In today’s competitive marketplace, the key to successful business development is to build, manage and expand profitable relationships with existing and new customers. For this reason, Customer Relationship Management (CRM) has become key in the business world in the last few years. It’s not only important to implement CRM but the key is to doing it right.
If planned well, it makes companies more responsive and targeted in the way they interact with customers and also makes them informed about extending product and service offerings. The right CRM solution is meant to provide the best industry experience to their clientele.
How do you decide which solution best fits your company? There are multiple options available in terms of products and delivery methods. The only thing more important than utilizing the CRM is utilizing the right CRM for your specific business needs.
The following points can help you in selecting the right CRM solution for you –
- Functionality – Before reaching out to any vendors, spend some time to take a close look at the process improvements that is driving for a CRM solution or why you are re-evaluating your current CRM, if any. Instead of addressing the generic business processes, ask yourself the right questions in the specific business process improvement areas across Sales, Marketing and Customer Service. Create a simple, brief 1-2 page outline of your requirements – a prioritized needs and wants. We recommend getting the inputs from all the relevant stakeholders. Their input often crystallizes the many details that are so important to any key business initiative.
- Deployment – The appropriate CRM solution depends upon deployment models – whether on-premise, SaaS or a Hybrid model that combines both. A company may decide on the deployment model based on the different characteristics as depicted below.
|Software & Hardware||Reside with vendor||Reside at customer location|
|Ongoing Maintenance & Support||Vendor responsibility||Customer responsibility|
|IT Staff||Customer IT typically guides, but limited IT resource requirement||Customer IT has deeper involvement both upfront and ongoing|
|Upgrades||Free & ongoing||Paid & sporadic|
|Costs||Pay as you go fee structure per user/month.||Capital expenditure – Perpetual licenses and annual maintenance costs|
|Vendor Accountability||High. Service can be terminated with short cancellation clause||Low. Majority of fees paid up front|
|Implementation Time||Typically few weeks||Possibly months|
|Customization||Personalization by point‐to‐click Some vendors design are industry specific||Highly customizable|
|Access||Internet via a web browser, Mobile devise – anywhere, anytime||Via company network, VPN|
- Vendor – It is also important to select a vendor that has deep experience and is focused on helping customers achieve desired business outcomes. They need to back up their promises on four key areas
- Software Functionality – How to determine if the software is a good fit? Ask the vendor to do a fit-gap analysis by sharing your requirements that you captured in terms of needs and wants.
- Customer service – Any CRM company should understand the quality of service aspect and be well equipped to provide exceptional customer service. You should fully investigate all the available customer service options in terms of their approach to deployment, training, product documentation, phone and email support are vital.
- Industry Knowledge – What is each company’s track record in providing CRM solutions specific to your industry? This is a key differentiator as most of the CRM companies are off the shelf and not specifically designed for your industry. Their implementation and support personnel must try to understand and support your industry needs.
- Reputation – How do you validate their track record and reputation? Several actions are recommended: a. References, viewing vendors customer list are no brainers. b. View a sample contract or service agreement with key focus on payment terms, termination and liability clauses. Typically, the vendors contract are skewed in their favor. But, it will give you a perspective if they are difficult or reasonable to do business with. c. If going for a SaaS solution, ask the sales rep if you can speak with one or two technical teams to understand more on data facility, security etc.,
- Integrate well with back office and operational systems – What is most important is to determine the information and data elements that may need to be shared across the organization’s systems for best business results. The objective is to make sure that relevant timely information is accessible and usable by the right person in the right department at the right time, whether that is via a download, a dashboard or a report
Making the decision to implement CRM is not easy, but the payoff can be significant. By focusing on underlying business processes and cautiously assessing the choices available regarding deployment options, functionality, vendor experience and integration requirements, each organisation can drive successful business outcomes with CRM.