For any business, there comes a time when simply jotting down numbers and emails on a notepad isn’t enough. Enter Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software. Aptly named, CRM software is designed to manage how a company interacts with prospective and current customers. Whether it’s answering phone calls, sending out emails to make people aware of great deals, tracking and managing sales, or updating Facebook profiles and Twitter feeds, CRM software helps companies deepen their relationship with their customers, thus enhancing revenue, customer service, and overall operations. When shopping for the right CRM software, there are seven key factors to consider:
Having a budget for office equipment is a necessity for any business, and CRM software is no exception. Granted, CRM software can be costly—up to $2,000, according to some estimates—but the long-term benefits of a well-appointed solution should be worth the price. Some people make the mistake of only considering the price tag. Although that is understandable, since it’s the most visible cost of the software, there are other things to take into account. The software would have to be integrated into the computer network of the workplace, and you might need to customize it to your needs. Also, there may be a need to get additional equipment, such as desktop PCs, laptops or servers. Other additional costs include maintenance tasks, upgrades to the system and training staff to use the software. In most cases, the cost of performing many of the aforementioned steps come out of the same funds allotted for the initial payment.
You would also want to determine the level of necessity of having a CRM for your organization. You must have clearly-defined goals, then build your CRM around them. For instance, if the business is an auto dealership, and your concern is prompt replies to phone and email inquiries, you have to make sure that your CRM has a Business Development Center (BDC) feature that alerts you when one comes in—complete with response templates. Perhaps the best way to get a holistic view of what the objectives are is to start with going through each department, taking note of how each one generates, accesses, and stores data, then evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of each approach you encounter. Once you draw up a list of needs and wants, it will make it a lot easier to get a CRM solution that best helps the entire organization.
Sometimes it isn’t easy to get employees to warm up to new software. And that can happen when they have difficulty using it, or they think it’s too complex. Or they simply don’t want to be bothered with learning something entirely new. So, part of picking the right CRM software is gauging employee buy-in. Industry experts suggest a top-down approach to encourage that. Managers can take the lead by using the tool and demonstrating how it works to lower-level employees. Even better, someone can volunteer or be appointed as the “chief advocate” of the CRM system. Ideally, such a person should be highly knowledgeable and passionate about the software; such attributes are instrumental in helping co-employees overcome fears and misconceptions of learning and adopting the software in their day-to-day tasks.
Typically there are two types of CRM deployment approaches. One of the options is referred to as the on-site solution, which means that the software is installed on the company’s server. The other approach is called the on-demand solution, which usually involves a cloud-based CRM, or software as a service (SaaS); a third party usually provides this option. The on-site solution guarantees the higher level of security, more control over your data, and more customization and integration with other business applications. However, it can get very expensive to set it up and manage. On the other hand, cloud-based CRM software is less expensive and faster to implement, even if there is a lessened level of security or you have reduced control over data and customization. Ultimately, it’s up to you to determine what works best for your organization based on the aforementioned pros and cons.
Normally, CRM solutions are optimized for use on computers, which makes a lot of sense. After all, the average workplace relies on desktop computers, with the addition of laptops at workplaces with the work-at-home option. However, over the past couple of years, the number of people who use mobile devices with computing capabilities—like smartphones and tablet PCs—has increased. So, it would be helpful if you can access your CRM software from any device, and the solution has to be consistent in functionality. For instance, if you are not in the office, you should be able to respond to customer inquiries or other CRM features from your smartphone. And indeed, some CRMs enable such compatibility. Without that multi-platform support, your CRM is actually a bad investment.
Just like any other item you wish to buy, CRM solutions vary by brand—and by reputation. While some software brands are highly praised, there are others that are soundly criticized. So, it’s important to do your research on each CRM you are considering. You can check online for customer reviews on the product, making sure you pay special attention to the ones with a balanced, educated analysis. Also check out renowned print and online publications on the CRM industry for professional reviews or rankings. You can even visit the websites of the CRM manufacturers themselves, since they tend to provide comparisons between their products and that of competitors. It allows you to figure out which software has your desired features.
While people buy CRM software to help grow their businesses, it’s easy to forget that it should also grow with it. You should be able to come up with a multi-year plan to better gauge the long-term usefulness of your software. The ideal CRM should be able to address new concerns and goals, while ensuring the consistency of the organization’s decisions—year in, year out. The last thing you want to do is be forced to buy a replacement because the current one has proved to be inconsistent, inefficient or unpopular with its users. And speaking of users, the engagement of the employees is very important. The easier it is to understand how to use the software and the less customization efforts are needed, the longer the CRM is likely to stay with the business. For more personal feedback, you can seek advice from people who are using or have used CRMs, asking them to describe each product’s strengths and shortcomings.
About the Author:
Since 1995, CAR-Research XRM has been developing and evolving the standard in dealership CRM systems. Their ground-breaking XRM platform is a revolution in dealership CRM, communication, and database marketing that exceeds the boundaries of traditional CRM’s. They provide unsurpassed product support to help maximize the benefits of the XRM solutions, including an individual account manager, 24/7 technical support, free daily webinars, and more. You can reach them by phone at 888.799.6580 or online at www.carxrm.com.