A Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system becomes an essential tool for any business looking to upscale. With hundreds of spreadsheets, hopping from one document or system to another to find lead or customer data, or navigating among sales opportunities by checking scribbles on Post-it notes is no longer an option.
CRM software helps with your business organisation by:
- keeping track of your interactions with all customers,
- putting you in control of your sales and marketing efforts,
- maintaining strong relationships with existing customers,
- selling more products and services,
- improving communication between sales and marketing teams,
- finding and keeping new customers.
However, choosing the right CRM system to support your business needs requires much investigation. There are many solutions and technologies to choose from, but you also have to consider deployment options, ability to customize, cost, scalability, and business value, before deciding which system is right for you.
It’s important to carefully evaluate your business needs, then investigate the CRM system for functionality, scalability, ease of use, support options and budget requirements, as well as deciding if your business needs only some or all of the functions that a CRM solution offers.
We suggest following this simple guide to establishing if the system you are researching is right for your business.
Things to consider when choosing a CRM system
The most common mistake companies make when deciding on a CRM system is evaluating vendors based on functionality, instead of concentrating on their own business priorities.
Before you start evaluating CRM vendors, ask yourself these questions:
- What are the most inefficient processes in our business and what do we want to improve with a CRM system?
- What operational processes and workflows do we lack?
- Who in our company is going to use CRM? How many users do we have?
- What other software do we want to integrate with a CRM system?
- What is our budget?
Once you’ve answered these questions, you can start to narrow down what you want in a CRM.
Here are eight areas you should take into account when choosing a CRM system.
- CRM deployment: Cloud vs. On-site
Both solutions have pros and cons.
With a Cloud or SaaS solution, you don’t need a server or technical expertise on your side. You simply log into the cloud-based CRM in your Internet browser and you’re ready to go. All information resides on the vendor’s server.
However, you must be online at all times. If your Internet connection fails, you will not be able to access your data.
With an On-site solution, you own the software and it is hosted physically at your location. You will have direct access to the servers if you want to integrate with other customer applications. Moreover, you won’t have to deal with recurrent subscription charges.
However, you will need to have in-house IT personnel and purchase the necessary hardware and software, as well as incur higher upfront costs.
The key is choosing a CRM system that is flexible and is able to evolve with your business.
- Know what features and functionality you need
Your business is unique in terms of its processes, customer base and growth dynamics, so committing to a set of standard, basic or inflexible functions unwise. You need a scalable CRM solution.
As your business grows, so will your CRM needs. That’s why you need to make sure that the CRM solution you choose can be easily upgraded to the next more sophisticated version.
Often CRM software comes with a lot of functions that need to appeal to a wide spectrum of businesses. However, your business might not need or use those functions.
According to Software Advice, first-time CRM buyers often overestimate what features they actually need.
You need to know if everyone in your company needs all the bells and whistles the system can offer. This also applies to the number of users in your company. Perhaps, different users need different user plans. Thus, sales departments might need a CRM with an advanced sales set and a possibility to use CRM on their mobile devices; while your communication team may need to only use the marketing-related functionality.
Stay away from “one-size-fits-all” solutions; instead, choose the CRM that can adapt to your needs.
- Make sure the system integrates with other applications
This is one of the most important things to consider when choosing a CRM for your business. The point of a CRM system is to help you streamline operations. That’s why you need to ensure that the CRM system can integrate with other applications you already have.
Your CRM software should seamlessly integrate with an ERP or other accounting software, a HR software, your own website and web forms to import new leads, billing and eCommerce platforms to register transactions, as well as marketing solutions.
Make sure that you are able to easily migrate your existing contact data into your new CRM software. Most CRM systems will allow you to import data from other sources. Also, check whether you can export information from your CRM software.
- Request a demonstration and test drive a free trial
You should have a trial run with any new software. The best solution is to start with a live (or online), personalized demonstration and then move onto a free trial.
During a live demo session, a salesperson walks you through the software and shows you how to use it. Then, you can ask specific questions related to your business needs. You can test the system for its strengths and weaknesses and determine how the solution supports various departments or hinders them.
You should invite at least two vendors to the table, so you are able to compare the CRM offerings.
- Choose an industry-specific vendor with local partners
Your industry may be very specific. That’s why it’s a good idea to look for a CRM vendor who has worked with companies and industries which are similar to yours.
If you choose a system that is generic and then try and adapt it to your needs, you will fail – miserably – and you will not retain the talent in your industry who want to learn and expand in their career, not fight with unworkable systems.
Another thing you need to consider is the vendor’s local partner network.
Most European businesses want to have a local partner to provide local support during and after the CRM implementation. If this is important to you, then it makes sense to look into the vendor’s partner network.
- Does the vendor have local partners?
- Do these partners only implement CRM or can they also offer business consulting?
- How much CRM experience does the local partner have, what is their certification status and how many implementations have they been involved with?
- Check whether customization and training are available
A CRM solution is no good if it’s not properly configured or if your staff isn’t trained to use the features. So, when you’re asking for a price, make sure to ask how much it will cost to configure the solution to your needs and to personalize training sessions – not just online tutorials.
A CRM system should complement your business and reflect your sales process, your marketing strategy, your customer service activities, and your contact management routines. That’s why you should choose a system that is easy to configure.
Training is one of the most important factors of smooth CRM adoption. It should be an on-going, user-specific hands-on experience so that everyone knows how to use the software to increase their efficiency.
Being it group, individual or role-based, CRM training not only shows how the system works but also how everything is connected and how a user contributes to the general organizational workflow. Training helps everyone work together towards a common goal.
- Pay attention to user experience
One of the most crucial criteria for choosing a CRM system is its usability and if it really helps.
Is it intuitive or is there something that irritates you or slows you down?
For example, you can ask the vendor to show you how many clicks it takes to do a specific task. As you watch, ask yourself: How effective (and enjoyable) is the user interface? Are the buttons labelled clearly? Is the flow of actions logical?
When you are watching a demo or testing out a CRM system, make sure to evaluate the system’s user interface, as well as its ease of use.
- Make sure the system has GDPR features
GDPR functionality in a CRM is essential. With GDPR now in effect, your customers’ data and where it’s stored is more important than ever before.
Having a GDPR-ready CRM system helps you manage customer data more efficiently.
For example, if your customer wants to be removed from your database, you need to be able to honour their request and send a confirmation of the deletion. Or, if your customer requests an electronic report of all data you store on them in your CRM, you’ll need to be able to generate that report for each customer individually.
A one-click solution will save you time and resources, instead of manually removing the customers’ data from multiple sales, marketing and customer service databases, or painstakingly sifting through various resources and double-checking what data you store on them and where – all of which way too often leads to human error.
These are just a few examples of the GDPR-related actions that you must be able to perform in your CRM solution.
Without GDPR-specific features, you run the risk of failing to comply.
Choosing the right CRM solution for your business can take time, however, if you focus on the needs of your business, usability and budget, you should find a solution that supports your business needs and helps you grow.
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