9 ways to improve your company's CRM system

Jennifer Lonoff Schiff

"CRM systems are only as good as the data housed in them - and data requires investment," adds Nieman. Organizations need "to spend the time and money to keep the data fresh, clean and up-to-date. And a good place to start is to implement processes to prevent and remove duplicate records, appending and cleaning data with updated firmographic variables and keeping email addresses clean and flagged when they are found to be invalid," he says. "Remember, your CRM system can be a powerful decision-making tool, but the decisions made are only as strong as the data found in the system."

Be social. "Integrate your CRM with social media platforms [if it's not already built into the system]," says Anthony Smith, the founder and CEO of Insightly, a SaaS CRM application. "This allows users to insert a new contact's email address and detect virtually every social media profile related to the email address. With access to these social media profiles, companies can see where their leads and contacts frequently post."

"Brands should utilize a real-time social media listening tool like Radian6 or Sysomos to aggregate customer mentions as soon as they are posted online," says David Neuman, social media manager, Prime Visibility, a full-service digital marketing agency. "Not everyone will post a complaint on a brand's social media [i.e., Facebook] channel, but might, instead, tweet out about their experience or write about it on a forum website or blog.

"By capturing these conversations in real-time, brands can quickly reach out and resolve issue[s] ASAP."

Mobilize. "A cloud-based CRM that offers mobile capabilities allows users to easily keep track of customer interactions and manage leads, proposals, opportunities, projects and files from any device, at any time," says Smith. "For companies with employees that are consistently in and out of the office, this can improve effectiveness and productivity."

Remember, there is always room for improvement."There is no better way to keep users feeling good [about your CRM system] than by showing that you are listening to them and acting on the input," says Mindy Lieberman, vice president of IT at Zendesk, a provider of cloud-based customer service software. "Have a stack-ranked plan for features that are prioritized by business users. Knock them out steadily, and not only will the system continue to get more usable, trust will be developed between business and IT."

"The design of the CRM application can always be improved," adds Baker. "Solicit ideas for improvement from internal and external users and then act on the ideas," he says. Moreover, "make it easy for them to comment. The feedback is invaluable." Just one caution: "If you ask for feedback, be prepared to act on it."

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