In the fast paced world in which our businesses currently operate, customer relationships often determine the success or failure of a company. As such, organizations must prioritize these relationships and how they are managed. One of the best ways to accomplish this daunting task is to employ customer relationship management software, or CRM. See the below steps detailing how to choose a CRM.
For businesses both large and small, the practice of tracking customers through piles of paper and Excel spreadsheets is quickly becoming a thing of the past. Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems make it possible to not only record key customer information such as addresses and phone numbers, but also to track correspondence, sales pipeline data, and financial metrics. A good CRM system goes even further as it enables companies to design and deliver targeted marketing campaigns and to generate a meaningful cost-benefit analysis for each initiative.
As more and more businesses have realized the benefits of CRM systems, vendors have flooded the market with products designed to expand on traditional methods of customer tracking and marketing campaigns. CRM systems have become so widespread that providers have entered niche markets with software designed for specific industries or based on company size. Hundreds of options can seem overwhelming and make it difficult to pick the right solution. Use these strategies to help you find the CRM software that is best for your business.
A great way to narrow your search for the best CRM software is making use of online reviews. Several reputable business publications release impartial reviews of CRM systems and typically provide extensive additional information. For example, Business News Daily is a website focused on providing help and solutions for small businesses. The site’s reviews include pros and cons for some of the most popular CRM systems along with an exhaustive list of CRM software vendors. If you’re starting from the very beginning, review sites that aggregate and compare several systems will save time and make you aware of options you might not have found on your own.
CRM Industry Conferences
Many popular CRM software companies such as Salesforce, SAP and WorkWise sponsor conferences for their current users and businesses looking to purchase CRM systems. Held all over the world, these conferences cover other valuable business tools and strategies while highlighting the strengths of their proprietary products. An added feature of conference attendance is access to experts in the CRM and marketing fields who use test cases to help leverage the system you choose for the most benefit.
Network with CRM Experts and Colleagues
Networking groups are an excellent source of information when it comes to choosing the best CRM software for your company. Whether you belong to groups based on the size of your business or your specific industry, learning from others who have successfully implemented CRM systems is a great way to research the vast number of options. Many vendors are skilled at selling you on certain features of their products, but there’s no better resource than someone who’s actually put those features into action to recommend or endorse a particular product. Business colleagues who have gone through the search process themselves are much more likely to point out limitations and pitfalls of certain systems along with their advantages.
Customer relationship management involves any communication with customers or potential customers. However, since not all businesses are the same, different features will be important for each organization, and some will not apply. Use a checklist to see the available parts of CRM, and write down the ones that are of interest. Then, rank the features in order of importance to the company. This list creates a starting point for the search.
Once the desired features are selected, go a step further and pick the ones necessary for the company. Look specifically at currently unattained goals a CRM solution could help reach, needs from now to five years in the future, and the systems ability to grow with the organization.
During this step, evaluate the cost and benefit of the program. When considering price, keep in mind any server upgrades, maintenance, access costs, and licensing. Look at the customization options of different systems. Many CRMs are industry specific and can be tailored to fit each company’s niche. Think about integration. How easy will it be to incorporate the new CRM to the current workflow? List ways the CRM will improve the company’s productivity and performance.
Don’t forget to look at after purchase support. Ensure that the CRM has excellent customer service ratings to back up their product. Research to find out whom is responsible for repairing issues and the average response time. Also, look at the available training for employees.
Assess CRM’s Impact
After gathering requirements for the company, assess how the CRM will fit. This step ensures full utilization of the features selected. A CRM with an impressive list of capabilities will be ineffective if they are not put to use across the organization. Speak with industry contacts and colleagues about customer relationship management software they use or have used. Take an inventory of what worked and what didn’t to include in the assessment. Develop an ideal workflow to present to CRM designers. They can then tell if their product can accomplish the workflow envisioned, or suggest modifications.
Choose Top Contenders
By now, a few top CRM companies should rise to the top as the best candidates. Choose a few of them and request free trials of the software. Evaluate each according to the same criteria, such as, ease of use, flexibility, and desired features. Run tests based on real world data, and ask the opinions of select individuals who will be utilizing the software.
Keep in mind the cost of each option and the benefits they offer. Perhaps one is more costly, but has superior customer service, or has the flexibility to adapt quickly to changes should they arise. Also, keep in mind future costs, including costs to add features later or added costs due to a larger customer base.
The steps taken to decide how to choose CRM software should not be frustrating or confusing. There are many resources available to assist in obtaining an understanding of CRM, selecting features, and comparing companies. Take full advantage of the tools, and make sure to ask questions during the evaluation process. As the developers of customer relationship management software, customer relationships should be at the forefront of their business!
See how CRM systems like Salesforce CRM, Microsoft Dynamics CRM, Sage CRM and more stack up across the most important requirements.
When taken together, these strategies will help you diligently conduct research while also narrowing the field of CRM systems that are best suited to your company. A CRM system can be a big investment, and the process of choosing the right one can be key to its success.