By now, you know that CRM technology can help your business. But what you may not know is just how many different things CRM applications can do for your company. In fact, it's hard to think of another business-related technology that's as versatile, and pays as many direct benefits, as CRM.

Unfortunately, most businesses fail to use CRM technology to its full potential. Many organizations acquire CRM software to automate a specific task, such as call-center operations or sales-force management, and never move to the next level. That's a shame, because CRM technology can benefit almost any business in several different areas.

To clue you in to (or to refresh your memory on) CRM's multiple uses, here's a look at the top 10 things the technology can do for your business:

  1. Improve Decision Making: CRM sheds light on crucial information. Business owners and managers can benefit from detailed and comprehensive reports that forecast sales and returns, measure service activities, and track business performance in detail. CRM analysis tools can also follow both short- and long-term trends and problems, as well as alert users to potential business opportunities.
  2. Provide Anytime, Anywhere Information Access: Key data is no longer anchored to the office. CRM can give mobile employees instant access to a centralized, customizable view of sales and support activities. Management, sales representatives and support staff can access complete customer histories, pricing information, inventory data and other types of intelligence from any location via a Web browser.
  3. Provide Enhanced Sales Tools: Businesses can use CRM to drive shorter sales cycles and improve close rates with software that nurtures lead and opportunity management. Organizations can also use the technology to create and enforce workflow rules, customize automated sales processes, expedite quotes and streamline order management.
  4. Improve Call-Center Service: In the call center, CRM technology enables employees to quickly assign, manage and resolve incidents with automated routing, queuing and service-request escalation.
  5. Identify Repeat Customers: CRM applications can enable call-center agents to automatically identify incoming phone calls from past customers, instantly recalling relevant data from an enterprise's CRM system. When a call from a known customer comes in, the agent receives a pop-up window on his or her desktop presenting a complete picture of the customer's relationship with the company, including information about the individual's past purchases, product and service preferences, and payment history. The technology also boosts the cross-selling of other products and services by highlighting and suggesting alternatives or enhancements.
  6. Access New Sales Avenues: CRM applications allow businesses to accept orders over the Web and from mobile devices. The technology also enables businesses to build marketing presences on, and accept orders from, social-networking sites.
  7. Enhance Productivity: With CRM, sales and marketing functions can be safely, seamlessly integrated and automated. By storing critical business data in a common environment, users can quickly gain access to and share mission-critical information, helping them significantly boost business productivity.
  8. Secure Customer Loyalty: Employees with detailed CRM information have the data and processes required to know their customers, allowing them to form individualized relationships. This type of business-customer bonding can boost customer satisfaction and maximize profits.
  9. Superserve Your Best Customers: CRM data can help employees identify their most profitable customers and offer them the highest level of service. This approach enables businesses to increase value from their existing customers and reduce the costs associated with supporting and servicing them. Such "superservice" can increase the business's overall efficiency and reduce the total cost of sales.
  10. Promote Teamwork: With important customer information in hand, employees can easily share sales and order information with colleagues who specialize in specific types of accounts.
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