(This post originally appeared on Forbes)
Of course the COVID-19 disease is serious and of course smart companies are taking all the necessary steps to ensure the safety of their employees and community. But work still needs to be done. Sales need to happen. Opportunities need to be pursued. Service issues need to be resolved. Employees – whether they’re working from home or still in the office – need to collaborate.
That’s where customer relationship management systems come in. For years and for multiple reasons, many of our clients have under-utilized the capabilities of the CRM software they already own. But now – and unfortunately thanks to the COVID-19 – many are being forced to re-visit and leverage all the things that they should have been leveraging in their CRM systems in order to make sure sales are pursued, customers are served and employees are productive, even when they’re out of the office.
So what kinds of things are they doing?
They are connecting their CRM systems to their websites to reduce missed opportunities.
Most good CRM systems can be easily integrated with a site’s web forms. That means that any information completed by an online visitor can be automatically imported into the system and, combined with some workflows and automation, routed to the right person with reminders and alerts to follow up. At the very least, it ensures that data is getting into a database and not being lost in these disruptive weeks. With so many people working remotely during these times there’s a much greater risk of things falling through the cracks when leads and inquiries come in from online. But connecting your CRM system to your website and automating this process can significantly reduce the issue. And speaking of automating…
They are creating workflows, alerts and reminders to bring together work from home employees.
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic many companies have sent their employees home to work. But sometimes things get lost or forgotten when there’s no face to face contact or in-person meetings. By configuring a CRM application’s workflows and alerts, the right people will get reminded when a quote needs to be followed up, a service issue is outstanding too long or when an opportunity gets created. Many of today’s CRM systems with AI-powered automation can recognize customer emails and automatically route problems or questions to the right person, with additional steps to be taken if responses aren’t timely. If an employee falls ill, CRM workflows can immediately and automatically handle many tasks or at least delegate these assignments to someone else until they’re better. And you can stop having to rely on your far-flung employees to generate pipeline, opportunity and service activity reports because all of these reports can be set to automatically run and be distributed if just a little time is spent configuring.
They are using bulk email, campaigns and templates to stay in communication with their communities.
CRM systems can send out bulk emails, text messages and old-school mailers to groups of customers and others in a company’s community. By leveraging the system’s templates functionality, all communications can be consistent and delivered with one corporate message. Fully utilizing both campaigns and bulk-emails in a CRM system means companies can send out tailored, personalized mass messages to specific groups based on who they are, where they’re located and what the relationship is with the company.
They are using downtime to clean up data.
Most companies are implementing work from home policies to keep their employees safe. But let’s face it: not everyone will be as busy as they are in the office. Without the meetings and impromptu discussions that naturally take place in an office setting, it’s likely that some people will have a little downtime. Which means it’s a perfect opportunity to do some data cleaning. Assign contacts and accounts to each of your employees and set objectives for getting their data cleaned, updated and revised by the time the COVID-19 situation is over and they return to the office. A CRM system is just a database and its value is only as good as the data in it. So why not use this time to make this data as best as possible?
Finally (and FINALLY!) they’re integrating their calendar, email and office systems to increase productivity.
Many companies I visit have separate systems for their CRM, email and calendar. They also use Microsoft Office or Google G Suite. In only a few instances do I see them truly integrating these platforms with their CRM system, which means they’re doing a lot of extra work and potentially missing out on information they need. Now that so many employees are being asked to work from home in the wake of the COVID-19 disease, the risk of missing out on important information – call data, notes, e-mail history, upcoming appointments and meetings – is increased. To mitigate this problem the right thing to do is to bite the bullet and fully integrate a CRM system with all of these office systems. That way everyone’s on the same page and no one is in the dark when they’re talking to a prospect, customer or anyone else in a company’s community.
We still have many weeks of disruption and challenges ahead of us. But as I wrote recently in The Hill, I truly believe that the best run businesses will learn much from this experience – and the value of leveraging technologies like CRM – so that they will be well positioned to grow and thrive in the years to come.