We’ve noticed an interesting pattern: Nearly every other client asks us about our experience building a CRM system. They want to explore our expertise and case studies. The question of how to develop a CRM system has always been a priority for large businesses. We want to explain why.
Running your business without a CRM can cost you a lot of effort and money. This is because you’re wearing many hats while executing administrative tasks. You need to analyze information, aggregate data, plan activities, respond to customer requests, export data, and add new tasks. In the flood of information, details can get lost. And even if you successfully collect data, there’s another challenge: You need to make sense of this data and transform it into a positive customer experience.
A CRM is a centralized hub holding all data on your customers, colleagues, prospects, and suppliers. It builds a history of your business’s interactions with each contact and ensures that every step of these interactions is efficient and smooth. With a CRM, every customer interaction is available to anyone with access.
On the one hand, a CRM gives you the opportunity to enhance your offerings and make customers feel rewarded for choosing you. On the other hand, it lets you streamline most of your administrative processes.
Let’s see how we help small and large businesses with CRM software development. Below, we share details from our experience.
Note: It’s crucial for our clients to protect their confidential information. The moment we sign an NDA, we acknowledge the confidentiality of the information shared and agree not to disclose it throughout our cooperation and after it ends. In this post, we don’t disclose the names of any companies, client documentation, or crucial workflow processes.
Custom CRM development: The root of cooperation
One of our clients abandoned the idea of using a third-party CRM for two reasons. First, they needed a more sophisticated app with custom features. Second, as a strong and continuously growing advisory firm, they wanted to be in control of their app.
They started development of a custom CRM in-house. But with an increase in the amount of work, they decided to bring in external expertise. As the client’s in-house developers were already using Python and its Django framework for CRM web development, the firm interviewed a lot of companies with Python/Django experts.
Steelkiwi was one of many software development companies the firm came across on platforms like Clutch and Medium. After selecting us as their partner, they tasked us with developing a CRM for their consulting business.
Steelkiwi’s approach to providing CRM development services
As the firm has around three hundred employees interacting with many clients, our task was to transform their simple CRM system into a platform able to store a vast amount of data and handle many simultaneous interactions.
To start, we organized all employees into groups, with each employee in at least one group, and defined access levels for those groups. With the clear and functional layout we developed, employees can quickly manage client relationships and effectively streamline the workflow. A CRM superuser has the permissions of all groups and the power to do anything in the system.
Next, we assessed the platform’s existing design, fully redesigned it, and created new modules. Following an iterative approach, we broke down the development process into small chunks. Working one feature at a time, we were able to make modifications and add new features. This approach allowed us to achieve the desired functionality.
CRM modules to process, manage, and document customer relationships
When most users log in to the system, they’re redirected to a welcome page by default. Per our client’s request, we’ve made the welcome page rather informative by including a welcome video by the firm’s executive manager of human resources. We also made sure users can access the following from the welcome page:
- important external links relevant to CRM users
- the latest news and archived news, updates, and topical videos
- past events and new events in the staff calendar
- email requests to HR managers
While developing this client relationship management system, our team also developed several modules aimed at bringing cohesion and simplicity to the company’s most complex processes. Together, these modules ensure a seamless workflow.
The Key Performance Indicators dashboard provides a brief inspection of key performance indicators. The KPIs shown on the dashboard depend on the user’s role and include:
- report requests
- client information and statuses
- today’s and tomorrow’s events
- task lists
- lists of fees for approval
In the calendar, employees can create, see, update, and delete upcoming events and filter all events by name, day, week, or month. All events in the calendar are displayed in chronological order. The title, time, and location are displayed for each event.
To create events in the calendar, users choose the event time, category, and location. They then specify the event topic and provide attendees’ email addresses. Users also can update and delete events that they create.
The Task tab allows users to track all activities so they can address client requests and deliver timely help.
Employees can see all activities and filter them by:
- client name
- activity status (open, closed, superseded)
- category (meeting, phone call, email)
- due date
Through the Task tab, users can add or edit tasks and view the history of activities. Users also can export data to CSV files.
The Clients module contains lists of clients (people and companies). Users can filter clients by ID, type, or assigned employee. Through this module, users can also export the Clients table to a CSV file.
Users have the power to add new clients by specifying the client type, primary contact, and related notes.
Contacts are individuals representing a client (whether a person or company). These are the people that our client’s employees can reach out to in regard to implementing services. Contacts contain the following information:
- Status (active, prospect, suspended, deceased, inactive, did not proceed)
- Phone number
- Email address
- State the client is from
- Date of the next planned meeting
In this module, users can add contacts, edit contact information, and filter contacts. Users can also export this data to a CSV file.
If clients require more than one service from the company, multiple employees are assigned to work with them. To show all employees assigned to one client, we created a Partners page containing partners’ contact information. Employees with access can use different filters to find partners.
To quickly locate the necessary documents in the CRM module, users can filter documents by client name, category, date, file name, and description rather than scroll through lists. Employees can upload new documents and edit them. They also can download documents as PDF files.
With access to the Reports module, users can create, update, and read reports. They can also generate reports on the company’s clients.
Users can see meeting notes in the Booking module of the CRM platform once a meeting is added to the calendar. Meeting notes are created automatically. In addition, staff members can add notes to record essential information. The Booking module contains a big table with information including:
- Date of the last meeting
- Date of the next invoice
- Primary contact
- Phone number
- Email address
- Service office
Users can use filters to quickly find meetings. They can filter by primary contact, last meeting or scheduled meeting, and assigned staff member. Staff members can download the table with booking information as a CSV file.
This module offers a number of business forms and templates for different purposes. Some of these forms are available in PDF format, others in Word format.
Finance, Payroll, HR
Here, employees can find information related to the company’s financial policies so they can follow the correct procedures. They can also check the payment calendar and download templates for request forms.
Events and Sponsorships
Staff members have access to a calendar with upcoming events. They can check events for a specific date or view events by day, week, or month. The calendar shows different event options: public and school holidays, staff and client events, board meetings, external industry events, and executive travel.
In this module, users see a list of the company’s employees and information about them including their names, positions, phone numbers, locations, and staff members they report to. Users can search employees by name or surname, edit the list of employees, or download it.
If CRM system users want to leave feedback, report bugs, or suggest enhancements, they can browse the Help Center page and fill in the feedback form.
Through a Quick Action bar, users can quickly create events and new tasks, add a client, or generate reports.
Notifications that appear on the user’s screen remain visible for five seconds. If several notifications appear at the same time, the newest one is at the top of the list. Only read notifications can be deleted.
Technology stack behind custom CRM software development
We used Python as the backend technology to build a custom CRM. At Steelkiwi, we choose Python for its elegant approach that’s perfect for solving web development tasks. In this project, Python became the basis for meeting our client’s business needs within strict deadlines.
Python and the Django web framework allowed us to have a clean API for accessing data and to design well-structured client documentation. We used django-tables to turn sets of data into HTML tables and specify which columns the user can sort and order. Plotly, a Python graphing library, made it possible for us to get all data well-structured and nicely styled.
With aiohttp, a Python library, we created functionality to satisfy the client’s business requirements, including for report generation and data processing.
To learn more about Python and its software development frameworks, read our article on the top 13 Python web frameworks to learn in 2020.
We enabled event creation and quick employee data input from CSV files with the help of the browser parser papaparse.js. During development, we also added another calendar, a customizable cross-browser date picker.
To see why we used these technologies to build this CRM, read our latest post about the best languages for web application development in 2021.
Looking for CRM development services for your business?
A custom CRM is the right tool for streamlining your workflow and taking a large amount of pressure off your staff. To learn more about how to develop CRM software and receive a rough estimate of the cost of custom CRM development, fill in our request form. One of our sales team representatives will reach out to you to discuss how you see your custom CRM and how we can help you build it. An obligation-free estimate for your next project is the first step to improving your business. Yet it can make a huge difference!
Originally published on Steelkiwi.com