UK: CRM Technology As An SME Sales And Service Enabler

Last Updated: 17 February 2014
Article by Rob Smallbone and Tan Gill

You may have read the recent Gartner report predicting that customer relationship management (CRM) technology will be a $36bn market by 2017, up from $20bn today. Anecdotal evidence shows that the lion's share of this investment is by large organisations with small businesses shying away. Why is this – and more importantly, what are smaller firms missing out on?

Having just finished working with a small business on a CRM implementation, we've pooled our collective thoughts into a blog to shatter some of those myths that stop some small firms embracing technology. We will demonstrate how it could be easier, cheaper, and be more valuable than some might first assume.

Why not?

Why are some small businesses reluctant to embrace enterprise technology – even when the potential transformational effects could be even greater than in large organisations? Reasons cited include:

  • Disruption to business as usual
  • An absence of internal technical capabilities
  • Software and implementation costs

As well as the above, some small businesses might feel that they are just too "small" to be implementing the latest technologies for their sales and service teams and that the market is just moving too quickly. In many respects, this speed of growth and change in the CRM market is a compelling reason in itself for adoption. Small businesses compete with all sizes of firms. With their larger competitors embracing this customer-centric, business-driven, technology-enabled CRM approach there is a real risk of being left behind.

With most major CRM vendors now offering software as a service, some of the reasons mentioned are becoming less of a risk. Gone (mostly) are the days of huge, lengthy, costly, on-premise CRM implementations with their own cooled server room complete with a man and a dog to guard!

It may be easier than you think...

It seems not a week goes by without stories in the press of another huge IT project that has gone wrong somewhere. But why start so big and complex when there are gains to be had by doing the simple things right? Why not focus on the simple ways that technology can enhance your sales and service teams, such as automation of time intensive tasks, rather than looking first at complex integrations? Implementation of these technologies can now be far less convoluted due to intuitive user interfaces allowing clicks not code to build. Dream big but start simple, being mindful that some problems have a business process rather than technical solution.

It may be cheaper than you assume...

A major benefit of cloud-based technologies is they can be very cost effective, particularly if combined with a business-driven 'less is more' approach. Cumbersome on-premise systems (with cooled server room, guard and dog) are no longer the default. Software as a service allows small businesses the flexibility of purchasing core packages of functionality, licenses and storage that suit their needs. This is then extremely easily scalable with functionality bolt-ons, extra licenses and more memory available. This means that as the business grows and becomes more successful, your CRM can also grow to meet your changing needs.

It may give you more value than you expect...

We've seen first-hand the transformative effect technology can have for businesses, great and small. Benefits have included:

  • A more mobile, efficient sales team that can work remotely using a variety of devices and update their sales, leads and opportunities on the move
  • Real-time reporting and dashboards to monitor sales pipelines and manage customer service cases and providing data and leading to more informed leadership decisions
  • A 360 degree view of a customer leading to more effective management of customer relationships and improved lead conversion
  • Visibility for the management of the current state of their business
  • The opportunity to incorporate gamification to incentivise sales reps
  • Flexibility and scalability of the CRM platform allowing for easier growth in users and customer numbers

So why wait?

Our recent client was an innovative small business of only 13 employees, who distinguished themselves through their values and exceptional service. They decided to implement a streamlined sales process for recording and analysing leads, opportunities and account information. They combined this with an intuitive customer service case management process to bring together that single view of the customer which is so critical. The results from this work are tangible, immediate and we believe will lead to clear benefits. Through opening up systems and improving capability, management now has an easily accessible, reliable and complete view, allowing them to make more informed decisions. Less time held back by technology, more time with customers, enabled by technology - transformative for a business that strives to put customers at the centre of what they do.

In summary, cloud CRM can give even the smallest of businesses the opportunity to increase their employees' effectiveness, at a fraction of what it may have cost in the past. The benefits of this could be enormous and allow smaller business to move into the future business landscape with a tailored CRM system at their heart.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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