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The five essentials of CRM decision-making

It is no secret that businesses with a good knowledge of their customers are well placed to meet their customers’ needs and inspire loyalty. These companies are the most likely to retain valuable business, to identify new prospects and to enjoy growing profits as a result. 

CRM platforms allow marketing and sales departments to leverage data more efficiently than ever before: by creating a 360˚ view of the customer and combining it with an easy-to-use interface, CRMs facilitate the deployment of meaningful communications that result in long-lasting, genuine relationships.

However, to deliver on its promise, a CRM platform has to closely reflect the type and needs of the business using it. Options are plentiful and companies are faced with an embarrassment of riches when it comes to choosing a CRM vendor. Organise your decision-making process around the tips below and you will be well placed to make an informed decision about your new mobile CRM. Alternatively, use the tips to assess the performance of a system already in place.

Tip number one: Requirements

It may seem obvious, but it is impossible to choose correctly without determining what your company’s requirements are. Ask yourself which departments need to use a CRM platform and how many users there are likely to be. For companies intending to utilise their CRM primarily as a sales tool, a simple out-of-the-box deployment accessed only by sales, marketing and customer service is probably adequate. However, if you require extensibility to other departments, check with potential vendors if such options are available.

Another area to investigate is the possibility of integration with applications already in place. For example, an investment bank is likely to need a complex, tailor-made solution with customised forms and connectivity with various external systems; a small family business, however, can probably make do without such complexity and the associated costs.  

 Tip number two: Cloud vs. On-premise

Do not underestimate the importance of a careful and contextualised analysis of these two options, and whichever you choose, be sure of your reasons. On-premise is a good option for companies concerned with data security or those willing to pay more upfront for the sake of avoiding a greater total cost of ownership later. However, a start-up without a big budget might opt for the cloud, as the initial cost is much lower. If your company is likely to evolve and require changing functionalities, making adjustments is easier with the cloud option, but at the same time offers less capacity for integration with other systems.

Also, make sure to estimate the expected number of users: in a midsize or large company, it will be high but fairly stable, however in case of a start-up, it is likely to be changing. In the case of the latter, scalability should be one of the most sought after features. A cloud solution allows for such flexibly, with the number of users easily brought up or down through individual licences.

Yet, it’s worth bearing in mind opting for a vendor that enables a swift change to an on-premise solution should the size of your company abruptly change. 

Tip number three: Mobility

Are your employees often on the road? Do you encourage home-working? Does the system need to be updated in real-time and would the company benefit if managers could access it anytime, anywhere? Not every business requires the same level of mobile access, but a degree of mobile accessibility usually has a positive impact on sales, customer service and productivity, as employees can make the most of their time being effectively released from their desks. For example, if a customer cancels an appointment, mobile accessibility enables a salesperson to view other customers and prospects in the vicinity and visit them instead, ensuring no time is wasted.

Tip number four: Connectivity

In order to leverage the data in your CRM system as fully as possible, you may also need to integrate it with other sources of information. The nature of your business will determine the connectivity you require and some of these options may be available out-of-the-box. This is often the case with widely used software, such as marketing or accounting programs. In other cases, a tailored customisation might be inevitable: a chartered surveyor, for example, will need to integrate his or her CRM platform with a GIS (Geographic Information System) to visualise location data. With every business having its own specific needs, it is key to determine which vendors provide extensive customisation support.

Plus, with social media increasingly being used by businesses to inform their customer view, choosing a CRM solution that facilitates leveraging information gathered from social media may be important. If tools such as LinkedIn figure high in your business’ operations for example, a CRM platform that integrates with social apps may gain you a competitive edge.

Tip number five: Readiness

Last but not least, make sure your team is ready for the arrival of a new tool. In other words, all team members need to support and understand the choice. This is achievable by including them in the decision-making process from its early stages and listening to their opinions, needs and feedback. A positive buy-in from the platform’s end-users is a must for a successful deployment and user adoption.

Unfortunately, the work is not over even when the system is up and running. As a business grows and matures, its CRM must follow suit, and this means constant performance assessments, ongoing adjustments and staff training. Looking for new areas in which the platform can be used to boost productivity never loses importance.