6 CRM Best Practices 2021 (With Famous Company Examples)

Michael Scheiner
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You've been shopping, browsing and comparing customer relationship management systems. You read the online reviews, try out some free versions, and let yourself be walked through some demos. Good for you for doing the homework (and we hope our humble site has helped).

Finally, you've found the CRM platform best for you. Congrats. Is it now just a matter of logging on and getting going? What if you're a big team? Can you trust everyone will make the most out of this essential business tool?

What's important for the next step is to learn the best practices in CRM. A CRM is a platform with loads of benefits, but it depends first and foremost on how you use it. To take full advantage of CRM systems and practices, there are some golden rules to follow.

If you want to learn more about the best practices for CRM, you've landed on the right page.

 

6 CRM best practices to improve the quality of your CRM data

Count them down: 6 ultimate rules to make sure you squeeze every ounce of efficiency and productivity out of your CRM. These CRM best practices help you maintain the highest quality of your data. They also make sure that everyone on your team keeps up with all the various tools and features on offer. 

As a bonus, we'll give some real-world examples of famous companies and talk about how they make use of these CRM best practices.  

 

Best Practice 1: Don't skimp on CRM implementation

Like any brand new tool, it takes time and effort to learn how to master it. A lot of new CRMs are aiming to be ready out of the box. Still, it's worth it to go slow at first, especially if it's going to be a large team using a new CRM. What's more, the best CRMs offer customization options. These you should begin to tweak right away after implementation to best suit your needs.

Many great CRM software will walk you through demos. There are often free trials to take advantage of. Premium CRM plans can even get you live implementation assistance. Medium to larger businesses surely could leverage that setup help. This also includes data migration. During any implementation period, you need to consolidate customer information from several other platforms.   

You'll also want to make sure each department knows its unique set of tools. This goes for marketing, salespeople and customer service reps, among others. For large companies, it's good to have a point person for the CRM implementation. This person can keep track of its effectiveness and help employees learn the CRM tools.

Example of a company doing CRM implementation right

  • Car companies like Toyota or BMW have been around long before CRMs existed. When implementing a CRM, a company like Toyota takes the time to choose the right platform and train all its employees on its functionality. Had car companies tried to rush implementation, they'd be failing to take full advantage of all its benefits and would fall behind their competition.

  • Foodora is a Swedish online food company that was founded in 2014, long after CRMs we're a thing. Foodora would have been able to choose the right CRM platform from the get-go and grow their operations using it. To have waited until after launch to implement a CRM would have meant additional unnecessary periods of growth.

 

Best Practice 2: Set a data standard

Once onboarding and implementation are done, you need to think about customer data and metrics. What's important here is to set data entry standards so that it's consistent across the board. Not all departments will have the same kind of data. Nor will they be analyzing it by the same KPIs and metrics. But CRMs are great for giving everyone in an organization full transparency.

With a CRM system, you can automate what kind of customer information you'd like to use. It can search social media like LinkedIn and gather contact information. It might focus on company and roles, or contact details like email and phone numbers. These details are an especially important link between marketing efforts and sales teams.   

It's also a good idea for very small businesses and startups to set data standards as part of their early CRM strategy. This way, nothing gets lost or obscured when the companies scale up.

Example of a company benefiting from consistent CRM data

  • Tourism meta-search engine Expedia has offices all over the world. They have massive departments working in marketing, sales and support. Without a standard data practice across all their offices, Expedia would fail to benefit from a CRMs unified data insights. Marketing would be less targeted, and support would be slower and less effective.

  • John Deere is an equipment manufacturer that's almost two centuries old. Today, John Deere tractors and other products are a combination of hardware and software. This means there's a lot of mixed data coming from users and equipment. To best handle service repairs and loyalty programs, John Deere employees need to rely on their CRM data to be consistent.

 

Best Practice 3: Automation is key

One of the great inventions of CRM solutions is automation. There are so many ways a CRM can take over repetitive tasks for sales reps and other staff. The huge benefit here is that you can focus on higher-level activities and less on data entry. This means better marketing campaigns, more sales, and a superior customer experience. 

Automation can be simple, like getting notifications and reminders. They can be workflows for chatbots and other automated messaging services. Marketing automation can target ads to the right silos. It's easy to move leads through the pipeline when several steps in the sales lifecycle are automated. You can set up workflows to auto-route incoming emails to specific reps. Similarly, customer support requests can also be auto-routed this way.

There are more complex business process automations too. You get these in CRMs that are part of larger ERPs. This is more of a best practice for large businesses and enterprises. Finally, automation keeps your data up-to-date in real-time. This is key for getting the most from reporting.

Example of a company automating their ways to success

  • Tushy is a newish brand making a big splash. They have a huge social media marketing presence. In order to take advantage of all the reactions and engagements their ads generate, they can rely on CRM automation. This means fewer missed deals, less customer churn, and more up-selling opportunities as reminders and other pipeline workflows are automated.

  • Massive producers and distributors like famous beverage company Coca-Cola greatly benefit from automation. It can automatically monitor inventories and production chains to restock supply shelves and anticipate machine repairs. Automation can also be used by Coca-Cola to auto-re-up orders, send invoices and process payments.

 

Best Practice 4: Leverage analytics

One of the good things about customer relationship software is analytics. A lot of activity goes on in a company or organization. This activity is spread among many departments. CRM solutions are able to translate that disparate activity into something usable to everyone, from the CEOs to individual reps.

You can customize your analytics and reporting. This means you can train your reports to show you the stats you decide are most important. It could be when, where or how potential customers become new leads. It could show you stoppages and pain points in your sales process. It could display how each sales agent is performing. Reports are great for seeing how marketing translates into profitability.

Analytics and reporting are equally as useful for ERPs. They can monitor inventories, supply chains and production processes. They can also help plan deliverables and shipping. Finally, analytics are forward-looking. The right CRM can help spot trends in the market. This is great for research and development of new products, goods and services. 

Example of a company leveraging the insights of analytics

  • Financial services is another industry where CRM systems make a big difference. Wealth management firm Raymond James, for example, is always looking to tweak its outreach when looking for new clients. Having real-time data reporting can tell a firm like Raymond James when, where and how to direct their sales efforts. It can also be used to gamify their sales departments.

  • Even CRMs themselves need CRM analytics. Take HubSpot, for example. HubSpot can use analytics and reporting to refine its marketing and sales efforts. Analytics can also show their online activity. This is important to avoid server overload. HubSpot can also use analytics to see which tools and packages are the most popular. This, in turn, helps them plan future products and campaigns.  

 

Best Practice 5: Think of the customer experience

Always remember: You are using customer relationship management software for two major reasons. The first is that it is a tool for you or your employees. The second is to ensure high levels of customer satisfaction. For that, there are several CRM best practices you need to put into use.

There are some ways you can turn CRM functionality into a better customer experience. It's all about self-service. This is usually a collection of features that allow customers and contacts to help themselves without bothering human reps. It includes an FAQ and knowledge base where people can get answers to simple questions. There are also customer portal features. These can let customers do things like check the status of orders.

Why is this a CRM best practice? By offering customers the options to help themselves, you limit the number of customer interactions with yourself or your team. And the point of a CRM is to take over a lot of easy work so as to free up your people for more challenging tasks. So don't neglect to set up the customer-centric side of your CRM system. 

Example of a company thinking of CRMs and the customer experience

  • Nintendo is one of the most popular gaming companies. They have loads of users around the world. Because it is online gaming, there can be many technical difficulties. Nintendo can use CRMs to create customer portals. Here users can get quick help from an FAQ. It also gives users a forum. This is great for building a community of users, which also leads to more loyal customers.

  • Everyone knows Swedish furniture giant Ikea. There has always been a self-service aspect to their business model. Aside from building furniture on one's own, Ikea also runs a good online shop. Between their online store and their DIY model, it's a smart practice for Ikea to use CRM self-service features. 

 

Best Practice 6: Be clear on why you're using a CRM

Whenever we begin a new project, or using a new tool, it's a good idea to define your goals. This may seem like pretty abstract advice for a CRM best practice. But really, it's not that different from any new business laying out their aims and objectives.

Here are some questions you should ask when choosing a CRM. Is this mostly a sales tool? Are you mostly interested in helping your salespeople close more deals? Certainly, major CRMs like Salesforce imply it's a sales tool first. But then again, even selling is not so clear cut. Do you want to get more and more leads or focus on cross-selling and up-selling to previous buyers? Or maybe you want to focus on deepening relationships with your more loyal customers.

Whether a new CRM is just for sales or for marketing or customer support, clarity of purpose is important. While you cannot expect a CRM solution to magically transform your whole operation, you can and should expect to see improvements. Just be realistic, monitor progress, and be ready to adapt as the results trickle in.

Example of a company defining their goals of using a CRM

  • Any new business, or small business, knows the importance of being clear about aims, means and goals. You could be a small indy brand that makes local organic vegan beef jerky to be sold at neighborhood markets. If a CRM is to build up a mailing list of new customers and keep them informed of your business, you've got to make sure the people using the CRM know that this is the focus. 

  • What could a huge company like Apple or Microsoft need from its CRM? How could such mammoth enterprises lay out their goals for a CRM? Boosting sales and improving brand awareness are not areas where Apple or Microsoft are lacking. Still, as the smart folks at these companies know, any tool is only as powerful as its clear and stated purpose. 

 

How to implement customer relationship management automation processes in your business

Getting started with a CRM system isn't always instantaneous. One of the lengthiest parts is setting up automations. It's a good idea to follow a demo and practice with simple workflows. When doing CRM comparison shopping, see which vendors offer trials and demos to help implement CRM automation easily.

 

Customer relationship management best practices: Our conclusion

In business, there are no firm and fixed rules for doing anything. Move fast and break things they say, sure. Where would we be if everyone followed the same playbook?

Yet, when it comes to CRMs, there sure are best practices. A CRM will never replace a company's most precious asset: its people. It's a tool, at best, an aid. It extends our technical capacities, allowing us to do more marketing and selling and offer better support. And each tool has its user manual. We hope this article serves as the only manual you'll need to best use your CRM. 

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