What is CRM documentation and how can it benefit your business?

CRM software can be transformative, but employees need the resources to get the best out of it

An graphic representing CRM

Both Brexit and the coronavirus pandemic have changed the way many businesses operate. Companies are now more dependent on digital services than ever before and this includes ways of driving revenue and expanding operations.

Client diversification - where businesses expand their customer base - is a very popular approach to growing a company, but this naturally makes it harder to keep personal relationships with customers. How can you continue to carefully manage an expanding client base and maximise sales?

The tech answer is Customer relationship management software. 'CRM', as it is commonly known, is a digital method for companies to interact with customers, usually with data analysis. CRM systems compile the data from a range of different communication channels, including a company's website, telephone, email and other marketing materials - including social media. It allows businesses to learn more about their customers and their needs so they can retain them and drive sales.

Why have CRM documentation?

Those with experience in CRM might have noticed that the software has significantly evolved over the last few years. Initially clunky and inefficient, the interface has become increasingly user-friendly and easier to operate, with CRM service providers such as Salesforce expanding their offerings to include new marketing features as well as data processing capabilities. These new tools have contributed to many businesses being able to expand their sales opportunities and made CRM accessible – and even fun.

However, understanding how to use CRM software might still be quite challenging to some, especially when you take into account the vast amount of different CRM tools that have the potential to overwhelm new and seasoned users alike. This is why anyone – not only recent onboarders – could benefit from extra guidance on the system’s best practices and how to get the most out of it.

This is where CRM documentation steps in. Whether your team is experienced in the nuances of software, or is looking for new ways to maximise its benefits, CRM documentation is a helpful accompaniment to the system itself.

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Moreover, apart from being a useful companion tool, CRM documentation provides additional guidance in educating staff about regulatory compliance – and making sure that it’s met. These may include the most basic data protection regulations, which are crucial for the functioning of every modern business, such as the UK’s Data Protection Act 2018 or the more EU-focused GDPR.

CRM documentation makes it easier for businesses to collate their best practices and guidelines in one place, reducing the strain on support agents and managers, who are usually the first point of contact when employees seek advice regarding CRM. It also reduces the risk that employees will seek answers online, where information can be inaccurate, inappropriate for the task, or simply inconsistent with what other employees are doing across the company.

Ultimately, having accompanying documentation with a CRM system is a reliable way of empowering employees to troubleshoot their own problems, making them more self-sufficient and reducing the strain on the wider company, particularly those in the IT support side.

Robust CRM documentation should provide a form of cheat sheet for newer employees, and a safe reference point for those more experienced with a system. If a company consistently hears of employees struggling with a CRM system, it’s very likely the documentation is poorly developed.

How to create effective CRM documentation

The trick to creating effective CRM documentation is to imagine how you would explain the use of the business’ CRM setup in the most simple way while providing enough detail to avoid any potential mistakes.

Although creating such documentation might seem like a daunting task, the best approach is to look at it from the point of view of the reader and try not to overwhelm them with too much detail. For example, avoid elaborating on the CRM features which are not necessary to the company's customer relationship activity.

On the other hand, you also need to make sure that the documentation includes enough information to keep the user from misinterpreting the details of a specific task – with potentially dire consequences for the business. When it comes to the most complex functions, it’s especially crucial to take the time to explain them step-by-step instead of just rushing through and confusing the reader.

What is more, writing the documentation doesn’t have to be a one-person task. In fact, it can be especially useful to involve other departments with the CRM system, such as IT, to contribute their opinion. You could also consider sourcing the talents of an external tech writer who would be able to use their skills to explain the technicalities in the most accessible and comprehensible language possible.

A group of employees discuss strategy around a table

Overall, when creating effective CRM documentation, collaboration is key and all feedback is invaluable. After all, this could be the deciding factor in creating a documentation which is informative, but also doesn’t alienate those who aren’t fluent in nuanced technical jargon.

As such, collaboration will need to be an ongoing process. As many CRM systems are cloud-based, they are often updated with new features and functionality that often gets pushed out automatically to the user base. This means that a set of instructions and user guidance in the responding documentation could be rendered moot or outdated.

By regularly reviewing the documentation and being aware of recent or upcoming updates to a CRM suite, a business can ensure its employees are not surprised when a user interface undergoes a redesign, for example, or a suite of new capabilities are added into their system of choice.

Keeping a digital copy of the documentation in a cloud-based service is one way to ensure a business can widely distribute up-to-date CRM documentation. A cloud-based collaboration system could also allow other people in the business to add their thoughts to a document, helping ensure it serves as many people as need it across an organisation.

Taking time out of a busy schedule to create an explanatory and guidelines document might seem like something IT workers might want to ignore.

But the potential benefits, such as everyone working in the CRM system to the same standard and understanding, could not only help bolster the development of customer relationships but also reduce the strain on the IT department and encourage users to take ownership of their own CRM development and troubleshooting.

All of this has the scope of benefiting a business overall, ensuring everyone is productive and effective without the need to overwhelm them with work.

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