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Investing in a CRM solution? Wait...and first read these 9 pointers

8th Jun 2015
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In the plan of getting a CRM for your business? Good decision!

Experts have advocated and several case studies bear testament to the fact that introducing a CRM system in the business results into several benefits. Most important of which is the collection, organization and analysis of the vast chunks of data that is constantly getting streamed from a variety of sources. Imagine how free has the marketing, sales and customer service representatives become who are now no longer clogged up in the grunt work of data entry and can dedicatedly concentrate on the more productive tasks.

Quoting the words of Brad Egeland (Business Solution Designer, consultant and author with over 25 years of software development, management, and project management experience) “CRM is a widely implemented model for managing a company’s interactions with customers, clients, and sales prospects. It involves using technology to organize, automate, and synchronize business processes - principally sales activities, but also those for marketing, customer service, and technical support. The overall goals are to find, attract, and win new clients; nurture and retain those the company already has; entice former clients back into the fold; and reduce the costs of marketing and client service.” In spite of such benefits associated with CRM, shockingly 65 percent of CRM projects fail. Why? Business Data suggests that for any business to reap the fruits of CRM and taste its real success – it is essential that it chooses the 'right CRM'. By right CRM we mean how suitable is the application for the business.

Understand: The present market consists of 240+ CRM vendors struggling for the buyers' attention. These CRMs include both the renowned names built primarily for the large-scale enterprises and small budding CRM providers catering to mid to small-sized business market.

Whose CRM suits your business is the million dollar question?

And this is exactly where majority of the businesses falter. That's because their approach to buying a CRM solution is similar to that of an IT purchase procedure. Businesses need to understand that since CRM connects to all aspects of the process and is more of a business-based application than technical-based, they need to give equal importance to three areas: 1. product 2. vendor 3. internal process. Factors like CRM delivery models and support framework should be taken into consideration. By merely focusing on the features will never lead to the desired solution. Instead, it will shift the focus from the business critical aspects to the technical aspects which actually comes as secondary. Therefore, businesses need to start with issues like vendor roadmaps and experience in vertical markets before moving onto the next stage which is CRM features. Narrowing down the list of CRM choices based on product, vendor and internal process is tricky. To sail through it smoothly – you need to follow a calculated and well-planned approach. An example of which is provided below:


The Crucial 9 Elements

Judging the CRM and the vendors on these parameters will make you understand the pros and cons of each and help in zeroing in on the right candidate:

1. Ease of Use

You really do not want to go in for a cumbersome CRM application that calls for months of training. Do you? It will not just take up your time but also be hard on your pocket. Moreover, research data suggests that 'ease of use' acts as the determining factor of how well will employees adopt the application. So if you introduce an awkward or unwieldy application – in all likelihood you will face a tough time in getting it implemented across the organization. Rather if you choose an intuitive CRM that has a simple and clean interface, it will foster quick user adoption and show you the results fast.

2. Cloud and Mobile

Living in the Age of the Customer – it has become essential to cater to their needs 24x7. And this is only possible when you have a cloud based CRM solution that offers instant access from any internet-enabled device. Using which you can interact with the customers, respond to their requests and serve them promptly from any location and time. In addition to this, some CRM providers have extended their offerings further with IoS and Android app functionality. Getting these CRMs will always put you and your team in a more favorable and competitive position. Hence, make sure that you choose CRM solution that is paired up with cloud and mobile capabilities.

3. Customization

There is no one-size-fits-all CRM solution – Period. Every business is unique and to meet the demands of all, a CRM vendor needs to make his solution customizable enough to incorporate the required changes. That explains why the best of CRMs in town offer comprehensive customization options in the form of – templates, add-ons and plugins. Using these, you get the convenience to easily customize the CRM in a manner that reflects your business needs. And this precisely helps you in meeting your long-term business goals as well.

For instance, to expect that your business will remain stagnant and not bear a different shape and model five years down the line will be outrightly a myth. Hence, in consideration of this fact, it's advisable that you choose a CRM solution that is pliable, grows with you and remains aligned to your dynamic business goals. So even if a few years later, you need to add invoice generation capability within the CRM, you should not have a tough time doing that. The CRM should allow you to add functionalities/modules as per what the situations demand.

4. Training

As mentioned earlier, organization-wide adoption of the CRM acts as one of the major drivers of its success. In lieu of this fact, many top CRM vendors provide the provision of training. Make sure to inquire that the CRM vendor you choose offers training or not. And if yes, then whether the training is given on-site or off-site and web based or manual. Remember, the training sessions will be the time when the CRM usage practices will be taught to your employees. If during that course of time, the knowledge does not get properly instilled within their minds, then CRM usage will become a chore and your business will never be able to get the most out of the tool.

5. Product Enhancement

This is a new-entry into the list of CRM selection parameters. While earlier, businesses have never given much attention to this aspect, experts of today emphasize upon this pointer. Reason being – that using a third-party solution often puts the businesses at the risk of bugs and disruptions. Moreover, it's not possible to change a CRM every other year. Hence, majority of the renowned CRM providers keep upgrading their product by adding functionalities and modules as per the new industry trends and services. This is done to keep the customer satisfactions level high and meet the dynamic needs of their businesses. The CRM vendor you choose should offer product upgrades on similar lines at regular intervals. In addition to the product upgrades, it should have routine procedures of bug fixes and patches.

(Hint: Go for a CRM provider that also takes the onus of handling system upgrades during times of low usage)

6. Open APIs

Ensure that the CRM solution you choose has open APIs and takes care of third-party system integration comfortably. This will make it easy for you to integrate all your existing in-house business systems like accounting, invoice, order processing, Gmail and Outlook within the CRM. Instead of toggling among ten different applications, you will get the benefit of streamlined and consolidated data in one common and updateable repository of CRM. Sharing of information will happen seamlessly which will keep your operations smooth and transparent.

7. Cloud based CRM instead of on-premise CRM

In today's time when your business demands undivided time and effort, opting for on-premise CRM systems implies that your IT staff will be mostly engaged in the maintenance and security of the system. During the course of CRM implementation, your IT staff will have to acquire special certification to work upon the CRM product. All this calls for more time and huge budget! On the contrary, Cloud based CRM software entails no such miscellaneous expenses. At a reasonable monthly service fee, your vendor assumes the responsibility of the security and maintenance of the CRM system, while you and your entire staff can focus on other crucial aspects.

8. Security Measures

Going with a cloud CRM vendor that does not have adequate security measures will always put your business at high risk. To avert this element of 'risk' to hover in your mind always – it's prudent that you choose a vendor that offers: fire detection system suppression and networking systems cooling systems network engineers for round-the-clock security controlled data center accessibility required encryption level. Note: By choosing a vendor that offers the above-mentioned provisions, your business will remain protected from hassles like data breach or data loss. Issues like highly-sensitive client information getting leaked out will never crop up.

9. Support

Inquire about the level of support that the CRM vendor will provide you. Focus on pointers, namely: Will there be a basic or advanced level of support provided to the business? What will be the response time of the vendor, once a support ticket is submitted? What are the channels of customer support (Phone or/and email) Will a generic customer support representative or experienced system engineer interact with the client? Is there a limit to the number of free support given? If yes, what will be the additional charges later?

Final Thoughts

Experts perceive CRM to be a one time investment. To make sure that your first CRM sticks to your business throughout – you need to be right at the first shot itself. And this can only happen when you have a clear vision of the CRM and its essential parameters. So instead of wasting anymore time, understand the above-mentioned pointers and get onto the field with all the essential queries listed in your requirement list. Best of Luck!


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