My first Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system was a box of 6 x 4 index cards, one for each client, and I recorded every phone call, visit, or letter sent to or from my customers. It worked well, but was labour intensive to say the least!
Now it’s a different story, with an impressive array of technology taking over from the humble index card. Whether you’re a one-person consultancy or a big organisation today’s CRMs offer a much more efficient system to manage those vital relationships.
There are hundreds of CRM systems out there ranging from free to those requiring an investment that’s equivalent to a fair sized mortgage. I’ve been investigating CRMs for many years and I’ve still to find a single product that will tick every box. This means that some thought needs to go into your choice of CRM system.
These are the key things to consider
How easy is it to upload your data?
How you get your client information from your current system into the new one can take up valuable resources. Will your new system import from an excel spreadsheet (perhaps your LinkedIn contacts, for example)? Do you want to be able to scan business cards into the system or take photos of cards on your smartphone? Will your new system cross reference against existing records and automatically check for duplicates?
Some systems will work only on your desktop or laptop, others have the flexibility to use on your mobile devices. Some are systems that are a program that is on your hard drive, whilst some are cloud (internet) based, allowing you to access your data from any internet connected device. Great if you want to update your system in the car straight after you’ve met with your customer.
Can your CRM talk to all your other applications?
It’s important that your CRM has total integration with your email, this means that you are able to see at a glance every email trail you’ve had with your clients. You may also want to ensure integration with Word, Excel or other applications. For example, integration with Word and Excel can allow you to create standard letters direct from your CRM. What other integrations might be useful – do you need your CRM to integrate with your accounts or invoicing package, a mailshot service or customer survey application. We recently added an SMS text service to a client’s CRM system, so he could text his client 2 days before their next appointment!
Does it fit your budget?
You can spend as much, or as little as you like on a CRM. Some will work ‘straight out of the box’ whilst others will require customisation to meet your organisation’s specific needs. Remember to include the cost of the customisation when you’re setting your budget. Depending upon your choice of CRM the technical expertise can prove as costly as the CRM system itself.
The secret of getting the CRM that will work effectively for your team (or for you if you’re a sole trader) is to ask the right questions – and to ensure that the consultant or sales person who you talk to asks you good questions too.
Here at IT Positive, we have been investigating, and implementing CRM systems for many years, so if you would like some informed intelligence or would like to chat through your options, please contact us on 01376 653 115.