With an abundance of consumer data generated daily, business owners are witnessing a more complex business environment than ever. If customer information is not handled properly, it will become the biggest pain point for efficiency with forecasting, decision making and ultimately – the sales and purchase processes.
Satisfied customers are the most valuable asset to any business, but how can you successfully deal with these challenges whilst building profitable customer relationships?
To combat these issues, businesses typically purchase enterprise resource planning (ERP) and customer relationship management (CRM) software separately. CRM deals with front-end information, such as recording customer interactions, sales tracking, pipeline management, prospecting, and creating/evaluating marketing campaigns.
This helps businesses understand prospects and clients, manage relationships and sales pipeline, and up sell and cross-sell products. On the other hand, ERP software handles critical backend processes; including purchase history, billing and shipping details, accounting information, financial data, and supply chain management details.
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Although having separate systems might appear more manageable, integrating them into one software will certainly streamline business processes and boost productivity.
Statistics indicate ERP systems increase order-to-shipment times by 23% whilst providing an inventory accuracy average of 97%, and considering satisfied customers are the most valuable asset to any business, imagine the benefits of a unified system. With this in mind, here are key advantages of ERP and CRM integration.
First, why is ERP/CRM integration so crucial?
Typically, businesses purchase and deploy ERP (enterprise resource planning) and CRM (customer relationship management) systems separately. However, if your ERP and CRM systems have their own databases, you will consistently have to worry about keeping them synchronised.
Whether it’s a CRM user from customer service or an ERP user from billing who updates a customer’s account, any changes implemented in one system will have to be transferred to the other.
Considering this is a manual process, having to wait for a database to update before you can, for example – process bills, replenish inventory levels and arrange product returns for customers will result in slower operations and an increased risk of database errors.
Applying an integrated CRM functionality to your ERP solution will ensure both systems share one database; meaning updates in either system are visible instantaneously.
Customers can be billed faster and any product returns can be automated between systems; providing your business with clearer visibility into all stages of your business’ sales process.
A 360 degree view of your customers
Exactly how well does your business know its customers? One of the biggest advantages of ERP and CRM integration is that it provides a complete view of your customers. From sales and support to finance and accounting; these systems provide complete visibility on your customer’s buying habits, order history and general needs.
Not only does this provide you with a better insight into your customer base, it can help you build lasting relationships and determine where there is potential for future growth. Consistent data gives you better analytics and reporting, so you can track changes in your customers preferences, profitability, and loyalty.
When your sales team are in the middle of a crucial touchpoint throughout a customer’s journey, having on-the-go access to all customer inventory and orders alongside product and pricing information will assist in closing deals more efficiently – they must have up-to-date data during the interaction, not afterwards.
ERP systems such as Pegasus software enables a sales team to view a customer’s credit limit, current balance, a list of outstanding invoices and previous orders placed; meaning they will have the full history of the customer’s purchasing patterns.
With affective integration, employees from various departments will also find it easier to collaborate, for streamlined information keeps everyone in your business on the same page.
Managers can keep a track of all the critical business operations in real time, which will aid them to make more informed business decisions.
Faster access to crucial information
Without a fully integrated system, employees run the risk of becoming less efficient, meaning your customers will pay the price.
For example – when a customer contacts you requesting an order status update, your customer service representative should not have to trawl through different systems to access that information or inquire with other employees, for this could result in a negative customer experience and therefore a loss in business.
A fully integrated CRM and ERP solution will provide employees with access to important information in real-time. With the push of a button, they can retrieve information on inventory levels, shipments, customer financials, order history, returns, payments, pricing and more.
Eliminate tedious data entry and duplication
Although both ERP and CRM systems hold account and contact information, it is done for different purposes – CRM is focused on support/sales and prospects; whereas ERP is focused on inventory, warehouse, shipping and billing address, etc.
The ERP and CRM integration removes the tedious necessity of duplicating data entry by providing identical rules for each system. For instance, any alterations made in the ERP database will reflect in the CRM system and vice versa. The same principle also applies for the addition or removal of custom fields, new entries or changes in the database.
Improved order, inventory and quote management
Once a CRM proposal has generated into an order in the ERP software, having to switch systems and re-enter the data multiple times is neither time-sensitive nor practical.
With ERP and CRM integration, businesses can turn proposal generation (created in the CRM) into actual orders (executed and tracked at the ERP level) using one system; reducing time consumption for data management and increasing company efficiency. Furthermore, a sales team would have enhanced visibility regarding order status updates for customers and easy access to make necessary changes if needed.
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Also, while quoting for a prospect/customer in CRM, a sales representative can quote the most accurate pricing by using the integrated ERP solution to retrieve the updated pricing information. Any promotional or discount pricing will be available in the CRM as well.
Reduced IT and training overheads
Statistics indicate that businesses spend a yearly average of $1,208 on training per employee and 31.5 hours a year training employees – that’s a substantial amount of expenditure and lost time.
With a single, unified platform for both ERP and CRM, there is no need of maintaining two separate systems resulting in reduced IT costs. Likewise, if the integration is carried out efficiently, the amount of support and training goes down, for training sessions would only be required for the combined system instead of the individual systems.
Staff might be sceptical to embrace more than one piece of software; especially if it requires extensive training. Learning to use both ERP and CRM at the same time can be a challenge, resulting in poor adoption rates post-implementation.
The combination of these two programs makes it easier for employees to gather and analyse data – they can familiarise themselves with a singular piece of software and spend time learning all of its features.
Sourced by Martin Craze – founder and Managing Director of Applied Business Computers