FinTech has, in many ways, democratized technology once reserved for the largest enterprises, and reduced barriers for small business (SMB) adoption. The SMB community has seen this trend in areas like accounting and financial analytics, but one space where adoption of back-office software remains suppressed is customer relationship management (CRM).
CRM involves a mesh of salesforce automation, marketing, contact center management and more. For the biggest companies, there are entire departments and dedicated teams that manage the client relationship. However, just because a small business may have fewer clients than a large enterprise, it doesn’t mean the customer relationship is less important. Indeed, in some ways, the relationship between client and SMB can be even trickier to manage, explained CEO Clate Mask of small business technology firm Keap.
“It’s all about being personal, and having that relationship,” he told PYMNTS. “In a big company, it doesn’t always feel very personal. When working with a small business, they want to feel something different, so small businesses need to cultivate that relationship in a more personalized, friendly way.”
Unfortunately, he noted, most small businesses don’t recognize the importance of having a CRM solution in place, assuming it’s a technology that only larger companies need to worry about. Furthermore, when small business owners do begin to explore the implementation of CRM software, they typically expect to find a “watered-down version” of technology designed for the largest enterprises, Mask said.
CRM Meets Payments
Keap, formerly known as Infusionsoft, recently announced the launch of its own CRM solution, which integrates electronic invoicing and payments acceptance functionality. That addition of payments collection is a crucial component for small business adoption of CRM software, explained Mask.
“You don’t typically see invoicing and payments as a part of a CRM solution,” he said. “But for the small business, you need to manage the client relationship all the way from the first time of interaction to when they pay their bill.”
Unlike large enterprises, he continued, SMBs aren’t always able to adopt an array of individual solutions — for instance, a separate invoicing and billing, collections, or CRM tool. Even less likely is a small business’ ability to integrate all those platforms.
Yet, payments is a critical component of the customer relationship. For small businesses, it’s arguably the most important aspect of it, Mask said. Making it as easy as possible for customers to access their bills and pay invoices not only means a healthier cash flow for businesses, but a better experience for the clients.
The Rise Of Analytics
CRM is increasingly taking advantage of sophisticated and intelligent data analytics capabilities, using technology to deliver deeper insights into customers and their interactions with corporations. While small businesses may not need the level of complexity that large corporate CRM tools provide, there is ample opportunity for data analytics to provide valuable insights for small businesses.
For SMBs, the intersection of invoicing, payments and CRM means the ability to use transaction data to enhance the analysis of a customer relationship, said Mask.
Straight-forward insights, like how much a client has paid over the lifetime of a relationship, and more advanced analysis, such as whether to trigger customized messages or programs for clients based on transaction volume or payment history, are examples of how CRM software can integrate data from customer payments. Missed or late payments from clients may also lead to a change in relationship strategy.
Information like this can be difficult for small business owners to obtain if they have to manually find and assess it, Mask noted.
“In a relationship, you have to know these things in order to serve the customer effectively,” he said, “and to make sure you’re getting paid.”
Sophisticated Tech For Small Firms
Integrating payments data into relationship management is one way the CRM can be reconfigured to meet the needs of small businesses. However, as SMBs gain access to these tools, they are also set to face the advanced regulatory demands that larger conglomerates must handle, including Know Your Customer (KYC) compliance, as part of the CRM process.
Mask said this may be a ways off, but he believes that, just as CRM tools should be configured for SMBs, KYC compliance requirements should do the same.
“I hope it’s done in a way that makes it not as burdensome to the small business as it is at large corporates. That can really be crippling for small businesses,” he said. “Is it good? Yes. Do we want that regulation? Certainly. But we need a small business version of it before companies of between five and 10 employees are subjected to it in a significant way.”