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The Manager’s Guide To CRM

Customer actions reveal tons about how effectively a business is being conducted. If you don’t take advantage of it, you’re ignoring the most useful tool in your arsenal. Not only that, but you’re actively undercutting other efforts like UX and service design.

Companies need customer relationship management to craft meaningful brand interactions over the long term. Employees are given the tools they need to be more personable and considerate. Branding efforts can include micro-interactions that are out of reach without CRM metrics.

Managers in restaurants, retail, hospitality, agriculture, insurance, and banking can all benefit from the information in this guide to customer relationship management. Keep reading to learn all you need to know about CRM.

How Old Is CRM?

Like many business practices that are coming into vogue today, CRM is a novel combination of tactics rather than an entirely new approach. 

Customer service has been around in some form for as long as people have had purchasing power of their own. Databases and feedback tools have also been around for decades. All of these components came into their own as a single process – CRM – in the late 1990s.

What Is CRM?

Customer Relationship Management uses recorded data to inform marketing, sales, and support functions. With the rise in artificial intelligence and automated technology, CRM has become sophisticated enough to record everything from transactional data to individual customer preferences. 

Analytical CRM helps managers make smart decisions. Algorithms pick up on behavioral patterns and long-term trends so decision-makers can keep stock levels and pricing at their most optimal level. 

Operational CRM shows metrics for sales, marketing pushes, and past service to certain clients. The goal of operational CRM is to automate these processes to the furthest extent possible so the organization is more agile and the team can spend its time on face-to-face customer service and other important issues.

Some CRM systems include critical top-level stakeholders and external participants, sharing information about customer feedback and sales figures so all parties can make the most informed decisions possible about their part of the process and stay on the same page with one another.

Many people sit around a wooden dining table outdoors.
Establishing a CRM system in a restaurant creates more regular customers.

Elements Of CRM

Sales are far from the only thing CRM takes into account. A wide variety of interactions and relationships exist between clients and firms of all kinds. 

Here are some of the core elements of customer relationship management:

  • Reporting

You have to take a look at the numbers if you want to know what’s going on. Sales performance reports allow management to see where the business stands while pipeline reports such as sales funnel and stage distribution reports indicate how the numbers on the sales reports are adding up toward established goals.

Lead source analysis reports show how new clients find out about a business, demonstrating the success of marketing efforts and highlighting external tools like search engines that might make for a wise future investment.

Profitability reports show which clients give the most money and which ones are most likely to become return customers. Use this information to tweak the user journey and the product line – it’s a more honest representation than self-reported feedback sources like surveys.

  • Analytics

Beyond simply supplying measurements of daily spending, profits, and orders, CRM software typically has a wealth of analytical tools. Whether they’re based on artificial intelligence or not, they’re extremely helpful because they catch what many managers miss. 

Stare at charts and graphs for hours and you might not be able to see the trends underlying them. More importantly, even SMB generate enough raw data to overwhelm any human effort to sift through them and find patterns. 

What kind of analytics can you expect from CRM software? Sales activity, marketing campaign success rates, forecasting, and customer satisfaction are the most common. CRM software can usually perform channel analysis as well, showing which avenues in an omnichannel marketing campaign are most effective.

  • Lead Management

Just like it measures the behavior of customers and the results of advertising efforts, a quality CRM system will also collect information about leads. In addition to lead source reports, CRM software measures which sources create the most revenue for the company and customer sales patterns that help direct sales teams toward the most lucrative leads.

Guiding lead sources toward lasting relationships is easier with CRM software that includes lead management tools. If you have subscriptions or other similar recurring interactions, you have a built-in source for leads of all kinds. 

Lead management is one of the most valuable CRM tools for B2B companies. Cultivating lasting relationships and incubating them through longer sales cycles are much easier with automated nurturing CRM tools.

  • Sales Force Automation

Automation makes managing and selling easier. Sales force automation isn’t just about sending emails and promotions – it also alerts sales staff about upcoming opportunities the CRM system generates from the data it collects. It can track communication, activity, and other interactions with leads and customers to illustrate how the sales process really looks. 

That’s not to say that sales staff alter their perceptions of sales on purpose, but just as self-reported user feedback is less frequently less accurate than observed research, so too are interactions collected by sales force automation CRM tools more accurate depictions of how sales work and what makes them successful.

Pipeline management tools help sales staff monitor the progress of a certain lead and be more likely to bring it on home. That’s great for business and for the salesperson. They can also assess the likelihood of a closed sale from the outset based on the history of their sales interactions.

  • Human Resources

In addition to sales and marketing, CRM software can also measure recruitment efforts from start to finish. Better relationships with the sources of successfully-placed employees are encouraged the same way that lead sources are. Whether it’s a creative staffing agency, university, or online job board, HR management will be alerted that they’re helping bring in the best talent.

After the hire, employee performance and salary information are also gathered and analyzed by software with HR CRM tools. It’s a big relief for HR staff and helps high-performing employees get noticed when it’s time for raises and promotions. Retention rates are generally much higher at companies that implement HR CRM tools effectively. 

  • Customer Service

Whenever customers call in with questions or issues, CRM software can record it and turn it into an informative statistic. For companies with technical products, it can help reveal issues that are repeatedly plaguing users and give designers and engineers somewhere to make improvements. At service-oriented organizations, it’s a great way to get feedback that’s not typically found on public review websites. 

For example, customers will go into greater detail on a private submission form than they will in a Google Business review or on social media. That’s partly because of length restrictions on these platforms and partly because there is some awareness that people don’t want to see huge walls of text from these sources. 

CRM software can handle huge amounts of text from many people without any problems. Plus, it can help design feedback forms that streamline the process. The last thing you want is for a customer to become frustrated with the customer service process, especially when they were going to give overwhelmingly positive feedback before that point.

Implementing A CRM System

Now that you have some idea of the various elements of a CRM system, it’s time to imagine what it might look like at your organization. While it’s not possible to be specific in a post of this kind, it might be illustrative to give some examples of ways that companies have put a CRM system to use in the past. 

The companies that are most likely to use a CRM system are in food service, healthcare, banks, and media. Agriculture and retail are two other giant sectors with a high CRM usage rate. 

Restaurants use CRM software to record returning customers, their orders, and their satisfaction. At locations that draw crowds or have a large wait staff, the CRM system can help the server remember what ‘the usual’ is if they’ve forgotten – or if they’ve never seen the customer before. 

That personable customer service is also possible in retail. Particularly now that so many people are blending online and in-person shopping, sales associates can be alerted to whether a customer is picking up or coming in to browse. 

Pair this approach with the right app and you’ll have a stellar customer experience from start to finish. Plus, if the app has useful tools that make the journey easier for the user, you’re more likely to be able to elicit feedback through quick surveys. CRM will allow you to both offer incentives to respond to feedback requests and also methods to track which customers do and what kinds of incentives work best. 

Healthcare applications are some of the most interesting because that sector is changing so rapidly. CRM systems allow records to be kept in a place where scheduling staff and medical providers alike can find them, all while staying within the requirements set out by patient privacy regulations like HIPAA. 

Families can be grouped and treatments, visits, and medical histories can be stored for faster decision-making. Where it’s offered, help finding a doctor in-network and helping to demystify the labyrinthine medical system are both possible with the right kind of CRM system.

Media companies can get feedback and see which kinds of users are accessing which kind of content. Measuring clicks did a lot to tarnish the quality of stories published on some websites. CRM could help regain the high-quality media that existed before in-depth user profiles and behaviors were able to be taken into account.

Agriculture and retail can both establish healthier relationships with their suppliers. Not only can you see which ones are having the most mutually beneficial interactions, but you can also use the metrics in other areas of the CRM software to show them the impact they’re having on the whole process and explain what you need from them and why that will bring continued success.

Managing Strategic CRM Use

Don’t let descriptions of CRM limit how you imagine it. You can get current information about sales, deals, job candidates, suppliers, and customer behavior. There are plenty of ways to put that kind of data into action.

To be strategic, managers should treat their CRM system like a regular audit. It’s better than feedback after the fact and more revealing than self-reported information. Any goals and ideas the team has should be borne out in the data. This is a great way to find out where you can improve and how successful your ideas are.

Structuring sales and lead acquisition processes is also much easier when you can trace real pathways and learn by example. Best of all, employees and management can become their own example, constantly troubleshooting how they entice new users and build brand interactions. 

For that matter, every brand interaction will benefit from strategic CRM if the software is used effectively. We already mentioned how CRM software is useful for businesses. It can also build fantastic user experiences for companies as different as museums and gas stations.

The key is personalization. Any business engaging with UX design to build better customer service and more effective marketing campaigns is likely already aware of the huge benefits of personalization. More than just an attempt to win people over by pretending to be what they want, personalizing outreach and the product itself allows companies to develop what people really need. 

With all the information you get from CRM software, you can find out what customers’ pain points are and what they enjoy. It’s very possible to learn this information before they do or put it to better use than they could otherwise imagine. 

But it’s also vital to consider the brand and company. Goals shouldn’t be abandoned outright just because of some information gained from CRM software. It’s still vital to have service design and UX design in place to bring business goals to the service of users and customers. 

Managers have a vital role to play because they’re the ones most likely to receive all the information from CRM systems and aggregate it into actionable business plans. Of course, the whole team should be taking part in executing these plans, particularly when they have the experience to know what’s possible. But managers in every industry would do well to understand that the possibilities of CRM are game-changers when they’re used in the right way.

Empower employees to understand how the software works and invent solutions according to the data under the guidance of management. Not only will the customers be happier, but employees will be more likely to stick around. Stakeholders and other higher-ups will certainly enjoy the higher returns as well.

A woman in a red shirt works at a touchscreen cash register.
POS systems with integrated CRM are convenient for many businesses.


Customer relationship management is a fantastic tool for managers to see the most up-to-date information. The metrics most CRM software records would be impossible for a human to record and analyze. 

It’s not only customer relationships that might benefit from a strategic CRM approach. Employee happiness and retention will increase when employees are better equipped to make a positive impact. The hiring process can be improved, as can sales, when the company records information about lead and talent sources and how they fare over the long term.

The most important thing is to use this technology strategically. Simply tracking employees and customer behavior won’t lead to success by itself. Managers need to understand what metrics matter most for their industry and how to leverage the information they gather into the best strategies for success. 

Although it’s impossible to deep dive into every industry and explain how CRM can help, this guide should illustrate the many possibilities CRM has, especially when paired with UX and service design. Such a complete approach will keep business booming with a vastly improved customer, employee, and stakeholder experience.

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