It is interesting that whilst most companies have a pretty well managed accounting function, the information flowing between you and your customers, does not seem to be as high as a priority.
Every business owner or senior manager understands the value of managing invoices, payments, stock and cash flow. Legally there is an imperative as Company Directors; we have to demonstrate that we are in control of our finances and customer transactions.
When you started your business you probably used spreadsheets and word templates to manage invoicing etc but soon, as you grow the business this became impossible to do. At that point a suitable accounting system was selected, probably with help from your accountant who also helped you implement it. If you are large enough you may employ an accountant or bookkeeper whose role it is to manage the financial side of the business.
Some companies just have the information in spreadsheets and the email system, some have a CRM system that is outdated and that sales people don't use because it is difficult to use or simply does not do the job.There would appear to be a number of reasons behind the reluctance of companies to properly implement a CRM system.
If we look at the typical journey we take to manage our finances we take advice from our accountant, we employ someone to implement and then manage it on an on-going basis even if we are relatively small. Not everyone has to use the accounting system so ease of use is not a priority, whereas a CRM system has to be used by everyone regardless of their skill levels .
An accounting system has basic principles that have to be adhered to, whereas how you deal with customers is largely what makes you unique, so a CRM system has to be highly flexible to accommodate different ways of working.
There are more demands on a CRM system by the people using them than on an accounting system. There will be different roles that the CRM needs to fulfill, e.g. telemarketing, sales, post-sales support.
But back to the question posed at the beginning of this article is CRM really as important as your accounting system?
What increasing differentiates us from our competition are the relationships that we build with our customers. The quality of this relationship is dictated by the people we employ, the information we keep about our customers and how well we look after them before and after the sale. I am sure most of you will agree with this statement.
Another overlooked point is the security of your customer. What happens when your key salesperson hands in his or her notice? What do you know about that customer? Is it in the sales persons head who is about to disappear out the door? How would you feel if your accountants deleted all the financial records about a customer from your accounting system? Really there is no difference!!
We all know cash flow is one of the most important aspects to ensuring your companies well-being. Predicting cash flow also starts with what sales that you expect to invoice this week, this month and this quarter. CRM systems can provide this information instantly, but most companies rely on spread sheets emailed in by the sales people each week.
I naturally believe, indeed passionately believe, a well implemented, suitable CRM system that is easy to use can make a real difference. However CRM is a widely used system and for it to be successful it has to be supported by skilled people and led from the top, yes you the Business Owner/Manager! It is vital to your companies continued success and security.
As always I would love to hear your views and comments. What do you think? Is CRM as important to businesses as an accounting system?