The reason for adding customer relationship management software is simple: to better manage and interact with customers. Businesses can also use CRM to collect data about these interactions with buyers to further optimize operations and steer development. Because CRM is based on creating better outcomes for a business, it’s important to understand the best practices for using the software on both a day-to-day basis and for long-term operations. Understanding these principles and instituting them can mean the difference between a successful system with a great return on investment and a less-than-optimal situation that undermines the basic function of a system.

Here are 5 best practices for using a CRM system as effectively as possible:

  1. Keep executives and high-level management involved: Sometimes the push for a new or updated CRM system comes from salespeople or their immediate supervisors, and sometimes the initial decision is made by those higher up on the management chain. No matter where the original impetus comes from, the involvement of the top staff is always needed. BusinessWeek pointed out that high-level guidance and final approval all come from the head of a business, so executives need to consistently participate in implementation, upgrades, training and other aspects of CRM.
  2. Use CRM to change and drive bonuses: CRM turns what is a mix of information and intuition at some companies into a reliable and complete database that can be leveraged for future business needs. Being able to not only measure customer satisfaction, but to consistently quantify it, is one such advantage. With these standardized metrics comes the need to incentivize their use, especially for employees who aren’t used to utilizing them. Shifting the focus of bonuses and commission payments for sales employees to metrics measured by CRM is a way to promote correct use of such a system as well as to get the best return on investment.
  3. Emphasize cross-department information sharing: A large amount of data is generated throughout the customer purchasing experience. Parts of the information generated can be used by many different areas of a business, from sales teams to marketers and support providers. Cloud Sherpas called this one of the biggest advantages of CRM. Businesses used to dealing with data silos need to make sure that employees truly understand how accessible data is through a CRM system. This is a mostly educational need that can be addressed during initial training, as well as follow-up efforts to make sure employees understand not just how to access the data but why they should as well.
  4. Make sure automation is happening: Reducing the low-level data entry needs of a business isn’t a particularly flashy part of CRM, but it is a major benefit. Companies that are making the culture shift to using such software need to work with vendors and make internal determinations about what processes can be automated. When a good solution is crafted, it can make a big impact on the day-to-day work responsibilities of many staff members. They are provided more time to focus on the needs of clients and other important tasks.
  5. Highlight reporting options: For salespeople, marketers and others used to manual processes or an outdated CRM system, the ability to generate timely and in-depth reports will be unfamiliar. Supervisors and managers need to get employees on board with enhanced reporting functions so that they get the highest return on investment possible from their CRM. Demonstrating the value of in-depth reporting is relatively simple. Once employees truly understand the benefits, they often become advocates for this feature.