As the old business maxim goes, ‘if you don’t get to know your customers, then someone else will’.
Precise information on your customers is key to retaining their business and CRM software is used by many successful companies to this end. There’s a strong business case for CRM, but where do you get started?
What do you need?
Choosing the right package isn’t easy as there are so many CRM software solutions on offer and one size doesn’t fit all. Questions you need to ask include: What do I need that I haven’t got? And what customer information do I struggle with as a company and from department to department? Talk to your staff, managers and find out what knowledge they need at their fingertips. Imagine how your business would ideally operate and then work backwards until you get to the information you would require to achieve that state of play. CRM software is sophisticated stuff, so don’t put your dreams on hold.
Finding the right package
With your needs established you can now hunt down the right package but don’t start at the shop. Gain some impartial and well-informed advice first. Conversations with other businesses are useful, although their needs may differ greatly from yours so don’t jump in after one recommendation. Independent advisers or consultants are available who can then arrange for meetings with CRM software sellers, once they have established your needs. However, check their references and client history to ensure they really know their stuff.
Areas to consider
Integration You aren’t buying a stand-alone product and it must fit seamlessly with your other office products, such as accountancy software. Ask to see demonstrations before buying.
Customisation Most new CRM software solutions can be customised to your needs precisely so you should be able to get one that suits you. However, US-made products may be problematic if they are designed with an American audience in mind – so be careful.
Complexity ‘As simple as possible but no simpler’ is the rule here, just focus on what you need and ensure the package is sophisticated enough to deliver it.
Functionality In other words, you have to use it, as do your staff. If your call centre staff need to get an MSc first then it isn’t user friendly.
Server-based or hosted Hosted applications available online are very popular and you also get to pay monthly. However you tend to find more customisation with server-based packages and they might be more cost-effective over time.
Set-up and training It can take time to bring CRM software solutions fully into play and staff will need to be trained. The provider will usually do this but the details need to be fully-established before the deal is made.
Reseller networks They will usually provide a complete package of provision, installation, maintenance and service giving you one point of contact for all CRM concerns.
Added costs Don’t forget about upgrades, access payments (per-user), installation fees, licence fees (usually one-off) and any other costs that will raise the advertised figure.
Main players Once you are convinced of the business case for CRM and feel sufficiently informed then you are ready to buy. The main providers of CRM software are: Sage, Microsoft, NetSuite, Salesforce.com, Goldmine, Maximizer, Gold-Vision, Siebel and Sap.