Last week, we looked at how companies track and organize customer contacts using Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software systems. These systems allow employees across departments to enter, store and access information regarding interactions with current and prospective customers. Now let’s take a look at how you can choose and implement the right CRM system for your company.
If your company does not yet have a CRM tool in place, it is definitely time to take a closer look at the systems available. With hundreds of options in the market, it may take some time to decide which approach to use. The first decision to make, however, is between a hosted solution and an on-premise CRM solution. Hosted solutions are web-based and can be accessed through a secure portal from any web connection. On-premise models are hosted internally on your servers and are only available to employees when they log onto your system.
Many companies are choosing hosted solutions provided by such vendors as salesforce.com. These service providers make it easy to get CRM up and running, and can implement any changes or customization needed. The larger vendors have hundreds of companies using their systems, with thousands of applications tailored to fit the specific needs of different industries; many of those applications are free or available at minimal cost.
In deciding which program would satisfy your company’s needs, begin with a list of the tasks you want managed. Don’t start with any preconceptions of what is or is not possible: the large CRM companies can customize their systems to meet almost any requirements. Here are some of the initial points to take into consideration when examining the options: How many employees will use your CRM system in the first year? How quickly would you like to get started? Do you have your own IT expert to handle implementation, or will you need the CRM provider to do this for you? Do you need to link internal software to the CRM system?
It’s also important to visualize how different company departments will use the system on a daily basis. What information will they need available in order to make offers or follow up? How will that information get there? Are you planning to buy large lists of leads and import them into the program so your sales team can make sales calls? What kinds of analyses or reports do you want to be able to generate?
Once you have a sense of what you would like a CRM system to do for you, contact a few of the well- known providers and ask them to demonstrate, in detail, how they would meet all your requirements. Most vendors are happy to offer detailed demos that are customized to your company needs, and should answer all your questions about implementation and training. Once you’ve compared three to five companies, you should know what’s possible and which solution makes the most sense for your company. At this point you can ask your preferred provider to give you a 30-day trial, during which time you can launch the system and try out its functions. Obviously, the more you research before trying out a system, the better chance you’ll have of choosing a program with the functions you need.
After you have purchased CRM software–or if you already have a program in place–there are three crucial points to keep in mind if you want your system to succeed:
Get everyone on board The more people in your company who use the CRM system, the greater the benefits will be. A study from the Gartner Group reports that of the CRM software licenses purchased in 2002, a whopping 42% ended up unused, at an estimated cost of $1 billion to $1.26 billion to the purchasing companies. Given that the CRM software revenue forecast for all of 2002 was $3 billion, that’s a lot of money thrown away. The hurdles facing company-wide acceptance of CRM systems have undoubtedly lessened by now, as more people become familiar with the technology and its benefits. But it still takes a strong commitment from company leadership to get everyone onboard, at least in the beginning. Everyone who should be using your system must learn how and when to use it. Once they experience the benefits of CRM, however, they will quickly come to find it indispensable.
Keep your information clean Your CRM system is only as good as the information entered in it. An on-going challenge is to keep your data up-to-date. Contact information is especially fluid, with people changing jobs. Companies experiencing the most success with their CRM systems assign one or more employees to be responsible for updating and validating e-mail addresses, phone numbers, and other data on a regular basis. While this may seem an unnecessary expense, fresh contact information ensures higher delivery rates for sales and marketing campaigns, thus providing a good return on the investment.
Create a learning resource You want to have at least one person in your company responsible for training all current and future employees in use of the CRM system. This person should also be responsible for tracking and implementing new features in order to maximize the efficiency of your CRM system over time. Remember, you’re working on long-term relationships!
QUOTE OF THE WEEK
“The first rule of any technology used in a business is that automation applied to an efficient operation will magnify the efficiency. The second is that automation applied to an inefficient operation
will magnify the inefficiency.” Bill Gates
© 2009 – 2012, Written by Keren Peters-Atkinson, CMO, Madison Commercial Real Estate Services. All rights reserved.