A Customer Relationship Management (CRM) package can make a big difference to how a company operates. It can produce a single view of a customer or a supplier that everyone can share, and when it’s linked to your Unified Communications package it can produce real efficiencies in time and money.
The benefits of a good CRM package rely on you selecting the optimum CRM package for your business. If your choice of CRM package is wrong then you’ll never reap the rewards.
Choosing a CRM package is a four-stage operation:
Define your company’s business objectives and requirements, and set targets. Assess the desired functionality of your CRM system.
Choose your list of potential vendors.
Compare and trial of your preferred options
Deploy your favoured solution
This is the stage you need to spend the most time on. It’s the foundation of your CRM system and as any architect will tell you without the right groundwork your construction is liable to sink or fall over! Essentially you need to talk to everyone in the business, as everyone should be using the system.
CRM systems are only really effective if everyone has access to them, and everyone from your call centre operatives through to your MD uses them.
Ideally – time and money permitting – you should do both quantitative and qualitative analysis of the way your current users use their systems. If you can’t afford to employ someone to do the analysis, then put some time aside on the project to talk to the stakeholders yourself. Make sure that you talk to both the top and bottom in each department. Managers may tell you how they “think” the systems work but there’s no substitute for canvassing the opinions of the people who use it day in, day out.
Broadcast CRMs benefits
Defining the business objectives should also be an open process. It’s hard to get people to say what they want from a CRM system if they don’t know what a CRM system is all about. It’s a good idea to brief people on what CRM can do and where it can help before you ask them what they expect it to do. And it’s good to allow them a bit of blue sky thinking, no matter how mad it sounds. You never know, it could be that when you show the specification to your shortlisted candidates, one of them may have something in the pipeline that could do something similar.
If you’re going for some outside help, then this stage is the best place to get it.
A consultant can also identify the potential pitfalls in Stages Two through to Four, so that you won’t repeat common mistakes.
An expert consultant in CRM can probably save you time and a lot of pain and money in the future, by telling you what a CRM is really capable of, compared to what the manufacturer’s specification says it’s capable of.
Right on target
These days it’s all got to be quantifiable and measured so this is a good point to set your targets. It’s probably one of the hardest pieces of the puzzle, the secret is to not over or under promise on the system and to get your metrics right.
Metrics you could measure include;
- Improvement in customer satisfaction
- Better customer retention
- Increased visits or orders per customer per year
- Increased average spending per order or visit
- Greater efficiencies in direct marking
- Reduced time on customer calls.
Select and shortlist
You have your CRM foundations and your targets, now you need to track down the potential candidates and select a shortlist of candidates. There are many helpful CRM sites on the web that look at CRM in detail and these could help you create your first list of candidates. CRM information site CompareCRM.com (http://www.comparecrm.com/)1 has useful free tools to help you choose the right CRM solutions. Keep up-to-date with the latest trends and players in the market at MyCustomer (http://www.mycustomer.com/)1.
Shortlisting a CRM company shouldn’t really differ from the process behind shortlisting anything else, so;
- Analyse a company’s track record,
- Where possible talk to other customers
- Look at the long-term viability of the vendors.
The last step in this stage is to create a Request For Proposal (RFP) or a specification for what you want. The key part of a good RFP is to be as detailed as possible and to make sure that your RFP includes your current, as well as your future needs. Far too many companies don’t include enough about their future trends and this can be an expensive mistake – especially if you’re planning on a huge growth spree and you find that you need to replace everything you’ve just bought to grow in size by another 10 employees.
The final cut
You have your shortlist and your replies to your RFPs, now it’s time to start whittling them down to the final company.
At this point you should be looking at exactly how the solution will be implemented in your business right now and the running costs associated with the package in the future. Focus on;
- Implementation costs
- Potential security issues
- Backup requirements
- Maintenance and support fees
- Technical support and training
- Service level standards and guarantees.
Ideally you should also look at live trials of the CRM packages or compare demonstrations. Once you’re satisfied that you have all the answers from your shortlisted vendors you need to make the final decision.
There’s no right or wrong way to choose a vendor, if the price is right, the right level of support is there, you like the people, and you feel you can get on with the business and that it will scale with you then you should be fine.
A good tip at this point is to explore some ‘what ifs’ with your vendor and to get the answers written into your contract. The biggest ‘what ifs’ are: what if the vendor was to become insolvent, and what if we decide that we can no longer work with you. It may not happen, but if it does then you’ll have a pre-planned way out.
Ready, steady, go…
The final stage is to deploy the solution. Beware, it can be the most painful if you do it wrong. Make sure that you have sell-in from everyone and that everyone uses the system and wants to use the system. There’s always a worry with CRM that your sales people will keep hold of their ‘black books’ and that the really important information won’t get on to the system, or that some customers won’t appear at all.
The real key is to make sure that you get sell in from the top down and from the bottom up. Make sure that the CEO and MD use the systems and see the benefits of it at first hand and make sure that your call centre and sales people see the benefits as well, either from faster response times and/or happier customers.