A good Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system is key to successfully managing your customers, prospects, vendors and partners. Choosing the right system will allow you to improve your relationships, react to key trends, and ultimately grow your business.
But how do you make the right decision when there are so many different options out there?
We’ve highlighted ten things you need to consider when looking for your new system – if you follow this formula then you will be in a much better position to choose the best CRM software for your business.
Choose a CRM that does more than contact management
Customer Relationship Management has changed. Traditionally it was used as a tool by the sales team to manage contacts from ‘lead to opportunity to forecast’, but as new channels have emerged and buying habits have changed, CRM has become much more complex. You need a solution that can bring together your sales, marketing, customer service, order management, billing and finance.
These days, businesses need to avoid trying to manage multiple disparate solutions because they simply will not be able to provide the high level of service people now expect both in the B2C and the B2B world. Read more on this in our related blog post “Why CRM is no longer just CRM”.
A good CRM solution should work seamlessly with your other systems so make sure you either choose one that can integrate nicely with your other software, or choose one that can provide all of the functionality you need.
Choose a solution that can grow with you
It would be a mistake to choose a solution that suits you now, without considering your future needs. You don’t want to end up replacing the system in two years’ time because you have reached a user limit or because you can’t add the functionality you require.
As your company grows, so will your number of contacts, employees, and other important relationships. So it’s vital that you choose a solution that’s scalable.
It’s also a good idea to choose a solution that can offer extended functionality if and when it is required, such as financials and order management. Many of our clients, for example, start with NetSuite CRM to manage their leads, prospects, customers, partners and suppliers, and then turn on the financials and order management functionality at a later date.
Pick a solution that can be tailored to your business
Look for a CRM that can be customised to your needs. Many solutions, out of the box, will not fit in 100% with your operations so it’s best to find one where you are able to pick and choose the functionality you need. lt’s worth finding out if they offer any industry-specific solutions that have already been optimised for your sector.
Finding a more flexible CRM means you are only paying for what you actually need, and not for features that you will never use. A good solution will also allow you to add more functionality over time if and when it is required.
Look for reporting and analytics tools
One of the key benefits of using CRM software is that it gives you access to key information such as customer behaviour and real-time sales data. This means you’re aware of all opportunities and can create more effective sales and marketing campaigns.
And then there’s the historical data and key trends over time that allow you to react and remain competitive.
But this information is only of true value when you’re able to view it clearly and easily, in the way that you need it. So any CRM that doesn’t have easy-to-use dashboards, reporting and analytics tools is not worth the investment.
Understand the different options
Before you make your decision, make sure you understand all the differences between on-premise, hosted cloud and true cloud solutions:
On-premise – the software is purchased and installed on your own servers at your business premises. Some companies prefer on-premise software because they like to keep a tight control of their operations and they have an experienced IT department able to look after all of their IT, and keep their data secure.
Of course, the downside with on-premise software is that you are responsible for the maintenance, security, software upgrades, etc. With cloud software all of this is taken care of for you. If you are looking for anytime, anywhere access, flexibility and automatic upgrades, then the cloud is the way to go.
True cloud – these solutions were designed and built from the ground up to be delivered via the internet. They are flexible, customisable and are built to cope with large numbers of users with no drop-off in performance.
Hosted cloud – these applications have typically been built to be on-premise, but have been reworked so they can be delivered online. Whilst these do come under the definition of ‘cloud’, hosted solutions are often less flexible and trickier to upgrade than true cloud solutions. Read more about this in our related article Beware of ‘fake’ clouds.
Ask for reference customers
Make sure you find out if your chosen vendor has experience in your industry by asking for example case studies and references. By speaking to some of their customers, you can find out how the actual implementation has worked and how the software vendor has responded to challenges or problems.
Be sure to ask the following questions:
- How did the project go in terms of timeframe, budget and objectives?
- How smoothly did the implementation go?
- How well does it integrate with their other systems?
- How easy is the software to use?
- How have their staff adapted to the change? And are they all using it?
- Have they received high quality ongoing training and support?
- How many users do they have using the system? And have they been able to add new users easily?
- Was their system customised for their business in any way?
- Have they been able to add new functionality easily?
- How useful have the reporting and analytics tools been? And have they have been able to adapt based on these?
- What tangible benefits have they experienced since implementing the software?
- Would they choose the same vendor again?
Use an implementation partner
Many vendors are focused on initial implementations and don’t tend to provide a long-term, on-going relationship that can optimise your use of the CRM. This is where a partner comes in.
A partner takes care of many of the technical details for you, helping provide peace of mind that your project will be a success. They can help in the following ways:
- Less disruption to your business – your partner will have the experience and know-how to help make the project go as smoothly as possible.
- Ongoing training & support – guarantees your business receives the right level of training and support to help you and your staff make the most of your software, for as long as you need it.
- Software healthcheck – a partner can regularly review your company’s use of the technology to make sure it’s meeting your business goals, and suggest ideas for improvement.
- Recommendations to extend functionality – they can provide advice on how to extend the functionality of the software and recommend customisation strategies.
Make sure your vendor and/or partner offers training
High quality training is hugely important. If your staff don’t know how to use the system, then they are more likely to be resistant to the change and unwilling to use it properly. It also means they will make more mistakes, and then you’re not going to get the results you are looking for.
That’s why training is so important, so make sure either your vendor or your partner can offer this as part of the service. Also find out if this is offered on an ongoing basis.
Beware of vendor lock-in
One thing to watch out for is vendor lock-in. You don’t want to be stuck with a piece of software you’re not happy with simply because the process of moving would be too difficult.
Make sure you find out what happens at the end of the contract. Could you easily move your data out of the system if you wanted to? Does the vendor have data migration tools to help with this? Don’t forget to read the small print and ask about hidden charges.
When you are using a piece of software to store vital customer, prospect, partner and vendor information, you need to be confident that it’s safe.
When you choose an on-premise solution, it’s up to you to look after data privacy, encryption, intrusion detection, password policies, etc. So make sure your IT department is up to the task.
When you choose cloud-based software, all of this is taken care of for you. You get to benefit from enterprise-grade security which includes all the latest protections, updates and patches. However, be sure to check the vendor has the appropriate security certifications and procedures in place.
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I hope this has been a helpful walkthrough on choosing the best CRM software for your business. Please go ahead and share your tips in the comments box below.