There’s Something Much Better for Small Businesses Than Spreadsheets: Customizable CRM Software


Share on LinkedIn

As an independent retailer for Verizon Wireless, Flexicom has to sell against aggressive competitors. To succeed in this highly competitive marketplace, Flexicom must retain its customers through superior service. “We’re not only competing against AT&T and Sprint. We’re competing against other Verizon retailers, as well,” said Anthony Snare, who heads the marketing retention department of the Columbus, Ohio-based company. “It’s unique and very competitive. We need to retain our customer base for us to continue to grow.”

Flexicom, which operates more than 50 franchise stores and has 180 employees, was using spreadsheets to keep track of its customer retention activities. The spreadsheets provided no centralized visibility into the staff’s activities, so sales reporting and forecasting were difficult, inaccurate and time consuming. Nor did spreadsheets provide the information needed to deliver a high level of service to Flexicom’s existing customer base.

“In our industry, we can have multiple accounts with the same first and last names,” Snare said. A mobile telephone number would trigger a new listing, causing customers to appear as duplicates. “So we needed something that would allow us to track customers our way.”

Smaller businesses, such as doctors’
offices and law firms, are discovering
the benefits of recording

Many of Flexicom’s accounts have several mobile numbers attached to them, and each one needed to be treated as an individual account. To ensure these valued customers didn’t fall through the cracks, they needed a system that could track customers by mobile telephone numbers, which the spreadsheets could not.

Snare felt that it was crucial that Flexicom made customers feel important and valued, and the spreadsheets were doing anything but that. Because of the multiple listings, the same customer could be mistakenly assigned to several reps. One customer in particular complained that several different reps called him in one week with the same “pitch.” Each rep called the customer as if it were the first time, which was not only extremely frustrating to the customer but also made him feel as if his information was not being efficiently managed. Because Flexicom was not able to see the mistake in the spreadsheets, the customer chose to do business at another store and requested that Flexicom put him on its “do not call” list.

After battling the spreadsheets for nearly five years, Snare in 2007 decided his top priority was to consolidate all customer data into one centralized and controlled system. But Snare needed technology that he could adapt to Flexicom’s unique needs.

The solution needed to be hosted and web-based because Flexicom did not have the staff to install or maintain its own system. Snare also couldn’t justify paying a company hundreds of dollars an hour. The flexibility to shape the system to meet the company’s specifications was critical, but more important to Snare was the ability to deploy quickly and to customize the system as needed.

The answer to Flexicom’s needs? Customizable CRM software, designed specifically for SMBs. In the past, small businesses have been left out in the cold with rigid, small-end CRM packages, while large companies with money and people have easily purchased and adapted high-end CRM solutions to fit their every need.

Having a user-friendly system that can be easily customized is crucial for many SMB owners. Their time is precious, and they can’t afford to wait around for hours for IT to respond to a query.

Snare had his new system up and running within one week. “I had a lot of guidance, but it was key for me to go in myself because if we need a change, I want to be able to do it myself.” After Snare had mastered his system, the next step was getting his staff trained and up to speed, which took only three days. And because the new system was much simpler and less tedious than the company’s previous process, the staff embraced it.

More confidence

The immediate result of implementing a CRM system that fit Flexicom’s unique needs was a dramatic increase in productivity. Sales reps suddenly had more confidence that the customer information they had was correct and current, and they were able to make significantly more sales calls because the administrative work required of them before was eliminated.

Flexicom has been able to isolate the duplicates and cater to what they believe is every customers’ No. 1 request: to know them and respect their time.

“It allows us to be so much more hands-on with the customer. We’ve been able to increase follow-up calls and check in on customers regularly, rather than only at the point of sale,” says Snare. This consistency in attention has helped Flexicom to build customers’ trust and keep them coming back.

Based solely on sales by the Customer Retention Team, a group consisting of five sales reps that Flexicom selected for the CRM software initiative, the company profits doubled after the first full month. “Since using CRM software, our profits have increased monthly for 12 months,” Snare said.

Taking the time to find the perfect system for your business is crucial. CRM software allows SMBs to look at the numbers and see where you stand. With this increase in visibility, you can easily track customers, and you and your employees can focus your time and attention on strengthening those customer relationships—and inevitably strengthening your business.

But do your research to ensure that your unique needs will be met. Seek out the CRM vendors that concentrate on engaging and learning from small business customers to understand and support their needs. Look for vendors that use research and customer feedback to build in features that appeal to small businesses and aid in their growth. If you don’t have an internal IT department, the system you choose must be intuitive, easily customizable and affordable. It is also important that sales, deployment and training processes are straightforward and simple, so users are up and running quickly and easily.

Finding customizable CRM software enables Flexicom to provide a level of customer service that distinguishes it in a very competitive marketplace. “We need to take care of the people we sold to two years ago, and this allows us to do that,” Snare said. “It really allows us to track the customer and make sure they’re being handled the best. That’s what keeps us afloat and, quite honestly, sets us apart.”

Paul Johnston
Paul Johnston is president and CEO of Entellium, a global developer of on-demand CRM software. He has been in technology management since 1990. Johnston is a popular speaker, blogs about business technology strategies and is authoring a book about using technology to grow small businesses more rapidly.


Please use comments to add value to the discussion. Maximum one link to an educational blog post or article. We will NOT PUBLISH brief comments like "good post," comments that mainly promote links, or comments with links to companies, products, or services.

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here