Customer relationship management (CRM) systems: A ...

Customer relationship management (CRM) systems: A beginner’s guide

Shop Talk
A woman sits at a computer looking at a page full of statistics (Customer Relationship Management)

To build a successful business, one of the most important elements is exemplary customer service.

Effective customer relationship management (CRM) means having a system and strategy to manage relationships and interactions with current and potential customers.

These days, when people talk about CRM, they’re often referring to the use of a CRM system, a technological aid that businesses used to manage, analyse, and streamline a variety of factors, including contacts, sales, workflow processes, productivity, profitability, and more.

Here’s what you need to know about CRM systems today to help move your business forward.

What is a CRM system?

A CRM system is a platform for you to store information about prospects and clients, as well as updates about all the interactions you have with these people.

As a centralised tool, the tech enables users to easily share data between colleagues and teams.

Business managers and marketers can use the information captured in the CRM system to foster better business relationships, to grow their venture and improve profits.

In the past, businesses often missed out on valuable intellectual property and customer relationships when employees left or when details were lost or forgotten.

Today, though, thanks to CRM, information is retained, organised, and always on hand to drive activity. It’s there to make note of when anyone in the business interacts with a customer, whether on the phone, in person, via email, during a meeting, on social media, at an event, or elsewhere, and what’s been learned. As such, data stays up-to-date and relevant.

Not only does this mean relevant details about every customer are at your fingertips any time, but you also better understand your client types and what they’re looking for.

Opportunities won’t be lost as frequently either, as follow-ups can be scheduled and delegated within CRM systems.

By better understanding customers, you’ll be able to win business, more easily up-sell and cross-sell, and receive referrals from current clients.

What does a CRM system do?

CRM systems were first developed to act as a place to file and share information.

But over the years, the systems have become increasingly feature-rich as developers have listened to businesses about the functionality they require.

Now, CRM systems act as a contact database, track and store customer emails (many integrate with programs like Outlook and Gmail), and log calls.

They can be used to schedule meetings, help handle client complaints and set up to remind you when to make customer calls or send emails.

Advanced CRM systems can also integrate with other core business solutions, such as MYOB, in order to create a holistic view of key financial data.

The technology can be programmed to automatically send an alert when a customer hasn’t been contacted for some time or when an event, such as a birthday, might be acknowledged (with a birthday gift voucher or discount code, as an example).

How you can use a CRM system in your business

The most common use of CRM is tracking leads and opportunities, to help you keep track of deals and close new business, but the specifics of how you might use a CRM system most effectively in your organisation will depend largely on your type of business, your marketing strategy and your customers and clients.

Mike Nash, CEO of Tall Emu provides some examples for how CRM systems may be used.

“A wholesale company might use CRM systems to help sales representatives manage their diaries and site visits, keep track of stock and take orders in the field,” he said.

“Alternatively, a company that sells hardware could also use CRM to track the service history of those items, as well as tracking of customer issues or jobs related to that hardware.”

In contrast, a small online retail business might use a CRM system to automate email communications with website visitors that abandon a shopping cart before purchasing, as another example.

Below are some of the key ways you might find a CRM system is useful in your organisation.

Business development management

With a CRM system, you’ll find it easier to track the performance of sales employees and use data insights to support their training.

Quoting and selling

As a CRM helps generate sales and manage related data, a good CRM system should offer everything you need to raise quotes and manage sales from beginning to end.

Marketing campaign management and delivery

Track results of marketing campaigns, determining which are most effective in different markets and channels.

Lead scoring and development

Identify potentially hot new leads and come up with cross-selling or up-selling opportunities for sales teams to implement.

Smart pricing and offers

By using a CRM to understand which customers are buying what products or services, you’ll be better able to create targeted offers, or review your pricing models accordingly.

Sales reporting

Likewise, this data can also be used for forecasting as customer data yields insights around seasonality and other time-sensitive trends.

How to choose the right CRM system

To decide on the best software for your venture, get clear about your needs, specifically with regard to integrating with other platforms and systems already in use within your organisation.

After all, there’s no point paying more money for a comprehensive system if you only want it to do the basics.


What works best for a large, multinational firm will be overkill for a smaller organisation. On the other hand, if you think you want access to certain tools in the future as your business grows, consider a feature-rich solution now that can scale over time.

Price, affordability and value for money

Price is going to be a big factor, too. Compare costs between the programs on your shortlist and try to make forecasts about the benefits the software will bring you.

Ensure the advantages you’ll enjoy from a system won’t be wiped out by its expense.


If you know you’re going to hire many employees in the coming months, consider how much extra users will cost on a program and if the features you’ll need once you have a bigger team will be available.

Customer support levels

Adequate customer support is another necessity. Choose a program that looks after clients by providing local customer service via numerous communication methods.

Security and data management

Ask about security, too. You’ll be storing incredibly sensitive and valuable information on a CRM system. As such, choose a program that takes security seriously and releases updates regularly to plug risky gaps.

A quality program will also have considered data recovery plans in place.

CRM and business software integration

Something else to think about when it comes to CRM systems is how it will integrate with other solutions, such as your inventory and accounting software.

Integration with other systems, where they all ‘talk’ to each other, saves time and avoids the need for data to be entered and managed twice.

This article was published on and has been republished with permission. It has been edited for brevity.

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