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Managing Customer Relationships With Business Management Software

Some types of businesses have customers, some have clients, and some have both. Maybe your business refers to its clientele as something else entirely. However you refer to the humans handing you a form of payment in return for your goods or services, it’s always crucial to build, maintain, and—when necessary—repair the relationships you have with them.

customer attraction and retention with business management software

One of the best ways to do that in our modern, largely-online world? Utilize business management software to enhance the overall sales pipeline, from lead generation to point of sale and beyond. 

It’s not just CRM capabilities that play a role in this process. One of the advantages that business management software brings to the table in the world of cultivating customer relationships is that there is the opportunity to gather data beyond simple contact information and buyer intent.

By utilizing prior accounting metrics, productivity reports, and other types of data gathered both from customers and employees. You’ll be able to make more informed decisions throughout the entire lead generation, sales, and retention pipeline.

How To Enhance The Sales Process

Centralized Information

The key to attracting customers is all about having the right information at hand. It’s not just about having one lead’s email address and a record of what specific form they filled out, it’s about everything else. 

Beyond this individual’s basic information, what data is available to you? Are you able to quickly see if this person had a prior interest? Are their interests in line with the current trends you’re seeing within your products/services? Are you able to take advantage of quote-to-order functionality to keep everyone in the loop about the status of the sales process?

Each company in every industry handles its sales processes differently, but regardless of the specifics, it pays to have accurate, timely information on hand.

In 2022, overall customer relationship technology usage increased from 56% to 74%. As businesses shifted to an online-first approach more rapidly than ever, having enhanced access to customer data was one key contributor to success.

customer relationship management. people sitting on a CRM cloud

Automated Email Campaigns

Small business owners are always pressed for time. There are never enough hours in the day to get everything done. (Spoiler alert: there never will be.)

On top of that, wasted time and inefficient planning are among the biggest issues plaguing the average small business owner. According to one study conducted by Inc. Magazine, small business owners waste an average of 21.8 hours per week. In addition, 49% of working professionals have never conducted a “time audit” to fully analyze, understand, and improve how they spend their time.

automation business management software

Though there are a vast number of ways that business owners and employees can increase their overall productivity and efficiency, automation stands front and center as the most helpful piece of the puzzle. In this case, automation is utilized to effectively reach prospects and customers while you are able to dedicate your time and energy elsewhere.

Easily crafting emails in a code-free interface, utilizing lead scoring capabilities, and creating drip campaigns for each specific revenue stream that your business manages will help alleviate the stress of manually tracking prospects and sending individual marketing emails.

Built-In Accounting Data

Data is at the heart of every good decision. When it comes to the value of managing customer relationships via an integrated business management system, it pays to have the best data available at all times. In this case, the most important data is often the financial data.

Not every fast decision is a great decision, but great decisions that are able to be made fast are always the best decisions.

Being able to provide customers with accelerated invoicing and payment channels, accurate price forecasts that are derived from up-to-date inventory and work orders, and a better understanding of overall buying trends will help empower your sales force to increase their closing rate and leave customers satisfied.

How To Stay Connected To Your Customers

Customer Portals

Yes, the initial sales process is important. However, customer retention, if managed properly, can be even more financially rewarding than any individual sale.

The probability of selling to a new customer usually falls between 5 and 20%, depending on the specific nature of the industry and the products or services offered. However, when it comes to existing customers, this number dramatically increases—selling to an existing customer usually carries a success rate of 60 to 70%.

Combined with the fact that 55% of millennials claim to be more brand loyal today than 39% of consumers aged 35 and up, a focus on customer retention has to be a long-term priority for every business.

One thing that the modern customer desires is a personalized experience with the ability to retrieve information anytime, anywhere, on any device. With advanced customer portal technology that’s built into the best business management software platforms, you’ll be able to achieve both of these goals. 

Customer portals provide up-to-the-minute service updates, open up a line of communication for questions or concerns, show a detailed payment/shipping/order history, and provide an opportunity for customers to know their needs are being personally attended to.

Chat And Discussion Boards

Staying connected to others is important in all aspects of life. It helps us learn, grow, and achieve goals that we would have not been able to accomplish individually. It’s easy for a coffee shop to flourish as a catalyst for connection and community—it naturally brings people together, bonding over the sweet tastes and aromas of their favorite drink and acts as a natural societal meeting point for people that want to bond, vent, and commiserate.

Well, not every business has the luxury of having a product that is so universally ingrained into the cultural fabric of society. For other businesses, it takes a little more work, creativity, and technology to bring people together.

Self-service help is often the first choice of the modern customer. 91% of customers surveyed would use an online knowledge base if customized and tailored to their needs.

crm software business management

Though it can’t replace the coffee shop, the internet and its countless mediums of communication are effective at creating conversation around a central topic. Your customers will always have questions, and there will be some that have already found answers to these questions. While your business will always be prepared to field questions, it provides a benefit to establish a community chat board where people with common goals and inquiries can talk amongst each other. Two heads are always better than one. 

Feedback And Surveys

We know that customer complaints run rampant in today’s digital age. Some lack context, some are unfair, some are simply vulgar, and some are brutally honest. (Yes, positive feedback exists on the internet, too.)

As much as positive feedback is appreciated, it’s equally—if not more—important that customers be able to give direct feedback on the negative experiences they have. It can help your business continue to learn and improve after each and every sale, shoring up the areas where service, quality, or communication may have been lacking.

4 characters completing a survey

Customer engagement tools both let the customer know that their relationship is valued and provide an opportunity for them to give you invaluable feedback. Your business should be able to automate surveys to be delivered at specific times (i.e. after a sale, after a refund, etc), and provide customizable form fields where customers can choose “1-10” style ratings or just enter their own text.

Wrapping Up

If it seems like customers are more demanding than ever, you wouldn’t be wrong. Nearly 59% of consumers worldwide say that they have higher demands and expectations in regard to customer service than they did just a year ago.

In an increasingly competitive environment, it’s important to utilize the tools that give you the biggest competitive advantage. By maximizing the capabilities of business management software, you’ll be able to attract more customers, retain more customers, and overall improve the products and experiences that help you maintain a healthy bottom line.

To Stay Competitive, Focus on Customer Loyalty

As our pandemic crisis continues to reshape the nation’s economy, clear winners and losers will emerge on the business landscape. In fact, it’s already happening. We’re seeing that large companies, particularly those who can increase customer loyalty, will knock out many of their smaller competitors.

The Associated Press reported the temporary closing of “71% of shoe stores, 77% of thrift shops and 68% of antique dealers. Forty-two percent of restaurants have shuttered.” By contrast, Amazon’s stock has soared from the increase in online shopping while Chipotle’s stock continues to rise after a successful rollout of streamlined takeout ordering.

For the moment, and arguably for the foreseeable future, customer behavior has changed. Right now, buying from smaller stores and ordering services doesn’t seem as attractive an option. But the ways customers shop is largely about who they trust.

Customer Loyalty Starts With Trust

customer exchanging happy face card with business

Let’s assume your business is staying afloat through this crisis: you’ve received a loan from the SBA, you were able to retain staff, and you’re generating some revenue. However, you know that operating like this can’t last much longer. Many of your customers have disappeared and you’re not sure when they’ll be coming back. It’s frustrating: while your business has always prized its personal touch, larger companies have a better chance of survival. Amazon will be fine— but how can you compete in this climate, which may extend to 2021?

Here’s the good news: you have both strategies and tools at your disposal. Take a few plays from the Mega-Corporate Playbook while honoring what makes your business unique to customers. If you can’t beat the big guys on size and reach, strengthen your back office while communicating the implicit reasons customers should be loyal to you. In these times, your customer loyalty strategy may be the one thing that saves you. 

Communication is King

Knowing what messages to send to your customers, and when to send them, can be confusing in these times. Many businesses opt for sending specials and deals on their products or services. Others are just writing to update customers on their operational status. Given the ability of large businesses to make deliveries quick and services available, you need to adapt this process for yourself.

Your customers actually expect more from you right now, even though you may be short-staffed. Ultimately, that’s a good thing— those expectations are an expression of the trust they’re placing in you. It’s essential that you make good on their willingness to be loyal customers.

Err on the side of communicating more often. Keep customers in the loop with what’s available and how they can take action.

Get Control of Your Inventory

This is a perfect time to revisit and update your inventory. Knowing what you have on hand, what’s on order, and when it can get to your customers is invaluable at this moment. 

Disruptions to your supply chain are likely, if not inevitable, for months to come. That’s going to affect your customers. And just as it’s important for you to know the status of products, it’s equally important that your customers be updated on it, too. As Adrian Swinscoe writes in Forbes, “nearly 70% of customers said they want more communication, 86% said it’s ‘important’ or ‘very important’ for retailers to tell them when an item will arrive.” 

man with tablet showing inventory control in warehouse

Managing your inventory can always be a challenge, but having the ability to navigate delays on the back end is essential. But if you’re not managing your customers’ expectations about when things will arrive, they’re going to lose confidence in you. 

Remember, you have some leeway with delays. We’ve probably all had the experience of ordering something on Amazon, scheduled to arrive in three weeks, that actually comes in three days. It seems like they’ve got a pretty good way of managing my expectations with some simple underpromising and (pun intended) overdelivering. 

Research supports this— Swinscoe’s article also notes, “recognizing that many deliveries are facing lots of problems right now, 70% said they were less likely to shop with a retailer or brand again if they were not informed in advance of a delay.” The takeaway: delays are fine but delays in communication are not.

Update Your Conveniences

If you don’t have a way for customers to pay you online, how can you expect to get paid on time? An example: I recently hired a local landscaping company to work on my lawn. They take payment online, but charge a 5% service fee. On a big spring cleanup, that’s no small sum. If I don’t want to pay the fee, I’ll need to send in a check. I’m wary of that for two reasons: first, I’m out of stamps, and I don’t want to go to the post office in this climate; second, I don’t have a working printer and can’t even send in a copy of the invoice so my payment matches their records.

Given these conditions, doesn’t it sound like my payment is going to come in much later than it would if I could easily pay online? My mortgage lender has waived online payment fees in the wake of COVID-19. So why can’t my landscaping company do the same? In many cases (and companies like Amazon are responsible for this), convenience is tied directly to loyalty. If your business can’t take a few hints from larger companies, it’s inevitable that your cash flow will suffer.

And if you don’t have a way for your customers to pay you online at all, think about how important that’s going to be to the future of your business. It’s already the standard, and you don’t want to be playing perpetual catch-up.

Provide Project Visibility

accounting software

If you’re in a service-area business, it’s now more important than ever for your customers to get some insight into project status (whenever they want it, preferably via a portal). Clients are cutting back on all kinds of services. They’re watching budgets like hawks. If you can’t provide services quickly and justify every aspect of the cost, you’re going to send them elsewhere. Especially now: when I order meal delivery and I can see every step in the process, I trust the business more thoroughly. I also perceive an inherent ROI.

Your small business can give visibility into project status just as quickly. But, of course, you need to make sure your project team is on top of the work. That’s undoubtedly more difficult now that many of your teams are working remotely, and likely will in the future, too. 

That means you’ll need the project management and tracking tools and client portal for full transparency. Fortunately, those tools also allow you to determine project profitability and see how your time spent relates to your larger revenue goals.

Get Ready to Compete

This economic situation will favor larger companies who have the resources to deliver products and services to their customers. Many small businesses will fail in the short term from revenue loss. But many others will shutter in the long term because they haven’t adapted to new behaviors and built customer loyalty. 

However, the country cannot succeed without small businesses. But if you’re able to take a few plays from the biggest players in business and support your own customers with the kind of personal touch they come to expect from you, you’ll be playing a winning game.