CRM software has become almost legendary at this point. You’re probably familiar with the common benefits touted — data organization, improved sales performance, higher customer retention and so on. Well, you can add several more things to that list, thanks to CRM automation.
Two of the main goals of using software are getting organized and making complex tasks easier to accomplish. Automation makes both of those possible when it comes to handling your customer relationships.
Ready for a rundown of all things automated CRM? In this article, you’ll learn:
- What CRM automation is
- The role marketing automation plays
- Other key areas of CRM automation
- Some of the specific things you can automate
- Benefits of automated CRM
Whether you’re on the hunt for your first CRM or looking for more automation out of your current solution, you have a lot of options. Let’s dig in to find out how you can make CRM automation work for you!
What Is CRM Automation?
CRM automation refers to a CRM system’s ability to automate repetitive, manual tasks to streamline work and improve productivity. Automation of a CRM can encompass a range of functions across marketing, sales and service activities.
CRM tools are all about making it easier to manage every external interaction and relationship that’s essential for business success. Automation can free up time to focus on more meaningful, strategic work.
The rapid advancements in AI capability over the past few years have played a key role in helping companies automate CRM to achieve these goals.
For example, marketers are using AI to automate interactions on social media and messenger apps, according to Salesforce’s 2018 State of Marketing report. That’s just one of many ways users are gaining value.
What’s the Deal With Marketing Automation and CRM?
No discussion of automated CRM would be complete without mentioning marketing automation. While it sometimes gets confused as being the same thing as CRM, they’re actually different.
Marketing automation serves the top and middle of the funnel. It also focuses (surprise surprise) on automating recurring tasks the marketing department faces at multiple points of the customer lifecycle. This covers everything from the time they first come into the system to the moment they turn into a customer and beyond.
Meanwhile, CRM mainly focuses on the bottom stages of the funnel. However, it typically involves a much broader approach that considers the entire span of your relationship with customers.
Here are some common capabilities of each that illustrate the differences.
- Campaign management for lead generation
- Lead nurturing or re-engagement, often using email campaigns
- Lead prioritization, using lead scoring and win probability
- Contact management, which includes a database for storing a record of contact information (think email, company size, etc.)
- Visual sales pipeline to easily track each lead’s status and progress
- Quote and order management to facilitate the purchase process
- Reporting, so you can get high-level or granular snapshots of how you’re performing against KPIs
- Customer service functionality, such as creating a customer portal and ticketing system
As you can see, marketing automation is more narrowly focused, while CRM encompasses a much wider range of activities, goals and functional areas. CRM can — and often does — include marketing and service tools, in addition to its more commonly known sales features.
While CRM and marketing automation are different, they work well together because their features complement each other to help maximize the efficiency of the marketing and sales departments.
They’re often tightly integrated for a seamless experience and two-way flow of data that removes the silos traditional marketing and sales teams had to deal with. And in reality, many CRMs have built-in marketing automation capabilities if you’d rather not deploy the two systems separately and integrate them.
When CRM and marketing automation are properly implemented, you can more easily track specific actions. For instance, the email open rates for each lead will get immediately added as data points to both your CRM and marketing automation databases.
Other Key Areas of CRM Automation
Apart from marketing, automation of CRM tasks also reaches into the sales and service realms. Let’s see how that works.
Sales Force Automation
Sales force automation (SFA) tools are a great way to expand the functionality of CRM software. Like marketing automation, they exist as standalone systems but are also often incorporated into CRM solutions as a built-in module.
SFA software allows you to manage all aspects of the sales cycle so you can convert leads into new customers. It brings an extensive range of features that help you navigate, monitor and enhance the entire sales process.
Sales force automation relies on tracking every single interaction with a customer during the sales process: calls, meetings, emails and so forth. That way, you can ensure your marketing efforts aren’t overlapping while being optimized to bring maximum results.
Another outcome is that sales force automation makes the lives of sales reps much easier by tracking relevant information and revealing gaps where your team can be more efficient.
By managing the entire sales funnel, SFA tools can help streamline sales operations and automate many of the manual tasks that come with the job. This lets your sales reps do more of what they do best — close deals. That’s a win-win all around.
Customer Service Automation
Customer service tools (also called help desk software) are available as standalone applications as well — Zendesk being a well-known example. But keeping with our theme, they’re also often included as part of a CRM system. This offers great benefits for finding new ways to improve the customer experience.
Customer service automation provides:
- Chabots powered by AI
- Customer self-service (FAQ page or a knowledgebase)
- Automated responses, such as resetting a password
- Case routing when a customer creates a new ticket
These capabilities and more help greatly reduce the manual labor required with supporting customers. Salesforce’s 2019 State of Service report found that only 34% of agents whose work involves AI spend “most of their time on mundane tasks,” compared to 51% who don’t have AI.
However, the same report also revealed that 80% of customer service decision makers view AI as being most effective when used in concert with humans, rather than as a sole replacement. A blended approach is the best way to serve customers. Some will prefer the fast, simple responses automation can provide, while others will want to interact with a human.
While improved efficiency may be an important motivator to automate aspects of your customer service, an even bigger reason is the potential to greatly improve customer satisfaction.
Nine out of 10 Americans base their decision to do business with a company on its customer service. That’s just one of a host of stats that show the value of acing your customer service. If you want to survive, it’s imperative to use tools that can help ensure your customers are taken care of and satisfied.
Specific Components You Can Automate
We’ve looked at the general functions of CRM automation with marketing automation, SFA and customer service automation. Now it’s time to see concrete examples of what you can automate.
- Email drip campaigns. Automating email campaigns is one of the biggest time-savers you’ll find. They can range from a simple sequence to complex, multi-faceted campaigns based on a number of criteria and triggers.
- Reports. No more manually putting numbers together to build your reports. With a CRM, you can quickly pull whatever metrics you need to generate reports in a fraction of the time. Many solutions also support exporting reports and automatically emailing them to everyone who needs access.
- KPI tracking. Dashboards are a main feature of CRM systems. They give you a visual summary of key metrics in a format that’s easy to digest. Instead of going through complex steps to compile and measure your KPIs, all you need to do is configure your dashboards so they display the information you want to keep track of. This can be anything from overall sales to the number of leads each channel generates.
- Notifications. You can set the system up to send automatic alerts for any number of situations, such as a lead moving to a new stage of the sales pipeline or an upcoming sales call reminder.
- Invoices. Rather than manually sending out each invoice, you can set the system to trigger when a customer makes a purchase. This is especially helpful for B2C companies that handle a high volume of purchases.
- Welcome emails. Use this when a new contact enters your system via a specific action. For example, if they sign up for a newsletter or fill out a form to download a piece of content.
- Lead assignment. You can take the guesswork and time out of assigning leads to a sales rep by setting up rules so the system does it for you. You can base the match on sales region, industry, product or any other number of criteria.
- Pipeline stage transitions. If you have a sales pipeline with multiple stages, you can automate the process of moving a deal from one stage to the next. If a lead gets an email about scheduling a sales call and takes action, that would trigger the system to move the lead to the next queue in your pipeline.
- Data sync. If you’re using multiple systems, such as a separate marketing automation tool in addition to your CRM, you can configure them so that a change in one is reflected in the other. For example, when a new lead enters your marketing automation platform, it automatically creates a contact profile in your CRM.
- Re-engagement efforts. This is useful for when leads abandon a shopping cart. You can set up an email that re-engages them and potentially determines their reason for leaving right before purchase.
- Task assignments. Sales reps can automatically receive a list of tasks they need to complete based on interactions — e.g., send a follow-up note after a sales call. This prevents important details from disappearing into the void.
The automation possibilities don’t end with the list above. When you’re researching specific CRMs, have a list handy of what automations you’re looking for so you can weigh each solution’s value and fit.
Benefits of Automated CRM
As you’d expect, automating time-consuming tasks can save you loads of time every week.
Just imagine, for example, what automating an email campaign could mean. How long would it take you to manually send out an entire sequence of emails to a list of 550 contacts? Even if you had superhuman speed, that would be a huge time suck.
But with a CRM in place? You build the workflow and triggers, create the content, and sit back and let the system handle the rest. Much more manageable.
CRM automation comes with plenty of benefits besides giving you back time to focus on more important tasks.
- Streamline tasks so you can get more done without sacrificing precious hours in the process
- Generate more leads and increase qualification rates by following up more quickly
- Increase sales conversions by focusing on the hottest leads and pairing them with the best sales reps
- Execute multiple campaigns effectively, often with the ability to create them using drag-and-drop features
- Improve customer satisfaction by attending to customer service issues promptly
- Retain more customers, which can boost profits
- Free service agents up to spend more time solving complex problems
Do you need an automated CRM system? The answer is probably “yes!” However, the specific areas of automation depend on your type of business and interactions with customers. The main areas CRM automation covers encompass marketing, sales and service activities, either through integrated tools or a robust CRM. They serve as a good starting point when considering CRM automation.
As you search for the perfect CRM software to meet your needs, our free comparison report can show you how solutions stack up in the automation realm.
What are the top ways automated CRM can benefit your company? Share your thoughts in the comments!