you insights into the health of the business.

For example, sales forecasting is much easier when you can quantify your customer acquisitions, analyze performance, identify successful sales tactics, and track progress. Adjustments can be made in real-time, and the results can be seen faster.

With a streamlined system and single source of uniform data provided by a CRM, you can run reports as often as you like to see what’s working and what needs improvement. Your business can better plan, optimize, and achieve targets.

  • Growth and Scalability

If growth is the goal, the four core CRM capabilities above are your comrades in arms. The best way to achieve sustainable growth is to understand your business today and how to scale it for the future.

Are there trends within the sales cycle that best correlate to customer acquisition? Do you know what makes your customers successful? Where do you need more resources in order to grow and scale your organization?

Growth potential happens when you know what’s in your sales pipeline, how accurate your forecasting is, what markets are working for you, and what customers are happy, loyal, and buying additional products. The nuances of sales cycles and customer retention are tough to ascertain without these insights.

You can best project future opportunities and market needs by utilizing a CRM’s comprehensive set of standardized data and reports, which makes your business sustainable for years into the future.

 

At Insightly, we offer a CRM used by small and mid-sized businesses from a huge variety of verticals. Learn about all of Insightly’s features and plans on our pricing page or sign up for a free trial.

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Annette DeNoyer bnwAnnette DeNoyer is a strategic content marketing consultant with over eight years experience in a variety of technology roles, most notably in product management, product marketing, and content marketing. Her experiences at both tech startups and established organizations enable her to create effective messaging for young companies looking to attract attention and garner credibility, as well as for established companies developing strategic content for each sales stage in the Buyers Journey.