Strong customer relationships are key to driving sustained revenue growth and profitability. That’s why, according to Grand View Research, more than 90% of companies with more than 10 employees use customer relationship management (CRM) solutions, which store all customer-related information and help to build enduring customer relationships by integrating sales force automation, marketing automation and customer service. There’s a vast number of ways to apply a CRM system to improve business operations, from automating routine tasks to analyzing customer behavior and tracking sales performance. Here are 20 of the most common CRM use cases that can help drive business growth.
20 Key CRM Use Cases to Explore
CRM solutions help companies increase productivity through automation, better understand customer behavior and deliver a better customer experience, among many benefits. Use cases span the entire customer life cycle, from initial contact to customer support and follow-up sales.
Automate Repetitive Tasks
One of the biggest benefits of a CRM solution is that it reduces the time and labor required for everyday tasks, thus increasing the productivity of sales, marketing and customer service teams. A CRM system can automate repetitive jobs such as sending routine marketing emails, for example. By creating email templates and then setting rules defining the triggers for sending those emails, you can ensure that every new lead automatically gets a welcome email introducing your product or service. Then, when the recipient opens or responds to the email, the CRM system can schedule a follow-up call for the assigned sales rep. Automating these steps frees the sales staff to spend their time on more valuable and productive activities, such as talking to potential customers who are close to making a big purchase decision.
A CRM can automate many other tasks, including lead assignment, tracking metrics and dialing and logging phone calls. Bailey International, a leading manufacturer of hydraulic components, used CRM and contact-center management software to streamline customer interactions by automating steps such as routing customer calls, retrieving customer information for agents and tracking information about each call. As a result, the company cut call-answer times by 15% and reduced call abandonment by roughly 60%-70%.
Build an Omnichannel Customer Experience
Since consumers can design their own coffee drinks and ringtones, it isn’t surprising that they also want to choose how to interact with companies they do business with. Customers often interact via multiple channels: They may buy from a web store, return goods to a physical location and contact customer service via online chat. A CRM can help build a unified customer experience across all these channels. For example, you can offer support to customers through whichever channel they prefer: email, text message, chat, social media or even face-to-face meetings. A CRM can also track all these interactions, so you have a complete record of every contact with the customer.
It’s important the system provides a seamless experience for customers. Without careful design, there’s a risk that customers may receive different information through different channels, or they may have to repeat the same information repeatedly. An integrated enterprise resource planning (ERP) software suite that supports CRM, ecommerce and other business functions can help companies deliver a unified customer experience. That approach helped Altex Computers & Electronics create a comprehensive omnichannel system for both digital and brick-and-mortar sales, with unified payment processing and an appealing online shopping experience.
Personalize Customer Experiences
Personalized communications can help customers feel more valued — and increase the likelihood that they’ll raise their level of engagement with the company. CRM solutions can gather information from customer records and their previous interactions to add relevant content to texts, chat, social media or email. For example, they can send special offers on a customer’s birthday or suggest additional products that complement a customer’s previous purchases. Enthusiastic home chefs who have been browsing high-end blenders might receive offers for add-ons like special-purpose blades.
There’s no universal code for how to convert prospects into paying customers but prioritizing and targeting the right leads certainly increases the chances of success. A CRM system can help by lead scoring, a process that ranks leads based on their potential value to the company. The CRM does this by assigning points to each lead, based on predetermined rules that you choose. Lead scoring helps salespeople home in on the strongest leads.
In its most basic form, lead scoring assigns points based on demographics, such as the prospect’s industry or job title. But scoring is most effective when it is driven dynamically by the interactions between the lead and your company. If your firm launches a promotional email campaign, for example, all the leads who open the email would earn points, and those who followed a link in the email to your website would get still more points.
Develop Sales Prospects
While a good product, fair prices and skilled salespeople are all important, sales is ultimately a numbers game. The more prospects you start with, the more customers you’re likely to end up with. Those prospects don’t just appear out of thin air: Generating a large prospecting pool can take a lot of time and manual effort.
A CRM system can turbocharge that process by automating data entry and other time-consuming steps. Instead of manually entering every prospect’s name and address from a sales event or trade show, you can import a list into your CRM and automatically create a separate record for each prospect. The CRM can also capture email addresses that prospects enter on your website, so you can target them in marketing campaigns.
Conduct Sales Outreach
With prospects and leads identified, it’s time to introduce them to your product or service. A CRM solution can help automate outreach, then track and analyze progress. For example, the CRM can personalize outreach efforts, such as email messages, based on the prospect’s history. It can track each attempt to reach a prospect and record whether — and how — they responded. Outreach remains important even after someone has become a customer. A CRM system can flag customers whose contract is about to expire and send them reminders or prompt a salesperson to contact them.
Follow Up on Leads
The good news: Leads are responding to your outreach. The bad news: Manually filtering, organizing and following up on those responses is hugely time-consuming. If you have a CRM, you can use it to handle much of the heavy lifting. For example, some CRM systems can automatically schedule follow-up calls to anyone who responds within the first few days, while sending follow-up emails to those who have not responded at all. Given that prospects often must be contacted many times before they buy anything, automating these steps can save a lot of time.
Manage Sales Processes
A CRM system can help create efficient, consistent sales processes tailored to specific products and markets. Suppose you sell high-value personal care products, with one product line for businesses and another for individual consumers. Creating a single process for both makes no sense, since businesses typically perform a lengthy evaluation before buying in bulk, while consumers typically make snap purchases of single items. A CRM can help define different processes for each market and track them separately. For example, you may be able to:
- Define deal stages, automate each step and track each deal as it moves along the process.
- Create custom fields that store unique information needed for each process — not just name, email address and phone number but also information specific to each industry or company.
- Automatically assign leads to the appropriate salesperson or team.
Manage Salespeople More Effectively
CRM systems provide sales managers with insights into the performance of sales teams, helping them manage teams more effectively. Real-time dashboards enable managers to monitor performance at an individual and team level, tracking metrics such as total sales, percentage of quota achieved, average deal size and lead-conversion rates. Leading CRM systems let companies personalize dashboards for each salesperson, which can help them stay motivated and track progress toward their goals.
Analyze Sales Cycles
By consistently documenting and tracking each step in the sales process, a CRM system enables detailed analysis of the sales cycle. This helps the company pinpoint bottlenecks and take steps to eliminate them. These insights may be particularly helpful to companies that sell to other businesses and have a lengthy sales cycle. For example, if it takes so long to create proposals that prospects choose a competitor rather than waiting, you may need to streamline proposal generation. You can also analyze whether there are differences in how long each salesperson takes to complete different stages in the cycle, so you can address individual team members’ problems.
Onboard New Clients
One you’ve successfully converted a lead into a customer, an efficient onboarding process can help ensure a smooth customer experience and encourage customers to engage with your products. A CRM can automate onboarding workflows and reduce the time required, especially when the CRM is combined with other business applications and tools, such as robotic process automation. For example, information in the CRM could be used to automatically fill in the forms required to open a customer account and verify the customer’s information.
Analyze Customer Behavior
A deep understanding of customer behavior can be critical to retaining customers and winning new ones. The CRM contains a wealth of information about how customers behave. You can use that knowledge to improve customer engagement, promote add-ons or other products, and personalize services. For example, the CRM can help analyze:
- How you acquired the customer. A client who visited every page of your website and had extensive conversations with salespeople probably knows a lot about your product and may be more committed to it. In contrast, someone who made a quick purchase and hasn’t otherwise interacted with your company may need to be re-sold over time.
- How the customer is using your product. Your customer purchased a 35mm digital camera. If they’re asking customer service how to use the most advanced features and ordering additional lenses and other add-ons, they may be more likely to become a loyal customer. Some CRM systems can generate engagement scores so that you can either reward your core customers or reach out to the less-engaged to promote additional features, offer product education and so on.
- How the customer interacts with you. Does a customer read specific marketing or educational materials such as blog posts? How often do they visit your website — and which products do they look at? CRMs can track those interactions and target marketing and sales efforts accordingly.
Monitor Your Competition
Your CRM may help you track how you’re doing against key competitors — and take steps to win back customers you lose. For example, you may be able to record information such as which deals were lost to which competitors, so you can analyze common factors that may explain why. Then you can create campaigns that target those lost prospects and highlight new differentiating features you’ve developed.
Track Your Churn Rate
Every company would like to be able to say it never loses customers — but a zero percent customer churn rate usually isn’t realistic. Churn is often calculated as the percentage of customers lost during a specific period, although other formulas can also be used. A CRM can help companies automatically measure and analyze churn, so they can focus on investigating the causes and identify steps they can take to minimize it. A rising churn rate may be a sign of serious problems.
Engage in Strategic, Proactive Management
Because a CRM gathers extensive data about your interactions with customers, it can be a critical tool in supporting decision-making. Analyzing the data in the CRM can help you spot trends and problems sooner, so you can make decisions and act proactively to capitalize on opportunities and prevent minor issues from developing into serious challenges. For example, you can analyze factors associated with a drop in leads or a decline in customer engagement. You can analyze the most frequent problems reported to customer service and prioritize resources to address them.
Help Agents Help Customers
With a good CRM system, agents have a much more complete picture of the customer’s history, including all previous interactions with the company. That allows the agents to provide a better customer experience. When customers call, they no longer endure the frustration of repeating information from previous calls or chat sessions because the agent has access to all previous customer support interactions. The CRM can also help escalate the response if agents realize they need a manager or a more experienced representative to take over during a call. If an agent is seeking help, the system will automatically find the appropriate person and transfer the call.
Help Salespeople Manage Travel
For salespeople who need to travel to different customer sites during the day, a CRM system can make sure they take the most efficient route to arrive on time. This helps increase sales productivity while keeping customers happy. Some CRM solutions integrate sales reps’ calendars with mapping software, providing reps with a visual presentation of their day’s itinerary and step-by-step directions to reach their next appointment. Support for mobile devices means reps can use the software on the road.
Monitor Data Security
Customer information is some of the most valuable data that your organization holds. Compromise of that data can damage the company’s bottom line and reputation. When customer information is scattered across multiple spreadsheets and other documents, instead of being stored in a well-designed CRM system, it becomes more vulnerable to hacking and theft. Leading CRM systems typically include access controls and other security features that ensure only authorized employees can access the system and restrict access based on the user’s role. Companies can also monitor suspicious activity and set rules preventing access at specific times.
Align Sales and Marketing
A CRM can help companies forge alignment between sales and marketing teams, supporting the ultimate goal of increasing revenue. With better insights from sales into what clients are buying and why, marketers can adjust lead scoring criteria based on the likelihood that they’ll drive sales. Then they can refine those criteria as they analyze the sales that result. The CRM can also automate the process of passing leads from marketing to sales.
Ultimately, a CRM system supports profitability by increasing revenue and boosting productivity. Some of the ways a CRM contributes include:
- Automation in sales, marketing and customer service, which reduces overall costs by enabling each group to become more productive.
- Higher lead-to-sales conversion rates, due to better-targeted marketing and a better understanding of customer needs.
- More cross-selling, facilitated by improved knowledge of what customers have bought and which complementary products they may be interested in.
- More enduring customer relationships, fueled by better customer experiences throughout the entire lead-to-customer journey.
CRM Use Case Template
Building a library of use cases helps the company define all the ways that employees will use a CRM. This can be extremely useful when determining the business value of CRM, evaluating and implementing solutions, and developing training. A use case template can help you build a library quickly and in a consistent format.
Get the free use case template
This CRM use case template provides a basic structure to define each use case, laying out the business problem to be solved, the ideal solution, which processes will be affected and how employees will interact with the system.
Choosing the Right CRM for Your Business
Because a CRM plays such an important role in the business, it’s important to take the time to select the right solution for your needs. An important step is to bring all stakeholders together to compile a detailed checklist of what you want to accomplish with the system. Key questions to consider include:
- What problems are you trying to solve? Prioritize the company’s goals, whether they are improving sales productivity, targeting better prospects or improving customer service.
- How much can you afford? You’ll need a realistic idea of both the true cost of the system and your budget.
- What technical support do you have? A cloud-based solution requires less IT expertise than an on-premises system.
- How big is your business? Think about whether the system will support your future growth plans as well as current needs.
- What’s unique about your business? Look for products with the specific features you need and vendors that have customers in your industry.
- How are you going to access the CRM? If employees need to access the system from home or on the road, a cloud-based system with mobile support may be the best fit.
- Do you need the system to integrate with other software? Some CRM solutions integrate well with business systems that handle financial, inventory and ecommerce applications.
NetSuite CRM is a cloud-based solution that supports sales force automation, customer service and marketing automation, with additional functions such as partner relationship management. As part of an ERP suite, NetSuite CRM integrates closely with financial, inventory and ecommerce applications to help companies manage the entire customer life cycle. NetSuite CRM provides visibility into all customer interactions, supporting improved sales performance and customer satisfaction.
Video: Rural Utility Service Centralizes Communication in NetSuite CRM
A comprehensive CRM can be applied to an extraordinarily wide range of use cases to improve sales, marketing and customer service. The benefits include increased productivity, a better understanding of customer needs and, ultimately, more sales and higher profitability.
In The Cloud
CRM Use Cases FAQs
What are CRM use cases?
A use case describes how users interact with a CRM system for a specific purpose. The focus is on the applications, not system design or structure. A complete set of use cases specifies how a company will use a CRM. Collectively, these use cases define all the behavior required of a CRM.
What are examples of a CRM?
Comprehensive CRM systems combine sales force automation, marketing automation and customer service. Some are integrated with other applications; others focus primarily on specific subsets of these capabilities. For example, some products are primarily sales force automation tools, while others are largely designed for customer support.
How is a CRM used?
A CRM provides a central place to store information about prospects and customers, tools to analyze the data in the system, and applications to support sales, marketing and customer support. CRMs are used to automate routine tasks, personalize customer contact, identify business trends and otherwise improve business operations and results.
What is a CRM, explained with example?
A CRM helps manage all of a company’s interactions with customers and prospects. For example, the CRM can track customer purchases and browsing history, and then mine that data to personalize marketing. It may send customers product recommendations based on their purchasing or browsing histories. CRM solutions that are integrated with ecommerce and inventory systems also support unified purchasing and support processes.