IT Director David Ainsley (left) and E-Bike Program Manager Rob Latham (right) view customer relationship management technology as vital meeting Call2Recycle's mission.

Jun 15 2023

How Small Organizations Get Bigger with Customer Relationship Management Tech

As businesses build relationships, CRM is an indispensable tool.

The organization that operates the country’s largest consumer battery recycling program doesn’t recycle any batteries itself. Instead, the Atlanta-based nonprofit Call2Recycle contracts with sorting facilities, recycling companies and more than 23,000 sites where consumers drop off their old batteries.

For Call2Recycle, which is primarily funded by more than 200 battery and battery-powered product manufacturers, meeting the mission is all about managing relationships. And that’s why customer relationship management software is crucial to its operations.

“We track our day-to-day interactions with our stakeholders in the CRM,” says Rob Latham, who runs Call2Recycle’s e-bike program and formerly managed its IT operations. “We also use the marketing function of the platform regularly to communicate with our network.”

Call2Recycle deployed Microsoft Dynamics 365 as a unified CRM and enterprise resource planning (ERP) tool. With data centralized, the 35-person staff uses the cloud-based solution to resolve problems faster, onboard collection sites more efficiently, and communicate with its service providers and customers. Latham says Microsoft Dynamics 365 “allows everyone in our organization to have visibility into what’s going on. Without it, there would be so many spreadsheets that it would be a nightmare.”

WATCH the slideshow below to learn why CRM technology improves the customer experience.

    Why CRM Tools Are Vital for Growth

    When small businesses and nonprofits are just starting out, it’s common for them to maintain customer information in spreadsheets or Google Docs. As they grow, however, that becomes untenable. That’s when cloud-based CRM software from companies like Microsoft, Oracle, Salesforce and Zendesk become vital.

    CRM tools enable organizations to manage their sales, marketing and customer service operations. The software offers a full view of customers, including sales history; interactions; and visibility into sales leads, opportunities and customer service requests, says Forrester Research analyst Kate Leggett.

    “It’s a foundational tool that your front office can use to manage customer interactions, view where customers are in their journey, strengthen the relationship and keep them loyal, which impacts your revenue,” she says.

    David Bergeron suggests that businesses deploy CRM early on because it’s easier to implement business processes when companies are still young and growing. Bergeron did just that as president of T3 Advisors, a national commercial real estate consulting firm.

    “It’s harder to implement change later, especially when you start having success as an organization, and momentum really matters,” he says.

      Latham Headshot
      We track our day-to-day interactions with our stakeholders in the CRM.”

      Rob Latham E-Bike Program Manager, Call2Recycle

      How CRM Tools Unify Siloed Customer Data

      Four years ago, Call2Recycle had outgrown its standalone ERP and CRM tools, which siloed accounting, supply chain and customer data. The nonprofit, which supports the collection and recycling of nearly 8 million pounds of single-use and rechargeable batteries each year, wanted a unified solution to help staff manage operations more efficiently and respond to customers’ needs faster, Latham says.

      Call2Recycle standardized on Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central, Dynamics 365 Sales and the Microsoft Power Platform, all cloud-based software, according to IT Director David Ainsley.

      Ainsley spent a year and a half migrating data from its on-premises ERP and CRM tools to Microsoft’s cloud solution. Both the legacy and new software ran simultaneously until he completed the data migration and was able to cut over fully to Microsoft.

      “It was challenging,” Ainsley says. “We worked a lot of extra hours to keep the project on track, but we got it done.” Now, every department (including customer support, marketing and operations) uses the software. The CRM capabilities, combined with strong back-end integration with ERP tools, give the organization one centralized tool to manage the business, from customer relationships, billing and vendor invoicing to tracking the entire battery collection, sorting and recycling process, Latham says.

      In addition, Microsoft Power Apps and Microsoft Power Automate allow Call2Recycle to automate workflows and build low-code custom apps that connect to back-end data. They also allow the organization to quickly ramp up new programs and services, such as its e-bike battery recycling program, which launched in 2021, Latham says.

      Linda Gabor
      We provide transparency on key program milestones and send timely updates on regulatory developments.”

      Linda Gabor Executive Vice President of External Relations, Call2Recycle

      Call2Recycle used Power Apps to build a portal site, allowing bike shops and other organizations to sign up to become collection sites. They can take a required recycling training course and order collection kits through the portal.

      All of that information is fed into the CRM system and integrated into the ERP tool. Latham views the portal as an extension of Call2Recycle’s CRM capabilities because it simplifies and speeds up the onboarding process for collection sites.

      The nonprofit uses the Microsoft Power BI data visualization tool to build and share reports on how many batteries are being recycled each month, how its dealer network is performing and how many new collection sites have signed up.

      “We send out quarterly updates to ensure our programs stay on the manufacturers’ radar,” says Linda Gabor, Call2Recycle’s executive vice president of external relations. “We provide transparency on key program milestones and send timely updates on regulatory developments.”

      READ MORE: Learn how to improve customer satisfaction with intelligent customer experience.

      CRM Tools Increase Project, Relationship Visibility

      T3 Advisors, which is now a Savills company, standardized on Salesforce for sales and marketing. The software enables large, distributed teams to coordinate and manage their communication with existing clients and prospects, says Bergeron, who recently left T3 Advisors to start a new real estate firm, ReSeed Partners. 

      “Salesforce gives us a central repository of the current status of relationships,” he says. “It’s a project management and status update tool that allows us to focus our time and effort. It prevents redundancy and makes sure we are organized in the management of growing the business.”

      T3 also uses Salesforce to track marketing campaigns and customer engagement. Staff tracks the events people are invited to and whether they attended. The company also sends industry reports to clients and uses Salesforce to track if they engaged with the emails, says Bergeron.

      “If we create content such as return-to-work trends or local market reports and want to push that content across our network of clients and prospects, it helps us filter those relationships and send the relevant content to the right people,” he says.


        The percentage of enterprises that use or plan to use CRM technology.

        Source: Forrester, “The State of CRM,” 2022

        Simple CRM Add-Ons Can Improve Customer Experience

        Modern CRM solutions also make it easy for businesses to integrate advanced add-ons that allow businesses to deepen their business relationships. For example, online eyewear retailer integrated an artificial intelligence-driven chatbot and interactive voice response (IVR) system to its Zendesk CRM solution.

        The New York-based company prides itself on delivering a great customer experience when people shop for and order new prescription glasses and sunglasses online.

        “We have to understand where our customers want to be met,” says Doron Pryluk, the company’s senior vice president of customer experience.

        When Pryluk joined in 2021, it was already offering live online chats and phone calls with customer service agents. But through customer interviews and analytics, Pryluk learned that most people prefer self-service options to live phone calls, so the company used an application program interface to connect the AI chatbot and IVR system to Zendesk.

        The technology can assist customers with common questions and requests, such as uploading prescriptions, getting status updates on orders, processing returns and cancellations, and getting itemized receipts for insurance claims, Pryluk says.

        At any point, customers can switch to live agents via chat or on the phone. When agents talk to shoppers live, they can get a full view of the relevant customer data through Zendesk and other applications. Since installing the tools, has reduced live incoming calls by two-thirds and is resolving customer issues three times faster, Pryluk says.

        “We have not hurt the customer experience or customer satisfaction,” he says. “It’s proven extremely beneficial in terms of us becoming more efficient, reducing costs and allowing our agents to focus on supporting more complicated calls.”

        EXPLORE: How to avoid pitfalls when implementing a customer-centric management system.

        Photography By Ben Rollins

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