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Six key requirements when buying CRM

25th Feb 2015
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Over the last 10 years, the objectives for implementing a CRM system have changed dramatically. Traditionally a CRM system was used by companies to simply collect and manage customer data, however as the customer continues to become more connected, the focus on ‘customer relationship management’ has transitioned and has become a strategy for customer engagement.

The CRM is no longer just a database of information, it now needs to meet the needs of a customer who is wanting to connect with a business across multiple channels and be able to provide relevant and up to date information to multiple departments across a business.

If achieved, implementing the right CRM solution can completely transform the way an organisation interacts with the customer whilst improving operational efficiency and thus significantly reducing costs.

This may sound straight forward, but many businesses are struggling to find a solution that easily enables them to achieve all of their objectives. This has grown as a problem within the industry over the last decade, as more and more providers offer “CRM” solutions, but either provide overly complex systems with endless features and functions or they offer only specific elements of a CRM meaning the business will then have to add additional functionality from other providers.

Two main problems business face when looking to procure a new CRM is not only the task of choosing the right solution, but also implementing it correctly to ensure it improves customer engagement and achieves corporate objectives across the business. Here, I've outlined what I think are the top six requirements a business should consider when buying, renewing or updating their CRM system to help businesses overcome this procurement challenge.

1. Cost-effective Cloud-based CRM

As with any enterprise initiative, CRM still requires a compelling business case in order to get the nod, especially in the midst of a difficult economic climate. However, with a cloud based solution, organisations are able to choose flexible pricing structures by paying for the number of user licenses needed and automatically receive software updates when available rather than having to pay additional costs or wait until contract renewal.

2. Scalability to grow with your business

Today CRM systems can boast a plethora of functionality and tools, however on many occasions businesses only need a small percentage of the functionality but are forced to pay for the full package. This is not only an expensive approach, but the complexity of the system often causes inefficiencies in productivity. Procuring a flexible CRM that can scale with your business by turning on and off features depending on the changing business processes, means the business is only paying for the licenses and functionality that they need, when they need it.

3. User friendly and intuitive

CRM systems often have one user interface for all users with endless tabs, menus and dashboards which often results in a high level of complexity and different departments within the business struggling to efficiently reach the data they require. Therefore choosing a CRM with an intuitive and user friendly interface that can be changed to suit different departments or teams, is key so that the system can adapt to suit departmental processes and business workflows.

4. Flexibility and customisation

Due to inflexible off-the-shelf CRM systems, many businesses are forced to alter their business processes to fit around their CRM functionality, causing major inefficiencies and unnecessary complexity. The CRM system needs to include a level of flexibility so it can be tailored around your business and can be customised to work the way you want it to. Although many providers say they offer this level of customisation, often this means the project will incur higher costs through third party customisation, resulting in a complex, expensive CRM implementation. A key requirement, therefore is to procure a solution from a supplier who can customise the solution as part of the project and within budget.  

5. Integration with all back office systems

If the CRM is to be used as a customer-centric tool for use across the entire business, integration with existing back office systems such as accounts, marketing, support and ERP will be a key requirement. Whilst many businesses boast integration expertise, this often comes with additional third party costs that prolongs the project deployment by weeks, if not months, and incurs additional high costs. Ensure the CRM solution can integrate with existing systems easily and doesn’t include outsourcing or extra consultancy as part of the implementation.

6. Reports and analytics

The CRM is the central hub for all customer data and is therefore a key place to create and manage reports for multiple departments. However, many CRM systems can only generate rigid template based reports that don’t provide the business with the information they need. Ensure the CRM solution can provide customised reports and can pull data from across the organisation to build a more holistic view rather than departmental data analysis. 

It is clear that whilst procuring a CRM system used to be relatively straight forward, there are now many more providers out there who are offering many different approaches to implementation. However, considering these six key requirements can help organisations successfully implement a cost-effective, flexible and intuitive CRM system that helps achieve all of their customer engagement and departmental objectives.

Polly Elliott is marketing manager at mplsystems.


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