Most young companies start off managing their customer interactions with Microsoft Outlook (or similar) as a contact database, a spreadsheet to track opportunities and revenue, plus document templates for quotations and correspondences. Over time, they realize that this is not a scalable solution and that some form of Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software is needed.
It is easy to become bewildered by the slick features in the many modern CRMs available today. Here are some pointers based on my experience that will help you make the right choice:
Document Your Objectives. Your CRM has to match your business goals so document the expectations of the key executive stakeholders. This include how Sales, Marketing, Customer Service and Finance plan to use the data, along with the executive team’s requirements for reports and dashboards.
Interview The Users. If the system is not a good match for their workflow, or is clunky and unwieldy, it just won’t be used. Reports should be easy to create and display and the user interface should be easy to navigate. The CRM needs to help your users do their job, not be more administrative effort!
Develop A Requirements List. Based on your departmental and user interviews, separate the “Must Haves” from the “Nice to Haves”. Your priority needs for the next several years can perhaps be met with a less expensive configuration than offered by the sophisticated enterprise-grade systems on the market.
Some specific requirements you should consider before approaching vendors include:
Develop a Shortlist of Solutions. Besides the technical features and pricing of the product, pay attention to the ongoing support available from vendors. Will they be around in 5 years? Can they assist with integration? Do they understand your type of business? Prepare an ROI analysis for each short-list alternative.
If your IT department has not been involved from the start, get them engaged now. You’ll likely need their budget and expertise to support the implementation.
Plan For Challenges. Besides the technical challenges of configuration and data porting, anticipate resistance from certain users. Some ways to increase the acceptance of the new CRM are:
The larger the organization and the more ingrained current workflows, the more effort will be required to implement a CRM. However, it is a corporate “right of passage” that is definitely worth the effort! Once in place, a quality CRM that is properly used will provide your company with fresh insights into customer status, more reliable forecasting and an improved ability to convert opportunities into revenues.