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

With the challenging economic conditions we now face due to the coronavirus pandemic and the UK's impending exit from the European Union, businesses are now more than ever on the lookout for a new means to drive revenue and expand their reach, lest their bottom line turns from black to red.

One popular approach is to diversify their client base. However, this larger set of customers presents its own challenges, chiefly the greater need for careful management in order to ensure that sales are maximised, relationships are maintained, and that 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, businesses need 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 out of such systems.

Why have CRM documentation?

Improvements in recent years have seen CRM software become easier to use and more user-friendly. Tools built by the likes of Salesforce are also constantly expanding what’s possible, adding new marketing features and functionality like data analytics with each iteration. This has helped businesses ensure they are making the most of every sales opportunity.

However, the sheer volume and variety of CRM tools available to businesses can be a challenge to navigate. This is especially true for any employees that have become used to using older software, whether that’s logging actions in Excel or keeping paper files of customer details. Regardless of how software-savvy your workforce is, CRM documentation is an incredibly useful companion tool to the software itself.

Outside of general usability, most businesses usually find CRM documentation incredibly helpful when it comes to informing staff about regulatory compliance. Data protection, for example, is one of the most important components for every business today, and every employee should be familiar with best practices under both the Data Protection Act 2018 and GDPR.

CRM documentation allows businesses to maintain a list of best practices and guidelines for all of these issues, removing the issue of employees having to seek advice from those in charge, or being forced to contact support agents for the software. 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.

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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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