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

With the challenging economic conditions we now face, businesses are constantly on the lookout for a means to drive revenue and expand their reach, lest their bottom line turn from black to red.

One popular approach is to diversify their client base, however, this larger set of customers presents its own challenges, chief among these being the greater need for careful management in order to ensure that sales are maximised, relationships are maintained, and repeat custom is all but guaranteed.

Customer relationship management (CRM) software has gone a long way to making the process of managing masses of customers, as well as the marketing and selling of products and services to them, a somewhat less daunting process.

But to understand how to use CRM software and systems correctly, one needs CRM documentation to explain to the users how they can get started with it, as well as enshrine the best practices needed to get the most of such systems.

Why have CRM documentation?

CRM software has become fairly intuitive with the likes of Salesforce's cloud-based services offering systems for sales or marketing, as well as a suite of collaborative and analytics tools, providing powerful capabilities to extract the most out of new sales opportunities while making sure existing customers are not left aggravated by advertising emails or poor service.

But the range of capabilities CRM systems and software suites offer can be rather complex to those who might be used to older systems, such as logging customer actions in Microsoft Excel or even maintaining a pen-and-paper-based system. In such situations, CRM documentation is needed as an accompaniment to CRM software.

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With the right level of documentation, new employees to an organisation will be able to have approved material to refer to when carrying out a CRM action.

Having such documentation on hand can help ensure a new employee uses the CRM system or software in a fashion that is compliant with company regulations and best practices, as well as any data regulations, This somewhat bypasses the need to seek out an expert who might not be readily available, or search for answers on the Web, where the information they might be after could be outdated or not compliant with the company's policies.

Accompanying CRM systems with appropriate, company-specific documentation can also empower users to troubleshoot issues by themselves rather than pass simple issues onto the IT or technical support departments. The knock-on effect of some solid documentation could see IT staff freed up to pursue more important tasks, such as shoring up cyber security defences or exploring the move from legacy infrastructure to digital services, thereby delivering a true business benefit.

Essentially, robust CRM documentation provides a form of cheat sheet for new employees, as well as a reference point to more established workers who may need to refresh their knowledge of the CRM system, or indeed software suites, being used across a business and its partners.

How to create effective CRM documentation

It might seem like a daunting task to try and explain how to use an advanced CRM suite without painstakingly taking someone unfamiliar with such systems and software through each feature and option. But the trick is to create documentation that communicates how to use a company's CRM setup in a straightforward fashion, while leaving room for nuance and detail.

With that in mind it is best to approach writing such a document with an eye on ensuring the reader is not overwhelmed with unnecessary information. If a CRM feature is irrelevant to the company's customer relationship activity then there is no need to detail it.

However, there is a need to ensure that enough detail is included in the document to avoid leaving a user to second guess the instructions for a specific function. And it's important that complicated functions are explained in a step-by-step fashion, even if it may seem like a quick explanation might suffice.

As such, it could be beneficial to get IT teams and those au fait with the CRM system of choice to contribute to the documentation. That could mean hiring an external technical writer, as such people have both the technical and writing nous to explain the nuances of complex technology or feature-heavy software in a means that makes it accessible.

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Collaboration will also be key here, as getting feedback from the various departments and individuals working in a business and using the CRM system, could be the difference from having complicated and obtuse documents and a neat set of clear instructions that eschew technical jargon.

And 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 indeed upcoming updates to a CRM suite, a business can ensure its CRM-using employees are not suddenly surprised when a user interface undergoes a redesign, for example, or a suite of new capabilities are added into the 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 in a few clicks of a mouse. 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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