Running and growing your business is rewarding, but it can be hard. There’s a lot to juggle. Managing sales, marketing, communications, production, fulfilment and your team can be overwhelming at times. This is where customer relationship management (CRM) tools can help.

In this lesson, you’ll learn what CRM is, and how these digital tools can help you. We’ve got tips on how to select the best CRM software for your organisation. And we’ll take you through the steps you need to prepare to use these powerful tools.


  • Understand what a CRM system is, and what it does
  • Be able to explain the benefits of using CRM software
  • Know how to select the best CRM for you
  • Recognise the steps involved in preparing for your CRM launch

Read time:

16 mins

Chapter 1

What is customer relationship management?

Read time:

1 min

The idea and the tools

Customer relationship management (CRM) is all about how to manage your interactions with your current and potential users.

To start, this means keeping a record of customer details. So, we ask ‘what details do we want to keep?’ and it turns out there’s quite a lot. Basic client information is a must. Any contact we’ve had with the customer. We want their sales history. Preferences they’ve mentioned. The channels they use to contact us. That’s a lot to keep track of, and we often need this information.

When people talk about CRM, they usually mean a CRM system. This is something that stores all these details, in one place. CRM tools help you use this data to give your customers a consistent and tailored experience with you. With a CRM, you can store contact details, spot sales openings, note service issues and manage marketing campaigns - all in one place.

Chapter 2

The benefits of CRM software

Read time:

3 mins

The overall benefits

We’ve talked about what a CRM system is. But why should you spend your time and money on one?

First, let’s look at the overall benefits to your organisation.


Using a CRM can help you:

Stay connected with your users

Simplify processes

Increase your profits

Benefits in more detail

Know your customers better

With a CRM, you’ll have all your customer details at your fingertips. So you can stay connected to your users in a more tailored way. They’ll get info and offers that they want, based on their earlier activity.

And as you get to know your clients better, you’ll find more effective chances to upsell or cross-sell.

“The purpose of business is to create and keep a customer”

Peter Drucker

Better customer retention

Building long-term loyalty is important to any business. Every contact point impacts a user's decision to come back to you.

CRM tools help keep you tuned in to what your current customers want. You can use the analytics features to give tailored, thoughtful service and support. And access to centralised data helps you respond quickly to feedback, questions and trends.


Segment your users

Customer segmentation is a powerful marketing tool. It groups your users based on demographic and other data.

If you apply filters based on what you know about your customers, you can speak more directly to their needs and interests. So your email campaigns become more focused. And when customers receive info that fits their preferences, they’re more likely to respond. This could mean they follow a link to your website, or make a purchase.

You can also use these filters to help you adapt your sales pitch and timing, to increase your chance of conversion or winning that deal.


Communicate better – and faster

CRM tools can speed up communication. Say one of your users has a question. You can see their details and order history straight away. This gives you an immediate understanding of their needs, and helps you give prompt and better-informed support. Plus, enquiry-logging and programmed follow-up emails help to assure them that you’re on it.


Be consistent with your clients

Over time, a client might contact your business in several different ways.


They could:

  • Follow an ad link from a social channel
  • Order online from your website
  • Phone you with a question
  • Complete a survey from an email you sent them


They might talk to people in your sales, service or support teams.

CRMs can capture every interaction, so your team can see the whole picture. This helps you to give your customers a seamless experience, no matter who they speak with and how they contact you.


Spot trends early

CRM software can often help you see something coming before it becomes obvious to your competitors. If you’re able to predict trends or changing behaviour, you can spot your customers’ demand for new products and services. You could plan ahead to adapt what you offer.


Protect data privacy (GDPR)

CRM software can offer better data protection for users by working compliance into the model, and replacing manual processes.

The UK General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) law aims to protect users’ rights and freedoms. It’s important to obey GDPR rules to protect both your users and your business. Non-compliance with GDPR rules can lead to lost trust in your business and hefty fines.


To help, you should select CRM software that allows you to:

  • Prove user consent
  • Know exactly what data you hold
  • Update and delete data
  • Store data securely

Chapter 3

What do CRM platforms do?

Read time:

2 mins

The key features of CRM tools

Every CRM platform is different. So think about what you want from this kind of tool, before you decide which one to go for. We’ll talk more about this in the next chapter. For now, let’s look at the key functions that most of them have.


Customer-focused features

Contact management

Quote and order management

Case management

Contact management

You can store user data such as names, email addresses and social media accounts in a searchable database. This helps you build a more complete picture of the customer and view all their details from one place.


Quote and order management

Create and send quotes, invoices and receipts. The CRM keeps all contact between you and your clients in the same place. This helps you avoid losing orders or contact with different colleagues, so you can give better customer service.


Case management

Incident-based tracking helps you to sort and manage user issues. So you can deal with questions promptly and avoid complaint escalation.


Sales-focused features

Conversion management

Sales automation

Sales forecasting

Conversion management

CRMs can simplify the process of converting leads into sales. You’ll get to know the users in your pipeline better. And this leads to a more tailored approach, so you can sort leads based on business potential.


Sales automation

Manually emailing, scheduling or digging through files for info - all these take up valuable time. A CRM can do these necessary but repetitive manual tasks to improve productivity.


Sales forecasting

Data analytics let you build a more detailed picture. You can generate forecasts for future sales and revenue, based on captured data and trends. This makes it easier to be more precise in your forecasting and set realistic targets.


Efficiency-focused features

Task management

Analytics tools

Customised features

Integration with other tools

Task management

Keeping track of tasks helps the whole team work more efficiently. Plan and sort tasks, assign them to team members, and create reminders that sync with your calendar.


Analytics tools

No more sifting through mountains of data - analytics tools compile the data and give the details you need. You get routine summaries and reports based on factors you select. This gives you a good understanding of processes. Plus it makes troubleshooting more effective.


Customised features

Every organisation operates differently, so it's important to tailor your CRM tool so it works for you. Add or remove features to build a tool that fits your organisation.


Integration with other tools

Most CRM tools integrate with existing software, reducing the need to go back-and-forth between systems. CRM doesn’t need to be yet another platform to juggle. Using these tools, you can connect existing apps like your calendar, social media, live chat or eCommerce platform.


Think about the most important CRM features for your business. Write down as many as you can in 5 minutes.

Chapter 4

Finding the right tool for you

Read time:

4 mins

Finding the best fit

With CRM software, there’s no one-size-fits-all option. Luckily you’ll find plenty of choice out there, and a tool to fit every business.

Think about whether your focus is analytical, on sales, service or social media. You might want an all-in-one platform, or software that you can tweak to meet more niche requirements.

To help you match your needs with a CRM, look at the types of CRM tools available. There are three main types of CRM: operational, analytical and collaborative.


Operational CRM

This type of platform combines sales, marketing and service processes. This means you can review the customer cycle, simplify advertising campaigns and manage customer service and user support.

HubSpot is a popular example.

This kind of software is the best ‘all-round’ option for most organisations.


Analytical CRM

This software helps you take a deeper dive into user data. It gives a greater understanding of behaviour and trends, so you can target offerings more effectively.

Examples include the world’s most widely used CRM, Salesforce.


Collaborative CRM

Here, the focus is on communication and the sharing of data. So your teams, stakeholders, partners and vendors can work together more effectively on promotions and campaigns.

An example of a collaborative CRM is Microsoft Dynamics 365.


Try before you buy

If you want to play around with things first, some platforms offer a free version of their CRM software. Others offer a free trial for a limited time. Spend time with these, before you decide on the right system for your business. Rushing into a decision before you fully explore the options could prove costly.


Top tips for selecting your CRM system

Identify the issue you’re trying to solve

What are the specific issues you want your CRM tool to help with? Note down what you need to solve these issues. And do this before you start to look at CRMs. If you define your needs upfront, it helps you find the right tool.


Lay out your processes

The CRM you pick needs to handle your organisation’s unique set of processes. So be clear about what these are, before you select your software.


Look at product mobility

Think about how important it is for your team to have mobile access to the system. Will they use it on mobile phones or other devices when they’re out and about?


Is it compatible?

Check which CRM tools are able to work with your current systems. So if you rely on email and phone for client contact, seek out tools that talk directly with your email system. If your customers are active social media users, look for easy integration with these channels.


Reporting capabilities

Customised reports can make a real difference and give you a competitive edge. If you can tailor reports based on your unique data, you might find ways to grow.


Research the supplier

You’ll be relying on them for customer support while you’re using the software. So it's important to do your research and make sure they’re reliable and trusted.


Ask around

Part of your supplier research might be looking at online reviews. Look at similar businesses to see what they’re using. It might also be worth thinking about your own user experiences and what tools your preferred companies are using.


How much does it cost?

Consider the cost of the software and its roll-out. If you’re a smaller business, you might want to start with a free CRM.


Involve your team

No matter which system you pick, you may meet some resistance. If you involve your team in the selection stage, it can help them feel part of the process.


Take your time with the demo

When you check out the demo for a product, make sure to push it to its limits. Taking time to test it thoroughly will save you time and money in the end.

Test your knowledge

Answer this question by selecting one answer from the three options given.

That's not quite right!

This CRM helps your team work with others.

That's right!

A collaborative CRM helps your team work together with others, sharing data both within and outside the business.


With so many options available, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed with choice. When you select a tool, decide which features are important, check your options and do your research.

Chapter 5

Preparing for your CRM launch

Read time:

5 mins

Planning for a smooth launch

Rolling out a new CRM needs some planning. And you can start planning once you’ve picked your tool.

There’s lots to do before the launch. You’ll be looking at your data and preparing to move it to the new system. Your team will be learning how to use the tool, and testing it out.

Here are some key points to think about when you’re putting together your roll-out plan, including top tips for the safe migration of data.

Prepare your people

Map your data

Test the process

Prepare your people

Train your team

A successful roll-out relies on buy-in from all your team members. So it’s important to spread awareness of the new CRM at an early stage, and give them time to get to know it.

Allow a large chunk of time to train your team, before the ‘go live’ date. This way, you’re giving people the chance to test the software and learn how to use it, before they rely on it. If you don’t do this, you could have unhappy teams and costly mistakes.

Factor in a period of adjustment after the launch, too. It’s good to have a system in place so people can report snags and give feedback, for a smooth transition.


Share with your stakeholders

Key stakeholders need to know why the roll out is happening and what it means to them. It’s important to let them know the positive impact your new CRM will have on them.

Show that this tool will make jobs easier and operations more efficient, while driving sales and boosting the organisation’s reputation.


Map your data

Plan for data migration

Data migration can be complex and time-consuming, so you’ll need a clear plan. Most CRMs have apps to help with this, but do check. Before the actual migration, you’ll need to spring clean your system and remove old data that could clog up your new CRM.

Make sure you also have a plan in place for the migration day itself. Think about team scheduling, data backups, and how you’re going to let people know about system downtime.


Analyse your info

As you get ready for a new CRM, you have the chance to audit your data. Now’s the time to look at what data your team use, and how they use it. This will highlight any redundant info. It can also help guide your focus when you test the new system.


Maps and flows

At this stage, your focus is on what data needs to move, where it’s going, and how it will get there.

Here’s a couple of ways to do this:


Data mapping

This is all about ‘translating’ data from how it looks on your current systems, to a format that your CRM can use. You look at each piece of data you have, to see where it is and what it looks like. Then you ask ‘How does this fit into our new system?’

For example, say the same data is held separately for your sales and marketing teams. Sales might use a spreadsheet for this. Marketing could have their own database, where it’s in a different format. When you move this data to your CRM, you’ll want to merge the two sets of data into one. And the CRM needs to understand the data, so there may be some reformatting involved.

By noting down each piece of data you need to move, you can see any duplicates. This process can also flag redundant data.

Some CRMs include data-mapping tools, so this is worth checking out.


Data Flow Diagrams (DFDs)

These show the flow of information through your systems. You can use this to work out what data you need to move. Your data flow diagrams can be high level or more detailed. There are various tools to help create these diagrams, or you can map them out using pen and paper.

This article tells you more about DFDs, including how to create one.


Test the process

As part of your launch preparation, you’ll be testing the system itself. But it’s also a good idea to test the data migration, before you make this move.


Talk to your tech team

Fully brief your IT team so they’re ready to carry out testing. Allow plenty of time for this before ‘going live’. This gives you time to follow up any issues with your CRM vendor and make any changes that you need.


Testers should cover:

  • System testing
  • Functional testing
  • Stress testing
  • Performance testing
  • Usability testing
  • Acceptance testing
  • Integration testing


Data migration tests

Moving your data to the new CRM can be scary. To reduce the risks, test a small set of data first.

Always back up your data before you move it. Run the migration process, then compare the migrated data with your backed-up data. Check that everything you sent across has reached where it needs to be. And once it’s there, make sure you can see and use it in the way you want.


Data migration involves various moving parts so make sure you use software tools to simplify and support the process.

Top tips for a smooth launch

Follow a migration plan

Have a plan in place for the day you roll out. Set rules for access and assign roles and tasks. Prepare for system downtime so your team can still work and the organisation can still operate.


Protect your data

Review the data that you’re going to be moving. Consider data that might need special handling, for compliance reasons. For example, look at whether data needs to be encrypted.


Test migrated data

After the migration, make sure everything is where it should be. Check the format of the data and look for duplicates. Your CRM tool can help you with this.



Depending on your industry, regulators may need proof that you’ve taken care to protect sensitive data. Auditing gives a record that you’ve done everything correctly.


Make use of software tools

These include data file converters, interfaces that help systems talk to each other and CRM systems with in-built migration tools.


Back up your data

Don’t forget to back up any data you’re about to move. This gives you reassurance in case there are any issues during migration. Plus, it helps you check that all the data has moved across correctly.

Chapter 6

Summary and next steps

Read time:

1 min

Let’s recap

In this course, we’ve given you top tips and info on CRMs.


You’ve seen:

  • What CRM software is, and how it helps you capture and manage customer data
  • How a CRM tool can benefit both your business and your customers
  • The three main types of CRM system - Operational, Analytical and Collaborative
  • How to prepare for the smooth launch of a new CRM, including data migration


Write down your top 3 key takeaways from this lesson.

Remember - this is just the start

You’ve now started to learn about CRM systems. With so many CRM options online, it’s good to start by exploring the different features on a free platform. You can then find out what type of system works best for you, then make your decision based on a clear plan.

But the learning doesn’t stop here! We have a wide range of content to help your business thrive.


Bank of Scotland Academy is committed to providing information in a way that is accessible and useful for our users. This information, however, is not in any way intended to amount to authority or advice on which reliance should be placed. You should seek professional advice as appropriate and required. Any sites, products or services named in this module are just examples of what's available. Bank of Scotland does not endorse the services they provide. The information in this module was last updated on 31st March 2023.