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While the benefits of having Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software to support an eCommerce website are well known, the task of actually choosing a suitable CRM suite can be quite a challenge.
Not all CRMs are equal
All CRMs connect the sales & marketing team, track sales, and help better manage customer relationships. They generate a wealth of analytics that deliver clear, meaningful insights to customer behavior, sales factors and more. However, beyond this, not all CRMs are equal. Consider the following factors when choosing CRM software for eCommerce.
1. Know the Purpose
A CRM is a powerful tool that throws open many possibilities. However, the business looking to deploy a CRM may not require it all, and installing a high-power CRM may become overkill and be counterproductive, wasting money, effort, and computing resources.
At the most basic level, any CRM application allows for creating and updating a comprehensive customer database, to manage customer communication better. Depending on the power of the CRM, it allows various tasks, such as:
State of the art CRMs also integrate with the online accounting as well as eMail marketing software.
However, it is not enough to go by the capability alone. It is also important to align the CRM technology to the strategy. Only very large organizations would want a full-blown CRM. The scope of the CRM deployment varies, depending on whether the business wants to centralize data and make the flow of information more organized; whether the business requires more advanced analytical insights; whether the business wants to track customers and conversations better; or even a combination of these and other possibilities. A cloud based CRM that allow customers to pick and chose the required components work best.
2. Have an Understanding of the Time, Effort and Cost
An important, yet underestimated consideration when deploying CRM is factoring in the cost and effort.
New-gen cloud based CRMs are quick and easy to implement. It is possible to gain instant access to the features for most of them, and some of the basic versions are actually free. Compared to this, on-premises CRM takes considerable time, effort and investment, but they may realize another set of objectives not covered by cloud based ones.
At times, easy to implement CRM may be the most preferred option simply because it would spare the organization from deploying scarce manpower to the task of installation, or it would help the eCommerce website to take advantage of a busy holiday season.
Similarly, it is important to have an understanding of the total cost it entails to implement and have the CRM running, and equally important to quantify the benefits – both direct and indirect. A crucial factor that should have a say in the number of add-on features of the CRM is the marginal cost benefit analysis of each feature.
3. User Friendliness
Regardless of the features, promises and potential of any CRM suite, the benefits depend on how the user utilizes it, and the data fed into it. A user friendly CRM, with a clean and neat interface, and easy to understand options is more likely to deliver its promise than a complex CRM with confusing directions and muddled up interface. The aim of installing a CRM is to boost productivity, not slow it down or create obstacles. For instance, the best CRMs automate tasks and make it easy, rather than add more demands for data entry.
The best CRM gels in seamlessly with existing systems and processes, with minimal friction, so that the employees adopt it without resistance. Most companies underestimate the potential harm that friction between people, processes, and systems can pose to the company’s health.
Seamless integration to the organization’s systems extends to compatibility with existing software. When considering a new CRM, check whether the CRM will work seamlessly with existing software, or whether it will necessitate wholesale changes. As a bare minimum, the CRM should integrate with eMail servers, cloud tools such as DropBox or Google Drive, and key social media channels.
Mobility is one of the key USPs of new gen cloud based CRM. Mobility allows accessing the CRM suite from mobile devices, and anywhere. However, a CRM need not be good or superior just because it offers mobility. Consider factors such as how easy it is to access the CRM when on the go, the user friendliness of the mobile app, whether the integration between mobile and office suites is seamless, whether the mobile version offers full functionality, and how the sync takes place.
6. Ability to Customize
A generic one-size fits all CRM rarely works for anyone, for the simple reason that the sales cycle of, say, a clothing merchant is different from the sales-cycle of a real estate agency. Good CRMs allow customization to co-opt the unique features that any business would have. At the very least, opt for CRMs that allow adding custom fields, filters and tags.
The ability to customize goes beyond the front-end, and extends to analytics. Make sure that the CRM allows generating custom reports, or at least, all the insights required.
7. Future Proof
Just because a CRM is best suited in all regards today, it need not necessarily be the best option. The best CRMs are scalable and flexible – scalable to grow or shrink as per variations in demand, and flexible enough to adopt new systems and processes as the organization changes and evolves. Migrating to a new system, or extensive modifications to the existing system in the future, can be nerve-wrecking in terms of cost, effort and time.
Finally, do not go by the sales pitch alone. Seek out independent reviews, talk to managers in companies who have already installed the CRM, and maybe even request a free trial or test version before committing to the whole hog.
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Image Credit: Marc Barbezat on Flickr