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How to Use CRM for Customer Service

Written by:

Victoria Yu is a Business Writer with expertise in Business Organization, Marketing, and Sales, holding a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration from the University of California, Irvine’s Paul Merage School of Business.

Edited by:

Sallie, holding a Ph.D. from Walden University, is an experienced writing coach and editor with a background in marketing. She has served roles in corporate communications and taught at institutions like the University of Florida.

How to Use CRM for Customer Service

How to Use CRM for Customer Service

What separates a one-time purchase from a loyal, returning customer can often be attributed to one thing: customer service. Though your competitors may churn out products similar to yours at similar price points, if you can provide stellar support and guarantee customer satisfaction, you can build a reputation for empathy, along with a strong and loyal customer base.

One tool businesses use to enhance their customer service is a CRM system. If you’re looking to take your customer service experience to the next level, this guide will walk you through the benefits of using a customer service CRM, use cases for a CRM in customer service, and how to set up a CRM for customer service.

Key Takeaways

  • Customer relationship management software can help a business improve its customer service operations by building improved images of customers, quickening turnaround time for customer issues, and creating consistent communication with clients.

  • Five use cases for CRM in customer service are integrated communications, case management, payment processing, loyalty program management, and customer support team management.

  • To set up a CRM for customer service processes, a business should select a CRM, add user roles, create and automate its service process, create an omnichannel support experience, add customer data, personalize customer interactions, and create reports on performance.

Why You Need a CRM for Customer Service Support

Now, you might think you only need someone to manage the phone lines and answer client complaints to have good customer service. But in truth, customer expectations have developed far beyond that – customers want fast service and solutions, and they want to interact with engaged and enthusiastic customer support reps, according to HubSpot.

For a small business, that can be a tall order to fulfill. However, a customer relationship management system, or CRM system for short, can help you do all those things and more. Here are the top three ways that a CRM system can help your business improve its customer service operations.

Build Improved Images of Customers

A CRM software system tracks potential customers through the sales process. It makes note of all interactions they have with the company, whether it comes from following you on social media, interacting with a sales representative, or asking your website chatbot a question. In other words, the CRM system gathers information on your customers and potential customers from all sources of contact, to build comprehensive and holistic customer profiles.

Marketers, sales representatives, and customer support agents all have different insights into a customer’s behavior and all play different roles in the customer journey. A CRM system helps pool this knowledge into one database, so that any employee can pull up a customer’s profile and use the information they find to personalize their customer interactions. For example, customer support agents can leverage this data to brief themselves on a customer’s plight, which enables them to get to the heart of the issue quickly.

While this might sound like espionage, the reality is that 70% of customers expect any company representative that they interact with—from marketing, sales, to customer support—to have or to be able to access the full context of their profile and buying journey, according to Zendesk. In other words, building robust customer profiles using a CRM system gives customers exactly what they want.

Faster Turnaround for Customer Queries

When choosing a brand, more than half of customers (54%) who were surveyed said that fast responses are critical, according to Freshworks. A CRM helps your business answer customer questions and concerns faster. These systems perform this feat by automatically collecting support tickets and customer cases from every communication channel, assigning these tickets to support reps, and sending notifications to reps immediately, whenever a new customer case comes in. Ultimately, having CRM-prepared data prepared and ready greatly improves your business’s response time to customer queries.

A company that does not have a CRM to collect tickets from every support channel might rely on its support agents to manually check company emails or social media pages, one by one, every hour to search for questions and concerns. Using this “manual” method not only leads to unbearable wait times for customers and potential customers, it could also lead to boredom and burnout for the support agents!

Keep In Touch With Your Clients

According to McKinsey, 80% of value creation (which means revenue!) achieved by the world’s most successful growth companies comes from unlocking new revenue from existing customers. They also report that compensating for the value of one lost customer requires the acquisition of three new ones.

In other words, if your business is looking to lower costs and improve profits, reaching out to previous customers to cross-sell and upsell is a smart strategy. 

As we stated before, CRM stands for customer relationship management, meaning that it excels at helping businesses maintain and build customer relationships. By leveraging the CRM system’s data to create personalized offers, follow up with previous customers, and send promotions to email lists, sales and support agents can continuously touch base with customers, keeping them in the loop and enticing them with new products and services.

Use Cases for Customer Service CRMs

Exactly what sort of challenges can a customer service CRM system help you with? Here’s a brief summary of the benefits a service CRM can bring.

Integrated Communication

Service CRMs can natively integrate with different communication channels such as phone calls, email, and social media, improving customer support on all fronts and providing omnichannel support.

Case Management

When a new customer service request comes in, a CRM solution can automate ticket routing, case assignment, and rep notification. It can also host a knowledge base and customer details, which helps support staff answer service requests more quickly and thoroughly.

The CRM is also used to archive all cases for future reference.

Payment Processing

Should your customer service request relate to payment, customer service CRMs offer payment processing solutions that help customer service representatives create and send quotes and invoices to customers. 

While some CRMs partner with third parties to do this, others are able to process credit, debit, and ACH payments by themselves, to provide the highest level of data security.

Loyalty Program Management

Industry-specific CRMs for markets with high-frequency shopping such as retail, e-commerce, and restaurants can help track and administer loyalty program rewards for customers. 

In particular, because service CRMs track customer interactions across all channels, this synchronizes customer loyalty rewards between in-store and online shopping.

Customer Support Team Management

A CRM designed for customer service will monitor the performance of your customer service department, both as a whole and by individual team member performance. By reviewing the team’s performance, managers can identify areas for improvement as well as any staffing challenges.

7 Steps to Set Up Your CRM for Customer Service

Curious about how to set up your customer relationship management system for customer service success? To help you, what follows is a seven-step guide developed to assist in getting your processes set up, and your customer service teams on board.

Step One: Select a CRM

The first step, obviously, is to select a proper CRM software package that meets your business’s needs.

Remember how a CRM helps manage and nurture leads through the customer journey and beyond? Because of that, your CRM platform will be used by all customer-facing departments: marketing, sales, and customer service. Therefore, in Step One, you will need to consult with each department to understand the types of CRM tools they want and need to help support their activities.

For customer service specifically, some features you might look for in a CRM are:

  • Ticketing system
  • Ticket automation
  • Artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities
  • Native integrations with collaboration tools
    • For example: Slack, Microsoft Teams, and Google Meet
  • Native integrations with communication tools
    • For example: Zoom, Google Calendar, and VoIP programs
  • Native integrations with communication channels
    • For example: email, SMS, phone, chatbots, social media
  • Knowledge base hosting
  • Community forums
  • Chatbot features
  • Performance management

Though your business might not need all of these functions, your customer service CRM, at the very least, should be able to collect customer support cases from disparate channels and present them all in the CRM platform for easy management.

Step Two: Add User Roles

Next is to onboard your customer support team to the CRM by designating roles and responsibilities for each type of customer service employee you have. 

For each employee role, you will need to determine which of the CRM tools they’ll be using in their day-to-day activities, and you should restrict their access to everything else. Restricting access prevents employees from touching things they shouldn’t. For example, you wouldn’t want customer support agent to have access to the support manager’s performance reports!

Additionally, you could consider creating instructions and automated workflows on how each employee should use the CRM. 

Step Three: Create and Automate Your Customer Service Process

For this step, put yourself in your client’s shoes: If you were a customer in need of getting a question answered or getting help with a product, when would you ask for it, and how?

With the customer experience in mind, you should plot out your business’s customer journey. For each stage of the marketing and sales processes, consider what sort of information or help a potential customer would want from a support agent and determine which communication channels they might use to ask for it. 

With that information as the starting point, develop a service process, detailing the steps your business will take to process the customer’s case. Next, implement and automate those steps into your CRM.

For example, let’s say you expect potential customers to directly message your company’s profile on Instagram when they have questions about the things you advertise. From there, your CRM-powered customer service process might look like:

  • The query is read by the CRM, which generates a case ticket.
  • The CRM immediately replies with an automated message stating that the person’s question has been received.
  • The CRM scans the contents of the message and identifies keywords on what the issue is about.
  • A case ticket is automatically assigned to a support agent based on the agent’s knowledge of the ticket’s issue.
  • The CRM sends a push notification to the designated support agent.
  • The support agent consults the knowledge base stored within the CRM to find the appropriate information.
  • The support agent answers the customer’s question, and closes the ticket.

At every step of the way, you should consider how your agents would best leverage your CRM to process the service request as quickly and efficiently as possible. The goal is to reduce the amount of time and effort the customer must put in to get help.

To that end, you may consider investing in AI tools to improve the speed and quality of your communications. In a HubSpot survey, 84% of customer service reps said AI made it easier for them to respond to tickets, and 64% said it made their correspondence more personalized.

Step Four: Create an Omnichannel Support Experience

As all roads lead to Rome, all customer communication channels should lead straight to your CRM for equal and interchangeable messaging on all fronts.

Your business might offer customer support from a variety of channels such as email, website form, phone, social media, SMS, chatbot, mobile app, and more. No matter which communication channel your customer’s ticket comes from, when using an omnichannel-enabled support system, all contact/interaction will go to the same place for processing by your customer service agents. 

By ensuring all tickets are collected into the same system, customers can freely switch between the communication channels that are most accessible to them and still experience the same level of high-quality service across all channels. No matter which channel customers reach out from, you’ll still be able to gain a comprehensive image of them and maintain your brand’s reputation for quality service.

Step Five: Add Customer Data

Now that you’ve got all your processes and channels set up, all that’s left is to populate the CRM database with data from current contacts, leads, prospects, and opportunities, as well as historic deal records.

As new customers come into the business, their data will automatically be entered into the CRM courtesy of your marketing and sales teams using the same CRM, throughout the purchasing journey.

If you have old customer details, take the time to import it from your old database system into the CRM so that you can serve your legacy customers when they come back. Most CRMs support data importations from other database systems and spreadsheet files.

In general, you’ll want to collect details on your customers such as their:

  • Name
  • Company
  • Location
  • Demographic information (B2C)
  • Firmographic information (B2B)
  • Pain point(s)
  • Goals and challenges
  • Customer status
  • Purchase details
  • Purchase history
  • Preferred payment method
  • Preferred communication channels
  • Customer lifetime value
  • Support request history
  • Personality details

In your CRM, make a new field on customer cards for each of these details, and ask your customer-facing agents to fill them out to the best of their ability.

Using these details and more, your customer service team can understand the details of a customer from a glance, should the customer approach the support team with an issue. The more data your company collects, the better equipped your service team will be to personalize and expedite each customer case.

Step Six: Personalize Customer Interactions

Leveraging the customer data stored in your company’s CRM, your support agents can now begin personalizing interactions with each individual customer.

When a new support ticket comes in, your assigned support agent can access the CRM database to quickly brief themselves on the details of the customer’s purchase, pain points, issues, and preferred communication style, saving the customer the effort of explaining the basics of their purchase. The support agent can then get to the heart of the customer’s personal issue, possibly solving it quickly.

Additionally, any other personal details recorded could help the support agent establish a strong rapport with the customer. For example, if the CRM reports that the customer has a dog, the agent could ask about the dog or speak about their own dog to deepen a relationship.

On a broader scale, your CRM can also segment customers into different groups based on common characteristics. Doing this will help to facilitate more targeted marketing communications toward each group, increasing the chances of a response from customers.

According to McKinsey, seven out of ten (71%) consumers expect personalization from brands and businesses, and 76% become frustrated when they don’t receive any. Personalizing communications on both the individual and mass scale will help you meet these expectations and improve marketing communication quality.

Step Seven: Generate Customer Service Reports

Our final step is to use the CRM system reporting features to gain insights on the customer support team’s key performance indicators.

Not only can you observe your department’s effectiveness as a whole, you can also monitor and benchmark individual reps’ activities to help identify the star players on your team.

Some essential customer service reports your CRM could generate on a team-wide or individual basis are:

  • Number of support requests
  • Average response time
  • Average handle time
  • First contact resolution rate
  • Customer satisfaction score
  • Customer wait time
  • Number of interactions per ticket
  • Number of cases by type

By reviewing customer service reports, your customer service or customer experience manager can improve customer service and cut down on inefficiencies. With careful monitoring and constant optimization, your business can leverage your CRM to build a new and improved customer service experience, day by day.


What is the best customer service CRM software?

The best customer service CRM software for your business will depend on your business’s budget and functional needs. Some popular CRM systems are Zendesk, Salesforce Service Cloud, HubSpot Service Hub, Freshdesk by Freshworks, Copper CRM, and Monday CRM.

How do I choose the best CRM software for my customer service needs?

To choose the right CRM system, start by defining your specific customer service goals and requirements. Consider factors like your budget, the size of your customer base, integration capabilities with existing systems, user-friendliness, and scalability. Customization and support options are also important factors to evaluate.

Research different CRM providers, read online reviews, and request demos to ensure the chosen CRM aligns with your business needs and goals. Most vendors have a free trial available, which you can use to test the CRM for yourself.

What are some best practices for using CRM for customer service?

Some best practices for using a customer service CRM are integrating all of your communication channels into the CRM, using AI and automation to speed up responses and workflows, and segmenting your customers for personalized messaging. 

Additionally, when integrating AI or automation into your customer service, a good rule of thumb is that your automation should enhance support provided by customer support employees, rather than replace them. Customers are still human, after all, and want human empathy and interaction when seeking help for their issues.

How can I measure the effectiveness of my customer service?

You can measure the effectiveness of your customer service by measuring your customer satisfaction ratings. Some aspects of customer satisfaction you could measure include your Net Promoter Score (NPS), Customer Effort Score (CES), attribute satisfaction score, and repurchase intention score. Similarly, you can look at customer retention rates, customer turnover, and customer loyalty to see if customers are happy enough with your service to come back again.