The right way to implement a CRM system
Wouldn’t it would be great if we could just buy a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system, switch it on and find that it does everything that we wanted it to without changing any settings?
Well unfortunately that just doesn’t happen in practice and you need to follow a process beforehand to firstly specify what you want and secondly to select a supplier who will get as close as possible to what you want.
A few hints and tips to get you going in the right direction.
Is There an Easy Way?
The answer is, of course, No.
The Right Process
1. Write down your requirements, ideally as a Request for Quotation
2. Send it out to get quotations
3. Select carefully from the responses, involve your key users
4. Create a short list of those that fit your written requirements
5. Invite to give demonstration
6. Make final selection
So, are there any short cuts?
No there aren’t. In my opinion there is no short cut for writing down your requirements – if you don’t, can’t or won’t write down what you want your CRM system to do for your business, then you will only have yourself to blame if the chosen solution doesn’t do what you want.
So, having written your requirements down, are there any short cuts?
Absolutely not! If your business already has a Business Management solution of some sort, whether its Sage Financials or full blown ERP then ask your supplier if there is a CRM module, or a stand alone solution, which can easily be integrated with it. If there is, you will avoid the huge pitfall of having customer data in 2 systems and avoid the need for special code to integrate them. You must still confirm that it meets all the requirements you have written down (you have written them down now haven’t you?). If it does, then it should be a good fit for your business.
Are there any short cuts if you don’t have a Business management solution?
You’re persistent aren’t you? The real answer is No. However, if you want to learn more about CRM and are fairly technically minded you could try putting in an Open Source solution (e.g. vTiger or SugarCRM) which will have no licence fee but can be tricky to get running. You could also try a low cost hosted system (e.g. SugarCRM or TactileCRM), paying monthly, and making sure you can get out of the contract when you want to. Both these approaches will allow you to gain an understanding of CRM at a practical level before you write down your requirements. You may even be lucky and find it does all you need – but don’t bank on it.
Why should SMEs be using Customer Relationship Management?
Demand and interest in Customer Relationship Management (or CRM) has grown noticeably in the last 2 years. Until recently CRM was always the realm
of the large companies – so what has changed?
There seem to be two main reasons for the increase in interest in CRM among our SME client. One is the rise of a huge range of low cost solutions, be they Open Source, web-based or server-based. Another is the increase in awareness being created by
IT solution providers, including Microsoft and Sage, who have conducted major marketing campaigns to promote their solutions.
I don’t believe that is all though – SMEs are canny and have started to realise that analysing and understanding their customer base, and using that knowledge for marketing is good for business. They are also realising that CRM can be used largely ‘Out of the Box’ or in minutes from the web.
So what are the business issues that are attracting SMEs to CRM?
First is the very simple concept of having one database of all customers in a single place, accessible by all staff, even if they are out of the office; a database that can be integrated directly to e-Commerce websites so there is an automatic record of who
bought what and when. This is a perfect vehicle for identifying groups of like-minded customers to target with, say, an e-mail marketing campaign – which the CRM solution can usually handle too.
Lots of companies miss out on the opportunity to sell more to existing customers and the ability to “segment” clients in your CRM allows you spot the opportunities much more quickly.
Second, for businesses who can’t sell their products or services directly from a website but need to find and respond to leads and enquiries is the capability to manage a lead from receipt to (hopefully!) order. CRM can give a view at any time of the status
of each and every lead whether it has just come in, or a quote is being put together, or you are waiting with bated breath for that huge new order.
For bigger businesses this ability to enforce’ a common sales process on a sales team is very important. It dramatically reduces the likelihood that opportunities will “fall between the gaps” because you can assign responsibility to specific people and check
whether they have done what they are supposed to.
Third, if you are actively seeking new customers CRM can be used to manage that process too. You might buy a database of appropriate target customers, enter it into your CRM system and use it to manage the process of contacting everyone on the
list. You might use an initial telephone contact possibly using a call centre, then follow up with a brochure through the post and then an e-mail or phone call using the CRM so you know who has been contacted and the exact and current status of each
Web-based CRM systems, in particular, make it very easy to use contract or agency staff to manage the peaks of activity during campaigns. They can get access to systems via their internet browser and you can limit their access to just the information they need to do their job.
There has never been a better time to consider implementing your own CRM system. There are lots of providers offering a variety of ways of implementing systems out there to choose from. And, better still, all of this competition means that there is
loads of information to help you make your choice and have a successful implementation.
This straightforward description was written by Steve Orriss, consultant at the UK National B2B Centre and CRM expert, for more information check out the very useful site www.nb2bc.co.uk