Still keeping track of customer data on spreadsheets? Salesforce's latest Small & Medium Business Trends Report makes a good case for upgrading to a customer relationship management (CRM) solution.
A survey of 490 small and midsized business (SMB) owners and leaders in the U.S., conducted by Harris Poll on behalf of Salesforce, revealed that growing businesses are 2.2 times more likely to make CRM a priority (36 percent) than businesses that have grown stagnant or are experiencing a decline (16 percent).
SMBs using manual or outdated methods of tracking customer data are missing out on the time-saving benefits that CRM systems can provide.
"Customers today have high expectations and are 78 percent more likely to switch brands when those expectations aren't met. While tracking customer information in email and spreadsheets might work in the beginning, it simply isn't scalable," said Marie Rosecrans, senior vice president of SMB marketing at Salesforce. "The time it takes to manually input data takes away from time that could be spent building strong customer relationships and delivering customer success."
Although most SMBs track customer data (95 percent), many are using email (62 percent) or spreadsheets (53 percent), solutions that are helpful in the office, but not necessarily for driving positive and potentially lucrative customer experiences.
Investing in the proper technology can help SMBs refocus their efforts on their most previous resource: their customers. So far, only a third (33 percent) of SMBs are using CRM.
"With a CRM, small businesses can automate basic tasks, such as capturing contact information and activities, and quickly surface insights, such as which deals they should prioritize or customers need attention, enabling them to work smarter and focus more time on what matters most—delivering great customer experiences," Rosecrans added.
In fact, automation can be a powerful tool in running other aspects of a business. Salesforce's report found that growing businesses are 1.6 times more likely to use technology that automates their business processes (69 percent) than stagnant and declining businesses (42 percent).
That said, the study suggests that successful implementations hinge on technologies that are easy to deploy, manage and use. It also helps if they are easy on the budget.
While evaluating technology products, 95 percent of SMBs said ease of use was important. Price was also a major consideration (94 percent), along with straightforward setup (93 percent) and easy maintenance (92 percent), according to the report.
These attributes are critically important because most SMBs simply lack the skills to support complex IT operations on their own. Just over a quarter (26 percent) of respondents said they had in-house IT staff to keep an eye on things.
SMBs are also having a tough time getting their workers the training they need.
"While 62 percent of SMBs said training would help them improve operations, businesses appear to be hampered in their ability to get the training they need," wrote Rosecrans in a related blog post discussing the survey results. "This is due to costs (60 percent), time (56 percent), a lack of available training on the subjects they need (48 percent), and inconvenient scheduling (46 percent)."