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How to Choose a Customer Relationship Management System (CRM)


Two Young Women in Front of the Computer Talking --- Image by © Royalty-Free/CorbisYou’ve probably heard the acronym ‘CRM’ thrown around from business to business, but what does it actually mean? CRM stands for customer relationship management and allows businesses to manage relationships, the data and the information associated with them.

CRM software manages every point of contact with the customer, ensuring each customer gets the appropriate level of service and no sales opportunities are lost or overlooked. It automates and shares CRM related activities across an organisation, to improve how it interacts with its customers.

Using CRM software can help a business increase its revenues substantially. CRM allows businesses to provide products and services that exactly meet their customers’ needs and wants. They are able to offer far better customer service, and  are better able to retain existing customers and discover new ones. CRM also makes cross selling products more effective, and helps sales staff close deals more efficiently.

The goal of CRM is to help businesses use both technology and human resources to gather insight into customer behaviour, and the value that those customers represent. For a CRM to be truly effective, the organisation must first understand these two things in order to determine its customers’ needs and how best to service them.

In order for a business to determine how to turn its customers into assets, a CRM strategy is required. A CRM strategy should be built around the customers and be adaptive to the modern marketing environment. Building a customer-centric business requires companies to:

  • Establish clear and measurable goals
  • Align the business with IT
  • Invest in training for the end users of the CRM software
  • Allow CRM customisations to be dictated by the business goals, and
  • Measure and track results

 The real key to getting the most value out of your CRM is to get the buying and implementation right. However, many companies are uncertain of how to do it ‘the right way’, which means if you do, it will be a huge competitive advantage for your business. When selecting a CRM software program for your business, there are several key considerations, and questions to ask.

1. Check the features, options and enhancements, and see if they match with what you aim to achieve. It’s not necessarily about having the most ‘flashy’ features, but more about being able to mould it to suit your business processes.

2. Judge the software on what it will cost over its full lifetime, and consider how much customisation is required, as each customisation will increase the total cost. Failing to firmly grasp the cost process, can result in many nasty surprises down the track.

3. Ensure your CRM is user-friendly so that all staff will be able to use if efficiently, allowing for more effective implementation. It should be able to be used by your least tech-savvy staff, increasing their confidence and encouraging them to use it.

4. Make sure it will grow and meet the changing needs of your business. The CRM software you choose should be flexible and adaptable to change as your business changes. It may need to handle extra users down the track, or expand internationally. These types of possibilities need to be kept in mind. 

5. Check that the software will support all types of users, whether they are using PC or Mac, tablet or mobile device. Some businesses may want their customers to have access to the system, which needs to be taken into consideration.

6. Research whether the software has already been successfully implemented in your industry. A great place to start looking is your competitors, and what they are doing with CRM. Learn from them, mirror their success and avoid their mistakes.

7. Look at the different ways the software can be implemented, and weigh up the positives and negatives of each one. The best way is to ask the provider how they intend to implement it, and ensure that the development cycle fits well with your needs and expectations.

8. It is very important that the software you choose is easy to implement, and not too complex. Talk to the provider to determine how intuitive the software is, and establish how much long term support will or won’t be required.

The decision you make regarding the CRM software for your business, can have an impact on every single person in your organisation. In a world where relationships are more important than ever, choosing and implementing a good CRM system has enormous benefits for modern businesses.

Take the time to make an informed and careful decision and see how it can benefit your organisation.

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