Mar 5, 2012 by Aaron Rubman
Customer Relation Management solutions can range from an online Rolodex with note taking capability to an integrated suite of marketing, sales, and customer service that predicts future needs based on customer behavior alongside a record of all communication (and scheduled communication). Picking the right solution for your business can be a major undertaking. The following considerations will help you separate the wheat from the chaff.
The first step in picking the best CRM is knowing what your business needs it to do.
- What problem(s) do you need a CRM solve?
- How many people will use the system?
- What business roles are you trying to integrate? Have you asked other users what their needs are?
- Does your business fall into a clear niche?
Customer contact tracking suffices for most solopreneurs. Once you have a team some form of shared database becomes more important, specialist providers can help you with industry specific capabilities, and advanced functions can become invaluable if you have the staff to support them.
Once you know what you need, look at what CRMs that meet those needs have to offer.
- Can you create your own process within the CRM?
- Can you integrate data from your existing software into the solution?
- How scalable is the solution? Can it support expected growth, or would you need to change to another system in a few years?
- Are there mechanisms in place to measure how well the system delivers on your goals?
- Is the interface easy for you and your colleagues to understand?
Once you’ve sketched out the kind of functionality you’ll need, leverage existing research to see what’s out there. The free 120-page CRM report at www.business-software.com opens with a spreadsheet detailing which functions are included in each of the 40 most popular systems.
Integrating a CRM with Social Media is very powerful, but also resource intensive for a small company.
- Do you have sufficient staff to maintain a regular social media presence?
- Will you be able to plan specific social media campaigns?
- Can you dedicate the resources to build a campaign around shared interests?
- Do you have an array of team members who can directly address specific customer concerns in the moment?
- Will your efforts be seen as an invasion of privacy by your customer base?
Social CRM can add a lot of depth to what you know about your customers as individuals and in aggregate, but it also requires a heavy commitment, both in terms of interaction and in time spent making sense of the newly available data. If you don’t have a large enough team to route FB posts or Tweets to relevant area specialists it can be more of a burden than a benefit.
Ease of Implementation
There is an advantage to using a system you can setup and troubleshoot at all hours, even if it has less overall functionality.
- Can you install and initiate the system yourself? Is support available if you encounter issues? 24-hours, or only at certain times?
- Do you need to use particular systems (like Linux or WindowsNT) to make the solution work? More importantly, does it conflict with any database that you already use?
- Can you reach the system from any computer on the internet (and do you need to do so)?
- Can you reach the system from a mobile phone (and do you need the full range of functions when you do)?
At the very least, you will lose customer support if your vendor folds – with some solutions you may also lose your data.
- How long as the company been in business, and how sound are their financials (if that information is public).
- What experience does the vendor have with your area of business?
- How many sectors does the vendor serve? If one takes a downturn, how well will the company weather the storm?
- How available is the vendor to help you get your system running/make changes to it as you grow?
Datamonitor developed a CRM decision matrix for government based on revenue growth, in-sector revenue, company size, addition of new customers, geographic reach, and whether or not the solution will continue to work without the vendor.