Good customer relationship management (CRM) is critical to the success of any small business. CRM tools are systems that help you organize and store your customers' information. If you're in the market for a new CRM system — whether because you've outgrown your existing one or you're looking for improved functionality — it is important to carefully evaluate CRM tools before you purchase and implement them.

Large enterprises might use a fully integrated, multifunctional CRM system from a company like Salesforce, but you might not want or need to go that big. As Business News Daily notes, there's a huge number of CRM options available for small businesses, with varying price models.

The basic idea behind CRM tools is to have all available customer data in one place, accessible to your employees whenever they interact with customers. Cloud-based CRM systems have the additional advantage of being accessible on any device, so information can be shared no matter where employees are, whether at the office or in the field.

Here are some questions you should ask yourself when you evaluate CRM tools:

    1. Is It User-Friendly?
    You want everyone who interacts with your customers to be able to use your CRM system. If navigation, inputting data or updating fields is difficult, it is unlikely that everyone on your team will adopt the system, which hurts the customer. Since you may not have a huge CRM training budget, favor user-friendly systems.

    2. Is It Scalable?
    If your business grows, your CRM tools need to scale with it. Even enterprise-level CRM systems like those offered by Salesforce have their small business equivalents. Good CRM vendors will want to grow with you.

    3. Will the Data Be Accessible?
    If the data can't be accessed by all employees, in real time, across devices, then it's not an effective CRM system. By this logic, having Excel spreadsheets that live exclusively on one PC, or mobile apps used by one or some (but not all) employees should not be acceptable.

    4. Will It Improve the Customer Experience?
    Customers don't know about, and don't care about, how you manage your internal information systems — they just want good experiences when they interact with you. So, when you measure the effectiveness of any CRM tool, you need to consider the impact it will have on the customer experience, not just how it will impact your internal processes. Good CRM systems take this "outside-in" approach to customer service.

      After you evaluate CRM tools and find the perfect one for your business, it's time to implement. Here are some things to keep in mind:

        1. Don't Lose Sight of What's Important
        Start with the customer. No matter which CRM tools you choose, make sure the customer's overall experience is put first.

        2. Don't Leave Anyone Out
        You can have the best CRM tools on the market, but they're useless if some of your people don't know how to use them (or even stop using them because they get too frustrated). Make sure everyone who interacts with customers understands how to use the tools.

        3. Don't Be Afraid to Adjust
        Every small business has different needs for CRM, so seek to customize your CRM tools to meet your needs. If, for example, your strategy is to communicate with customers through social media, you could create fields to collect social media information like Twitter handles.

          Do you want your small business to deliver a great customer experience with every interaction? If so, you'll need to get your CRM house in order. The insights and suggestions offered above will help you do just that. And, if you're interested in reading more about the value of a great CRM system, check out this article on how CRM tools can help you boost your brand's reputation.

          Tags: Technology