How CRM Has Evolved for the Greater Good of Businesses

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Author photo: Brent Barnhart

Brent Barnhart


No matter what type of business you’re running, your end goal is the same: satisfied customers who are always hungry for more.

But how can you possibly satisfy your customers if you don’t know who they are?

Enter the world of customer relationship management (CRM).

Through CRM, businesses can better understand their customers’ wants and needs on an individual level.

The ability to track individual customer interactions and analyze that data is a game-changer, especially in an age where customers crave a personalized experience.

This sort of data-driven approach to business relationships is still relatively new, though. Some business owners might still think of CRM as little more than spreadsheets on steroids.

The reality, though? The features of today’s CRM solutions are a far cry from what they were a few years ago, let alone a few decades ago.

In short, CRM isn’t what it used to be.

And spoiler alert: that’s a good thing.

A brief history of CRM...

Let’s rewind to an era where customer relationship management was quite literally that: managing customer relationships with no digital tools involved.

Businesses owners have always been eager to understand what makes their customers tick. After all, happy customers translate into repeat sales and a bigger customer base.

But in the pre-Internet dark ages, the only way business owners knew whether or not a customer was satisfied was by speaking to them face-to-face.

Although it was possible to form relationships with customers this way, quantifying those relationships and tracking them was little more than a guessing game prior to having the proper technology on deck.

That technology as we know it finally reared its head in the 1980s: the first modern CRM systems emerged as businesses adopted database marketing. Unfortunately, this approach to relationships was a one-way street. Businesses could collect customer data, but had no actionable way to respond to or organize it.

During the 1990s, CRM finally became a bit more interactive. Through loyalty and referral programs, marketers and salespeople found a way to engage customers by providing special offers and rewards in exchange for services.

Unfortunately, the Y2K scare and the early 2000s saw the dot-com bubble burst and investment in CRM came to a halt.

A few years later, the rise of cloud technology helped open the doors for modern CRM systems. In addition to boasting sophisticated analytics and in-depth customer details, CRM was now accessible to all types of businesses.

Here’s a sample pipeline report from a popular open-source CRM solution from the mid-2000s. These sorts of reports became the norm for businesses that had more customer information at their fingertips than ever before.

Here are 7 ways CRM has evolved for the better.

Now, let’s fast-forward to the present day in the Relationship Era.

As customers have come to expect more from businesses, those businesses rightfully have come to expect more from their CRMs.

So, how do today’s solutions go beyond the basics of CRM to provide the best possible experience for customers and businesses alike? (If you're interested in digging deeper on this, download the free CRM Benchmark Report to learn more.)

Below is a snapshot of just how much CRM has evolved and why these changes matter so much for modern businesses.

1. CRMs today aren’t solely for sales teams.

The concept of CRM is synonymous with sales, but sales teams shouldn’t be the only ones responsible for dealing with customer data.

Sure, sales teams leverage CRM data to learn more about customers and what products they're personally hunting for.

But the capabilities of a CRM extend far beyond that.

How so? Consider how marketing teams can use a CRM solution to zero in on a business’ most popular content or offers. By understanding what’s driving engagement from current customers, marketers can go out and create more of the same to grab the attention of future customers.

Also, bear in mind the role of CRM when it comes to customer service. With a CRM, reps are capable of nurturing current customers based on their behavior and recommending relevant products and services to transform them into repeat customers.

Working in tandem, multiple departments have a role to play in boosting sales via CRM. The end result is greater customer satisfaction and growth.

Image for post More on CRM?

More on CRM?

Curious about all the little-known ways a CRM can be used? Check out this free guide.

2. CRMs today are team-focused.

On a related note, CRM data doesn’t need to be in silos anymore.

Nor should it be.

Instead, your CRM should actively encourage collaboration.

For example, team members should be able to pick up where the last person left off when communicating with a customer. This does double duty: reducing the lag time between touchpoints with customers while ensuring everyone knows where any given customer is in the relationship lifecycle.

For example, Copper automatically logs communications such as calls and emails with customers. In addition, team members can leave notes, share documents, and follow up with each other so there’s no second-guessing anyone’s next steps.

3. CRMs today aren’t just “information dumps.”

At a glance, a CRM might seem like little more than a place to dump customer information.

While some old-school CRMs may have indeed been glorified customer spreadsheets, today’s CRM solutions have seriously stepped up their game feature-wise. (Here's how to step your Excel game up.)

For starters, solutions such as Copper automatically scrape your contact information to create customer profiles in an instant. Rather than deal with tedious manual entry, Copper does the legwork for you.

Perhaps more important is the ability for of CRMs to predict and track revenue. CRM sales reports can clue you in on everything from your most important sales activities to your top-performing salespeople. Instant access to these analytics provides peace of mind as you strive to hit your sales quotas and keep your team focused on the appropriate opportunities.

4. CRMs today are essential to boosting productivity.

Beyond improving customer relationships, using a CRM goes hand in hand with running a more productive business.

In fact, Copper users save an average of 13 hours per week compared to when they weren’t using a CRM at all. Although time-consuming tasks such as data entry can quickly eat up your team’s schedules, they can be effortlessly put on autopilot through your CRM.

Other useful new CRM features include email templates and automated follow-ups, which serve as yet another way for your sales team to save time and be more productive.

These time-savers allow your team to use their time emphasizing their strengths and actually getting down to business with customers. In turn, you can close more deals faster without running the risk of burning anyone out on tedious tasks.

5. CRMs today are easier on the eyes.

Is it fair to judge a book by its cover?

Maybe not.

However, there’s no reason why business owners today should be stuck with software solutions that feel like they’re straight out of 1995.

Something as seemingly minor as aesthetics can make a big difference in how your team takes to your CRM. A modern, colorful interface can be both easy on the eyes and simpler for users to understand at a glance.

Design may not seem like a big deal but can be make-or-break for successful adoption of a CRM. A simple and clean interface is particularly important for first-time CRM users and those who might otherwise be overwhelmed by new software.

6. CRMs today are mobile-friendly.

As more and more deals are done on the go, CRM solutions shouldn’t just be restricted to your desktop.

Can you connect your team to customers from anywhere? Does your CRM integrate with G Suite and does it have a mobile app? If data can be automatically synced with the rest of your devices, you won’t miss a beat even when you’re out of the office:

Copper's mobile app allows you to take your work on the road.

These capabilities are must-haves for teams engaging in frequent travel or face-to-face meetings with their customers. Anything you can do to empower your sales team is a plus and mobile relationship management is a prime way to give them a competitive edge.

7. CRMs today are more accessible and intuitive than ever.

Finally, take note that businesses of all shapes and sizes are on board with CRM.

No, not just startups and tech giants.

Based on our own experience, traditional companies arguably have the most to gain as first-time CRM users. Companies such as Tamlyn, with no prior CRM experience, managed to get their team of newcomers to start seeing results with a CRM within a mere month.

It doesn’t matter if you’re selling software or building materials; CRM is capable of helping businesses across all industries.

CRM doesn’t have to be reserved for the tech-savvy anymore. Thanks to the cloud, businesses can roll out a CRM solution in a matter of minutes rather than weeks.

How can you benefit from the evolution of CRM?

To say that CRM has evolved significantly over the years would be a massive understatement.

Likewise, a CRM solution has the ability to transform any given business looking to connect with customers and better understand their company as a whole.

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