Excel versus CRM
We all know that Excel is an extremely useful, powerful tool. It offers a number of benefits because it is easy to customize, most people are well aware of it, and the information is easy to grasp in a single spreadsheet.
All of this is fantastic in principle, until you realize that your business has reached the next level, and that this in turn requires something better than the options offered by an Excel sheet. When several people need to enter information (and not just company and contact details) or need to extract information about customers – information that allows you to better meet your customers' needs and achieve better sales results – things can start to get tough.
In all probability, a CRM system will answer any questions you may have, and probably more besides. At the point where Excel becomes insufficient for your needs, that's where CRM steps in. For example, Excel tells you nothing about upselling opportunities for a particular customer, or when you have promised to follow up. At a time when customer relationships are everything, you risk missing out on enormous opportunities.
When is Excel insufficient?
There is a wealth of situations in which Excel becomes insufficient. Here are a few:
- When you have to update information manually much too often, in a way that takes far too long.
- When the same information is entered twice, three times, or four times, and it isn't clear who entered it.
- When copies, versions, and variants of the same file start appearing.
- When cross-joins and references between sheets and cells no longer match up, or formulas start getting hard to understand.
- When someone has inserted a new column without a header and then re-sorted certain parts of the information, without realizing that everything is just a big mess.
- When you can't access the information because you are not in the office.
If you also create quotes in Excel or Word, then you know that you have to enter a lot of information manually and there is scant (for which read nonexistent) opportunity to automate the process.
No real-time cooperation
Depending on the version of Excel that is used, multiple users may be unable to work on the same spreadsheet at the same time. If you need to access or edit a file that one of your colleagues is currently using (or which just happened to be open when they went out for their lunch), you have to either:
- Wait your turn.
- Make the changes, but wait to save them.
- Create a copy, which you then have to remember to combine with the correct version, hoping that this does not cause problems.
Obviously this works to some extent but, as you know, believing that Excel is cost-effective because it is free in terms of dollars and cents is not the same as it costing nothing in terms of patience, efficiency and, above all, time, which otherwise could be spent on more important matters – like looking after your customers.
How can CRM come to the rescue?
All information is accessible provided that you have a cellphone/tablet/computer with an internet connection, and it doesn't matter if any of your colleagues are also working in the system. Duplicate checks are often performed on new companies and/or contacts that you enter, based on your requirements and situation, and may also be automated if information is entered and updated via a market database.
All information that is entered is also searchable and various selections can be done quickly and easily, plus the fact that everyone in the company knows what has been said and done, when the next follow up should be, which support tickets are open, and which quotes are outstanding. If you want to know more about CRM, read Why CRM? and What is CRM?
Should you choose a CRM system?
Do you really want to carry on the way you are doing and perhaps have always done, or are you ready to consider an alternative? Change is not easy, but it is a must if your company is going to be around a few years from now – and a CRM tool is one of the keys for getting there!