CRM tools have been around since the 1980s and have been very useful in managing customer relationships. There is a plethora of CRM tools available in the market with a wide range of features packed into them. However, most businesses use only a fraction of the capabilities built in. This means that most of the time they are paying for tools that are rarely or never used. Finances are also a concern for businesses that are small or midsized, and have a large number of users.
Salesforce, SAP, Microsoft and Oracle currently dominate the market, and their CRM tools provide amazing integration, reporting and customization capabilities. But these enhanced functions may not be of use to all businesses, not to mention the fact that extra features come at extra cost. Hence, businesses need to think hard and find answers to the following questions before deciding to buy a CRM tool.
1. What functions do you need in the tool?
Do you want your business to be more organized? Do you want one tool that answers the need of your sales, marketing and customer service personnel? Is the core CRM feature sufficient for you? Or do you want to go a step further and make use of analytics to predict customer behaviour? Or, be on top of customer perception through feeds from various social media? Or, even engage customers in multiple levels and create effective marketing campaigns?
2. Cloud or on-premise?
Cloud offers Software as a Service (SaaS) and is comparatively cheaper than on-premise solutions. They are easy to implement and offer higher scalability, without too much extra cost. Cloud can be a challenge if you desire to switch vendors in future. On-premise solutions are costlier and involve continuing expenses on maintenance, upgrades, backups, disaster recovery, etc. But, the risks in maintaining sensitive data off-site may prompt some to opt for an on-premise solution.
3. Total Cost of Ownership?
CRM tools are billed on a ‘per user per month’ basis, and offer a pre-specified number of contacts. But they can have hidden costs in terms of space, installation, additional hardware, customization needs and cost of integrating with your current infrastructure.
4. How easy is it to use?
Find out how easy it is to use the system, and how much time would be required to train your employees. A difficult system might hinder productivity and force employees to do some work outside the tool, resulting in your CRM tool remaining underutilized.
5. Does it integrate with your existing software?
Choose a tool that easily integrates with your back-end, your existing database and your ERP. If you need the CRM for multiple departments, then check if it integrates with the software currently being used in those departments. If the tool is too complex, you might have challenges as well as overhead costs in adopting and deploying it across your organization.
6. Will it bring you closer to your customer?
Customers are increasingly turning online to seek product help, voice concerns or to report a satisfactory experience. Businesses often create user communities to engage customers. Ensure your CRM tool can integrate with popular social forums most used by your customers and also with any user communities or customer forums you already have. It should be able to capture all customer interactions on your products and also be able to extend support in their medium of choice, while still providing traditional forms of support via phone, email or chat.
7. Does it give you measurable returns?
Your CRM tool should be able to give you short term and long term gains that you can measure and report. It pays to be clear upfront on what tactical business gains you expect from it. Are you interested in knowing which of your products work best? How successful are your sales calls? Which marketing tactic works best in a given geography or demography? Pinpointing your focus area and laying down goals will help select a suitable tool that can assist you in measuring your progress.
8. Is it scalable?
Check if the tool is scalable enough to handle your future growth. See if new features like multi-currency conversion, mobile integration, etc., can be added easily, and if so, what would it cost you. As your company grows, it is imperative that your CRM tool is flexible enough to support more users.
Demo and free trial period
Take full advantage of the demo sessions to ask questions, compare functionalities and discover hidden costs. Use the free trial period to test drive the product and assess whether it meets your needs.
Some other factors to consider are:
Finally, do you really need a CRM tool?
If you are a small or midsized business, do think hard about whether you really need to invest in a CRM tool. Does your ERP tool meet your current business needs? Are your employees satisfied with your in-house tools? Are these tools giving you sufficient leverage to take your business ahead? CRM solutions may seem appealing but they need considerable amount of customization to get the best out of them. So, think carefully before you take the plunge.
In conclusion, CRM tools can definitely help you reduce costs, achieve higher productivity, and generate higher returns. But, they do require an upfront investment and an annual maintenance cost. What’s more, switching tools can be a painful process. So, be sure to put in a lot of thought and choose the product that works best for you.
With five years of offering top class services in all things related to CRM, we are well placed to address your queries, starting from whether you need a CRM, to which one to buy, and how to customize it for your unique needs. Do get in touch with us for all the right answers: firstname.lastname@example.org