Anyone running their own small business knows that to keep the lights on, wearing many hats is an everyday responsibility. From sales to marketing to accounting to HR, there are many organizational disciplines where it would be ideal to hire experts to run critical components. Challenging economic times complicate what is already unrealistic for many companies. Larger enterprises can leverage workload balancing (and domain expertise) to accelerate their growth, small businesses often cannot.
There are undeniable and wonderful benefits to a small team, and that camaraderie can yield real results in customer experience and ROI. But having a handful of people managing critical account relationships, financial, tax and payroll records and deal tracking has inherent downsides. Of course, smaller teams incur bigger impacts when a team member leaves. These staffing changes present a few problems – institutional knowledge walking out the door automatically makes the organization less efficient. Subject matter experts – whether they developed these procedures or executed them for years – have the advantage of experience and may not have thought to document variations or peculiarities for subsequent generations. Even if information and know-how isn’t lost directly through turnover, records and knowledge left behind isn’t always always easy to access or interpret, or gets ignored.
A recent survey from Act! found that 45% of small business owners rely on paper records today. Those paper records (and similar unstructured data) can be extremely challenging to quickly sort and prioritize when managing any change. The time spent parsing analog record keeping systems results in a direct loss of business productivity. Fortunately for small businesses, there are powerful and easy to use tools that can help standardize workflows, retain data, and make it easier to manage changes, large and small.
Standardized Systems, Made Simple
Of all the ways to avoid a messy transition when any employee moves on, a Customer Relationship Management platform, or CRM, should be on the top of the list. CRM is built to securely centralize all of a business’s critical client data. Think of CRM as a digital rolodex of every client – and every client interaction – that built your business. In a metrics-driven organization, CRM becomes the foundation of client reporting, simplifying its collection and amplifying its insight. Modern CRM platforms offer a wide range of integrations with everything from email and payroll systems, to QuickBooks and forms management. Creating a ‘one stop shop’ for all facets of your business, that is easy to track and manage, means that when employees move on, there are fewer questions and easier answers. CRM also benefits your current employees and those that may join your team in the future, easing onboarding and simplifying training.
Clearer Connections to Customers!
Once CRM is up and running, and the team is using it to track everything from email correspondence to lifecycle milestones, a small business owner or manager can survey the entire history of a relationship with every client, even if a former employee was their regular point of contact. Having that level of visibility into customer lifecycles (and taking appropriate steps at each stage) makes customers feel supported during any time of transition. This added insight also serves as an extra line of defense against mistakes, helping to ensure that no order or request slips through the cracks. Combining CRM with marketing automation can further strengthen a business’s relationship with clients both current and prospective. Together, CRM and marketing automation allow businesses to send personalized but automated communications marking events like birthdays, anniversaries or business milestones. These simple messages show that a customer is valued. Customers who feel valued are less likely to consider competitors. The combination of CRM and marketing automation can also be used to distribute targeted discounts and promotions, prompting customer actions that will maintain loyalty during crucial transition periods.
Saving Time During Tough Times
There are few things more valuable to small business owners (or any of us!) than time. The reality of running a small business means you are never really off the clock, and that’s especially true in a world upended by pandemic and economic strife. Your team is central to operations (and hopefully growth), but when team members inevitably leave, you need to be well positioned to minimize your losses. Productivity losses accompany the departure of any competent employee, and client losses can follow if relationships are maintained or strengthened. Using CRM can smooth over the rough edges of an employee transition and simplify client communications, while creating more time for training and onboarding replacement employees. CRM can also accelerate other parts of a business as well. In fact, Act!’s survey (noted above) also found that 42% of respondents noticed a boost in productivity after implementing CRM. That data reinforces what millions of small business owners around the world already know – that CRM can drive growth and productivity and aid in times of transition.
Joe Greenspan is the VP of Commercial Operations at Act!