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Operational CRM

Automate sales, marketing, and CS operations with CRM software.

What is an operational CRM?

Last updated October 25, 2023

Operational CRMs use automation and data management to serve nearly every aspect of your customer relation strategies. You can use it to streamline sales efforts, marketing campaigns, and even customer support.

This type of sales automation tool optimizes your business’s operations by storing all of your crucial client data in one convenient place. It allows salespeople to keep tabs on their buyers and serve their individual needs, which results in higher customer satisfaction and retention.

Ultimately, trying to scale a business without focusing on customer relations is like practicing table-tennis with one of the table sides up. You can learn and develop strategies, but without relating these skills to another human being, your experience becomes much less valuable.

If you’re looking to grow your business, it’s crucial to focus on your clients. So whether you need a CRM for startup companies looking to grow, or an enterprise-level platform for improving client relations, this operational CRM guide will point you in the right direction.

In this article, we’ll cover what an operational CRM is, why this type of system is important for a growing business, and a few features that are typical for this type of CRM.

What does operational CRM typically support?

The goal of operational customer relationship management is to help automate and simplify the three functions of client relations: marketing, customer service, and sales.

Sales Operations

Sales representatives manage dozens of prospects each day. But between data entry, writing emails, and internal meetings, there’s a real danger that inefficient processes mean reps are focusing most of their time on non-sales tasks.

operational crm process

Your sales reps are responsible for finding the most effective ways to sell to their clients, and removing unnecessary tasks is the first step to keep them on target. To help manage prospects and quickly move them along the sales cycle, operational crm applications include tools for:

Operational CRMs for sales teams centralize each of these tasks onto a single platform, ensuring that everyone is working with the most accurate and up-to-date data. It’s like keeping all of your tools in a single, perfectly organized tool box that anyone can open to find what they need.

Customer Service and Relations

When a client has a unique concern, their case can be difficult to work with, especially if the customer service rep they’re dealing with has little information to pull from. But with a CRM system (especially one with thousands of CRM integrations), each team member can track interactions with their clients from the moment they show interest.

Using a CRM lets you keep customer info in one place, making it accessible to everyone in your company. If a customer service rep needs to know more about someone’s case, they can quickly pull up information about every single interaction they’ve had with the company. This lets them serve the customer’s needs quickly and with less back-and-forth.

Marketing Operational CRM Technology

CRMs help marketing teams seek out new leads through a variety of different avenues, including in-person events, website forms, social media interactions, and advertisements. But the main use of operational CRM technology in marketing is through automated email campaigns.

When clients show interest in a product or service, these systems can form unique email strategies to match their levels of interaction. For example, if a prospect interacts with an online website form, the operational CRM system notifies the marketing team of their interest and provides the prospect with a set of emails that can help grow their marketing and sales engagement.

They also help marketing teams gather information about these clients. CRMs can automatically find contact info, potential pain points, engagement levels, and other data that can guide strategies and best practices.

What makes operational CRM systems different?

Customer care and sales technology has branched off into many arms.

There are three different types of CRM platforms — analytical, collaborative, and operational. Analytical and collaborative CRMs have more specialized features, while operational CRMs tend to have well-balanced traits that support a general range of business functions. So if you’re researching CRMs, operational customer relationship management is a great place to start.

There are no hard and fast rules about what kind of software can handle which tasks. You’ll find platforms that blend different components of each kind of CRM offering a mash-up of features.

But if a system markets itself exclusively as one kind of CRM, you should know exactly how they compare in order to make the best choice for your business.

Operational vs analytical CRM

The difference between operational and analytical CRMs is in the purpose they serve and the features designed to fulfill them.

CRM analytics make storing, organizing, and analyzing your customer information easy—which makes it easier to make smart decisions. Well-analyzed data is a vital tool for building successful strategies, and analytical CRM is a great tool for doing just that.

But building strategy is just one step. Implementing your strategy is another step entirely, which requires different software functionalities — hence the difference between operational and analytical CRM features.

Operational CRM helps companies actually implement their data-driven strategies by providing tools that streamline workflows and automate tasks. It’s a tool that lets you put your sales and marketing strategies into action efficiently, so you can set and meet higher sales goals and consistently produce better marketing campaigns.

Operational vs collaborative CRM

Collaborative CRM allows teams to manage customer interactions on their preferred channels. Internally, it offers tools for exchanging information between departments, passing tasks, and sharing workloads.

In a company with dozens or hundreds of roles, one client may end up interacting with multiple employees. Collaborative CRM helps ensure that every interaction — even if it’s over different channels and with a different employee each time — will be smooth, fast, and successful.

While operational CRM tools can support these communicational systems, this type of CRM software focuses more on driving client interactions. Essentially, they both handle communications, but for different purposes. Collaborative CRMs handle communication among client relation teams in order to drive engagement forward, while operational CRMs make the process simple so that the forward momentum isn’t stalled by inefficient practices.

Benefits of operational customer relationship management

So what is the importance of operational CRM in business?

The main objective of operational CRM is to efficiently handle the routine processes that don’t need as much human interaction. By skimming off the time and labor needed to perform certain duties, companies using operational CRM have more resources to invest in improving in other areas, such as:

  • Sales pitches
  • Customer service calls
  • Email campaign content
  • Marketing strategies
  • Demo walkthroughs

Here are some of the benefits that companies notice when correctly using operational CRM tools.

Automate repetitive tasks

Operational customer relationship management software saves time and energy by using sales force automation — or SFA software. These features greatly reduce the hours spent manually performing repetitive tasks such as:

  • Sending follow-up emails
  • Creating reports
  • Lead scoring and routing
  • scheduling appointments and updating schedules
  • Updating lead contact information

Automation features help you eliminate tasks from your daily to-do list, while also performing those tasks with greater speed and accuracy. This allows you to provide better service to your customers, which in turn results in higher sales numbers.

Collaborate more effectively

Using multiple avenues to communicate and exchange information across departments leaves too many cracks open. Missed communications and information silos can seriously damage progress — as well as lead to some unhappy customers.

CRMs help you gather, store, and access all communications and data from a single point of access. This means fewer opportunities for information to be misrepresented or overlooked.

Greater customer satisfaction

Operational CRMs have a myriad of tools you can use to enhance each client’s experience. You’ll be able to provide quicker response times to client outreaches and offer them more information with less wait time — which is key to keeping customers happy with your company.

Additionally, features like client portals and live chat options provide even more touchpoint opportunities, making it easy for customers to reach out and stay engaged with your brand.

Operational CRM examples

Let’s take a look at some hypothetical examples of operational CRM tools in action. We’ve split them up by department so you can better see how the effective exchange of information is a vital component of CRM software.

Operational CRM examples: Sales

Example 1: Prospecting

Performing manual research on hundreds of leads is a time-consuming ask for any sales team. Between gathering information on company size, industry standards, recent performance, and contact info, sales teams have a lot of ground to cover.

Seeking out prospects that will actively show interest in your products and services can be tedious without the right tools. Automated prospecting tools search through this data for you and compile it in one place. This gives your sales reps the information they need to reach out to the hottest leads without lifting a finger. Once reps know who they’re going after, CRM tools like automated emails and tracking can help salespeople get a head start on their new leads.

Operational CRM software can help salespeople find and qualify leads in a snap, minimizing their turnaround time and keeping their focus on driving home a sale.

Example 2: Pipeline management

When a promising new lead comes in, sales teams need to jump on it quickly. Between nurturing a lead, tracking their progress through the pipeline, and discovering their key pain points, successfully converting a new lead takes a lot of preparation time.

With an operational CRM, sales teams can spend less of their time outlining a potential sale, and more time putting it into practice.

Opportunity management software can develop systems for assigning leads to sales reps who have the availability to focus on them. Lead tracking systems help sales reps pick up where they left off with each potential customer. Not only that, but larger-picture metrics around analytics, reporting, and quotas ensure you're consistently looking for opportunities to improve and streamline your sales methodology.

Example 3: Sales and activity tracking

Sales reps are often juggling selling points and deadlines for 15-20 leads each day. It can be a herculean task to track each potential buyer through the pipeline if they’re managing them by hand.

Staying on top of leads and keeping track of your interactions with them is a vital way to make better use of your team’s time and make their pipeline more efficient. With sales force automation tools, you can organize your team’s tasks and let them know when they need to follow up and who they need to focus on next. That way, every one of their clients gets the attention they need for a more compelling sale.

Automated email and calling tools can also keep your team from wasting a single second. Email templates create a framework for personal emails without the need to stop and type, and auto dialers mean your team doesn’t have to waste time sifting through their contacts.

When everything is set up for your team from the start, they’ll be able to spend more time planning a personal, informed, and successful sales strategy, rather than getting stuck on the hurdles along the way.

Operational CRM examples: Customer service

Example 1: Feedback reports

Feedback is key for making informed decisions for improvement. If you don’t have a firm grasp of how your customers feel about your company, you could be missing out on opportunities to win even more people over to your business.

Feedback reports like you automatically solicit and track client feedback. When customers fill out forms or respond to emails, CRMs file this information into a report and organize it based on key demographics. Instead of manually filling out spreadsheets with customer satisfaction surveys, you’ll have access to reports and statistics that will help you form an actionable growth plan.

Example 2: Standardized email responses

If you wanted every email sent by your company to be manually written and delivered, you’d need an army of people sitting behind computers. Standardized email respondes let you automatically generate and send the appropriate correspondence quickly, so your customers get the information they need faster, and you don't have to employ an army of people.

Canned email responses can be a great way for customer service representatives to keep a strong connection with their clients without needing to fully type out each response. By keeping email templates on hand, they can interact with their clients in a way that still feels personal until their questions warrant further explanation.

Example 3: Self-service options

When a client has a simple question, waiting on an answer from a customer service rep can be frustrating. There’s no reason a customer who has a simple inquiry should have to wait in line behind a customer with a seriously complicated problem.

By offering self-service options to your clients, you give them the power to resolve small issues without staring at their email inbox. Whether it’s with a customer portal or an online billing management system, companies can use operational customer relationship management to empower their customers to resolve their own simple issues. This greatly alleviates the workload on your customer service reps, and also improves customer satisfaction.

Example 4: Live chat systems

Emails and phone calls are still solid forms of communication. But some clients prefer to communicate in other ways.

Live chat systems offer an accessible line of communication for customers who might not want to use email or phone. If a customer is on your website looking to resolve an issue, they may not want to open up their email and write out a message explaining everything. A live chat widget on your website offers an instant touchpoint with a quick response, so customers don’t have to manually write out a whole email and then wait for a reply.

When a client states a concern through live chat systems, the CRM software will notify the customer service team, and give the client a response. Over time, the CRM will have access to responses that are helpful, and when the customer service team is unavailable, they can offer automated messages that feel more personal.

Operational CRM examples: Marketing

Example 1: The win-back campaign

Sometimes customers drop off and stop purchasing — but that doesn’t mean they have to be gone forever. Win-back campaigns are designed to help you re-engage with customers who haven’t purchased for a while by alerting them to an improvement that might make them change their mind about you.

For example, maybe when your company was young you didn’t have the best customer service resources, and as a result you lost some of your earliest customers. Automated win-back campaigns are a great way to offer your clients a reason to give your products and services a second try. They can show milestones of a company’s progress, updated product details, or simply illustrate an impressive way in which your company has changed.

Example 2: The welcome campaign

The moment a prospect becomes a customer can be a major relief, but that doesn’t mean it’s time to close their file. Welcome campaigns are an excellent way to keep customers engaged after they’ve purchased so they remain customers for longer. Your campaigns might offer helpful tips for using their product, or alert them to your convenient customer portal if they experience any issues.

By automating these campaigns, you’ll develop connections with your clients right from the start. This can increase customer loyalty and give them a reason to stick around.

Example 3: Up-selling and cross-selling campaigns

Clients aren’t always content with a single product. Even if they’re having success with their current plan or package, they might not understand how other products and services could make their experience better.

With automated up-selling and cross-selling campaigns, you can show your clients how to get the most out of your products and services. Operational customer relationship management can help you track your clients’ purchases and analyze their pain points. If you find an opportunity to cross-sell your other products or up-sell their current plan, you’ll be able to set up email campaigns that will convince them to take a second look at their purchase.

How to choose operational CRM software

There are many different CRM systems out there, making it difficult to nail down which one will bring the most value to your business. Each unique CRM system offers its own blend of functions and features for upgrading your customer relation processes.

When comparing vendors, answer these questions to ensure you don’t commit yourself to a platform that doesn’t actually serve your needs.

  1. Which features do you need in a CRM? Operational CRM tools have a wide variety of customizable CRM features and plug-ins. Paying for features you don’t need is a waste of resources and can confuse your team when they’re trying to find and use the features they do need. List the features your team will actually use, as well as features you may want in the future as your company grows. Then find the platform that offers those features and can scale with you as your customer management needs expand.

  2. How tech savvy is your team? Each CRM system offers a unique interface. The more complicated the interface, the more your technically challenged team members will struggle. An easy user interface helps speed up implementation and reduces frustration. Don’t forget that learning new software can be intimidating to some people, so choose the software that’s easy to use for the team you have.

  3. Test it out before you make a decision. Once you find a CRM that seems like a perfect fit for your business, take advantage of trials or demos. It can be difficult to gauge how valuable a CRM is to your team without a practical example. But once your team gets used to the system, it becomes a lot easier to measure how worthwhile it can be.

Start your CRM search off on the right foot

The sooner you build up client loyalty, the sooner you can scale your business. So if you’re looking for an intuitive and powerful CRM, Zendesk Sell is a solid option.

With cloud-based contact management system functions, you and your team can keep track of your client’s important data and access it at any time. That way, no matter who your team is interacting with, they’ll have all of the crucial info necessary to resolve their concerns.

Learn how a simple CRM can improve your client interactions and speed up your sales cycle.

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