In my nine plus years of working with CRM systems I have been asked this question hundreds of times and each time I have the same answer... "It depends what you want from your crm".
Many people are shocked to hear this response and assume there is a "one solution fits all" CRM out there but unfortunately this is real life and things are rarely that simple!
In this blog post I am going to cover the questions that you need to be asking yourself and whoever else is a stakeholder in the CRM implementation process. Many points, you may argue, are simply common sense - correct - however so often such simple things are missed during the procurement stage that can cause misery further down the line.
1. What industry are you in?
It goes without saying that different CRM vendors target different industries due to specialities. Whenever choosing your CRM it is very important to check:
- Does the vendor have any experience in my business sector?
- Do they have any references for sites in my sector?
- What is their estimated market share in my sector?
If the answer to point one or two is "no" then this should set off a red flag immediately as it usually means they either have no experience or the experience they do have is not reputable enough.
Market share is a little bit different and can work in two different ways. Predominantly if a vendor has more market share within your industry then you can safely assume the application will fit your needs (providing you aren't grossly different from your competitors).
However lets assume a CRM vendor controls 15% of the market share and are looking to expand quickly within the sector. When this happens you can sometimes use that to your advantage with cheaper costs in exchange for things like lengthier contracts (providing points one and two check out!).
2. What are your expected goals of the CRM implementation?
In layman's terms - what do you actually want from the system? Are you trying to generate more leads, increase sales, track customer behaviour, increase customer satisfaction?
Chances are you will have many different goals so it is crucial to ensure that the system you are choosing can deliver on most, if not all of what you need. Where possible seek use case examples from vendors so they can actually demonstrate how they can meet your goals.
This questions is equally important for all stakeholders in a CRM implementation project and should always be asked to potential future stakeholders. You should be reaching out to everyone within the organisation asking for their engagement as this makes implementation that much easier once you have bought your CRM and try to expand at a later date.
For me, this is the most important question everyone needs to be asking so if you cant answer this question then put your chequebook away and start thinking about your requirements.
3. Does it need to integrate with other business applications?
An integration allows one application to communicate with another, whether that is to read data from one system and display within your CRM system or one application updating the CRM database. They come in all shapes and sizes and can transform business practices and are usually very good at driving business efficiencies.
The answer to this question is more often yes than no because with CRM systems you should look to the future, you may not need an integration now but a few years down the line an integration to a core business application could save you fortunes!
If the answer is yes you should be looking at available API's (application programming interfaces) that come out of the box with your CRM of choice. You should also speak with the vendor and ask if they have a working example (many vendors will say they can/have done it but be sure that it fits your integration requirements) of an integration. Once again reference sites in this field will pay dividends.
4. What are your plans for the future?
As with most major implementations you should be focused on the long term as well as the short term benefits of procuring a CRM. It can be very costly to invest in a CRM strategy, roll it out only to find a couple of years down the line you have additional requirements that can't be satisfied based on your current technology.
Obviously I'm not asking you to predict the future here but employ some good logic in thinking about what may be around the corner.
5. What is your budget both now and in the future?
Obviously this question goes without saying! There are thousands of CRM's out there ranging in price, functionality, usability, performance etc so you should be realistic in your approach. However you should also consider hidden costs that can be incurred (particularly from smaller vendors) whereby you buy a CRM system at a low cost yet have to pay for each additional service/business process you want to implement within the system.
The following list can be used as a checklist of hidden fees to consider:
- License costs / amount of users.
- support fees.
- Scalability costs.
- Administrator / developer functions - will you be self sufficient or need to pay for vendor consultants to build your processes.
- Customisability - can you add extra data fields to your customer objects (to collect data specific to your organisation).
- Length of contract with vendor.
- API's (application programming interface) - do you have the ability to connect to other systems fairly easily and if not how much extra will it cost?
- Data Importing - migrating data from your legacy system into your new CRM.
Sometimes it can be more cost effective to spend a little more upfront to release larger savings in the future!
6. How scalable is the application?
If an application is easily scalable then then means it can increase the amount of users and or processes without too much effort.
For example when you implement your CRM you may have 20 agents following up sales leads or answering customer enquiries. Fast forward one year and you can no longer sustain your customer interactions with 20 agents so you double to 40 users. Out of these new 20 members you introduce mainly agents working on general enquiries due to higher interaction volumes.
You need to be asking if the provider can quickly scale up to meet your needs whether that means greater CPU/RAM on the server, respond quickly to additional license requests or build new custom processes to meet demand (where applicable).
When it comes to deciding which CRM is best for you then should always employ a critical thinking mindset and think very carefully about:
- Will this still fit my needs in the future?
- Am I engaging with everyone that needs to be engaged?
- Future hidden costs.
Ultimately this list could be endless depending on your requirements and how much thought you put into the procurement process, however I hope this brief list will get you asking the correct questions before deciding what is best for you.