When we think of generating profit we sometimes jump very quickly to revenue generation, or sales. The more sales, the more profit we make, right? Well, assuming your products and services are priced correctly for the effort it takes to produce, then yes, that is one way. But an often overlooked component of the profit creation pie is cost reduction. This is where a strong internal CRM initiative can really help.
Cost reduction, as it relates to most CRM systems, is basically efficiency creation. The more efficient your process, the more net margin you’ll be able to make over time. And we’re not talking about a simple return of your original investment, we’re talking about a return in multiples of your investment. You’ll see it in enhanced employee productivity, reduction of resource over-allocation, reduction in staffing, faster delivery of product and service, and even enhanced customer relationships. All of these translate directly to your bottom line. But to get the most bang for your buck, you’ll need to start in a few key areas.
You are most likely using CRM to help manage sales, marketing, customer support or even helping with operations and some product delivery. Whatever the case is, you need to identify all of the functions that are (or can be) managed by your CRM tool. Here is a post that outlines the basics for mapping process to your CRM tool. This exercise will most likely identify a large number of potential areas to focus on. Group the items into categories, and focus on the ones that provide the quickest return. We tend to start in the following areas:
- Connecting Disparate Systems: When connecting different tools aim to completely eliminate and duplicate data entry. Next, focus on connecting your reporting tools to the new connected systems. You want to make your reports into real-time dashboards that connect all of your data. Any time you spend on entering data multiple times, finding and managing potential errors in the data, and building manual custom reports from multiple systems is completely wasted.
- Expanding Mobile Access: Work to connect your remote teams with the data they need, when they need it. If they do not have access today, they are most likely spending extra time pulling information to mobile devices before the meetings, using other internal employees to get the data when they need it, or compromising the meetings to compensate for the missing information. None of these are acceptable and all cost time and money.
- Eliminating Unnecessary Communications: Take a good look at the types of emails being sent throughout your office in a given week. You’ll undoubtedly find people requesting information, asking where current projects are, asking what was covered in the last meeting, reminding other of tasks that need to be done, etc. All of these communications are symptoms of other underlying issues. Approach each case as an opportunity to make your CRM better. What information can you include and share throughout the organization? By simply entering additional information into the system, potentially adjusting access, creating some new reports, and training your employees, you can make a huge dent in the amount of interoffice emailing that is going on. Again, saving time and money.
- Streamline Customer Communications: This one hold true especially for sales, marketing, product delivery and accounting. Pretty much any department with customer facing communications. You are probably sending very similar emails, to different customers, pretty much all the time. This is ripe for automation. Workflows in your CRM system can trigger automatic emails can pretty much any point in the process. All can be tailored specifically for the customer, and the current situation. Make a list of all of the points in your processes where a message should be sent and then get to work. Write the message templates, and build the workflows to send the emails when appropriate. Make sure to train keep your employees closely involved and well trained. The last thing you want to do is make a mistake that is exposed to your customers. Test thoroughly, then launch.
- Connecting Departments: Transferring information between team and departments can sometimes be pretty bulky. Identifying the steps necessary to make a successful transfer can help to define a workflow in CRM to help automate the processes. From handing warm marketing leads to sales to passing support cases between queues, CRM can virtually eliminate the manual components and leave your teams ready to focus on the tasks they should be focused on.
- Eliminate Duplicate Work: Anytime you have multiple people in your company doing the same thing at different points in the process (excluding quality control initiatives), you are most likely wasting time and energy. Identify where these duplication of efforts are happening and create workflows to eliminate the duplication of efforts.
There are literally thousands of changes that can be made to create efficiencies in your processes. A good rule of thumb is to sort your list by the changes that have the potential to create the largest impact. At some point you will get diminishing returns, but by working on the items with the largest potential impact first, you’ll be way ahead of the game by time you get there.