Five Essential but Little Known Features Every CRM Software Needs

8Jan '15

Five Essential but Little Known Features Every CRM Software Needs

It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the vast range of features that are offered by the CRM systems available on the market. You can get locked into a near-infinite loop of looking at and evaluating these different features again and again, so it’s important to identify which of them are the “must-haves” — the features that your business just can’t do without. Here are five of the most important features that a CRM system absolutely needs.

1. Automated Data Entry

One big complaint about CRM systems is that they slow down the sales process by making salespeople enter data instead of actually selling. As tedious as it can be, data entry isn’t a task you can skip (your CRM software lives and dies by the data you feed it, after all) but there are ways to make it a much less painstaking process.

In WORK[etc], data entry tasks can be automated by making extensive use of web forms as well as deep integration with apps such as GMail and Outlook.

WORK[etc] CRM software GMail gadgetWORK[etc] GMail gadget.

WORK[etc]’s customizable web forms can be embedded into any blog or website. Any data entered into them can even be instantly turned into contacts and support cases. A support web form embedded on your website, for example, lets your customers quickly send a support ticket to your support team.

Its add-ons for GMail and Outlook, meanwhile, let you practically manage your business without leaving your email inbox. These gadgets add a stripped down version of the CRM menu to every email you send and receive, letting you use any email to:

  • Create a new sales lead
  • Update a project or task
  • Assign a support ticket
  • Log a timesheet
  • Attach new notes and details to your customer’s record.

Automation features like these keep manual data entry down to a minimum, letting your sales team do what you hired them to do: sell your product.

2. Sales and Project Processes and Stages

Sales, lead, and project processes keep everything streamlined and your team on point. Each stage should be clear and definitive — it’s a clear-cut process and not a general guide. You don’t want to have to reinvent the wheel every time a new lead comes along.

Many CRM systems limit users to a single sales process. While most sales, leads, and projects will have a similar progression, your system should also be able to handle one-offs that require custom stages.

To be a success, you need one that lets you set up multiple processes for different aspects of your business. WORK[etc] lets you graduate from the usual Cold > Warm > Hot process whenever you want. Similarly, custom project stages let you and your team create clear-cut steps to follow for each of your projects.

These custom processes will really come in handy when you already have your own processes in place. You don’t have to change your tried and tested methods just so they correspond with the CRM system’s default processes. Just replace the system defaults and you’re good to go.

3. Activity Tracking

You can’t maintain a good relationship without listening and remembering what you’ve both been through. The same thing applies to customer relationships — you need to keep track of what you talked about, what they asked for, what you’ve done for them.

A CRM system should be able to automatically capture and update all of this information for every single interaction you have with a customer. In WORK[etc], this comes in the form of the activity stream, which links pertinent details, bills, correspondence, and more to the appropriate contact, lead, or project.

WORK[etc] CRM software activity streamWORK[etc] Activity Stream. Click for full view.

WORK[etc] can be used to manage every aspect of a business, so there’s bound to be a lot of data in there regarding customer activity. Fortunately, the system’s activity stream ties all of that data together — from emails, quotes, and invoices to projects and support tickets — in an easily digestible format.

If a customer contacts you for help with their latest purchase, for example, it just takes a few clicks to get an instant overview of every interaction you’ve had with them in the past and tailor a more personalized response. No more asking the exact same questions every single time a customer calls.

The activity stream is the perfect representation of what a CRM system is supposed to be — an easy way to keep a running record of the relationships and interactions you have with your customers.

4. Customizable Dashboard

All of the data you have stored in a CRM system will be useless if you can’t find the information you need. A CRM system should give you immediate access to the information important to you and your job in as few clicks as possible.

WORK[etc]’s customizable dashboard serves as your control center, giving you an instant overview of information relevant to you and your responsibilities as soon as you log on to the system. You see what you want and need to see at a glance, from recent activity to important contacts and projects.

If you’re on the finance team, for example, you can add a dashboard widget that shows all billable charges or lets you create new invoices and unbilled charges quickly on the fly.

If you’re a support agent, you can instantly get a rundown of all the support cases assigned to you, any unhandled tickets, or even filtered lists according to specific parameters that you set up.

Data entry can already make for a significant chunk of the time spent on a CRM system; it’s completely counter-intuitive for it to take even more time finding whatever it is you need. Customizable dashboards cut down on time spent slogging through unrelated data, freeing you up to focus on actually getting things done.

5. Training and Support

Your CRM system will just be a pointless expense if you don’t know how to use it. Most systems can seem overwhelming for the first-time user, especially if they haven’t had any experience with such systems before.

Getting these users to take the leap and get completely onboard an entirely new system takes time and energy, which is something that not all businesses can afford. We try to make it as painless as possible by helping the time-poor get up and running with the least amount of effort via a range of training options and services:

  • Free group training and weekly training sessions
  • One-on-one personal training
  • Product specialist consulting
  • Data imports
  • Newsletter and invoice coding

Picking out the CRM system that fits your business perfectly isn’t an exact science, but as long as you know both what you want and what you actually need then the process of finding one shouldn’t be too arduous.

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