We cannot have a good relationship with our customers without a software system right? At least this is what most executives believe because software companies have been so good with their marketing.
The customer relationship management (CRM) software industry has grown tremendously over the last couple of years and has moved most things to the SaaS (software as a service) model.
Given the complexity of business and the profitability drivers, a software package is needed to quickly assess special offers to be made to different customer segments.
With several software solutions vying for attention, there are a few questions as well. When to jump into CRM? How to choose the right application? Which one gives the best return on investment?
Here are some questions that businesses should ask to get the most out of the investment:
1 When should we consider a CRM System?
Most companies make the mistake of thinking that buying a software solution will result in better customer relationship management. They overlook the issue of changing mindset and processes within the company to bring forth this change. Today, acquiring a CRM package is not too expensive with software as a service model.
So, the question is when should a company start using CRM? When the quantum of customers and customer data becomes too cumbersome to manage manually, one should look at technology.
Managers will wonder if the time and effort to choose a CRM solution is justified, especially if existing sales people complain about being forced to use a new system. CRM adds structure, control, and management oversight to the process and the staff. So they will see the benefits pretty quickly.
2 Where to host the software?
Given the number and complexity of regions and sales force, it is best to have a networked CRM.
Sales people are most likely to have a remote office when in the field, often in their homes. Accessing CRM from remote locations securely is easiest with software hosted on a web server, accessed through a browser.
Open-source software applications run on any web host. It is not a good idea to put sales software on individual computers. Host your CRM software on your server, or have a third-party service. Effective management and oversight require a networked sales system.
3 Which one should we buy?
The starting point could be talking to other business owners. Finding a hosted CRM application takes almost no effort but choosing one from among multiple vendors does require some testing.
It will be a good idea to involve everyone in the evaluation phase, beginning with the salesperson and ending with the CEO. They will all be using the system. They all should test out various options, keeping features in mind. For instance, you should evaluate how to make copies of your data to download for safekeeping. Your hosted provider will not lose your data but having backups will make it easy to transfer it to another system if necessary.
Decide if you need to integrate your CRM solution with other applications before you decide on a product. Does the software interact with your ERP system, if any, and inventory management system? These are the kind of questions that should be answered before buying.
4 How do we overcome internal resistance?
No matter how user-friendly and effective the software is, some users and managers will resist change.
A successful CRM implementation will result in total usage by everyone involved in the sales process. This is the only way to provide customer contact consistency and full management oversight.
An organisation will reap the benefits of technology only if the compliance is complete. A warning or “orders from the top” will create resentment among the sales force and will be self-defeating.
To encourage application use, start sending all sales department information through the CRM solution’s internal communication channels rather than email.
All systems offer ways to comment on accounts, assign tasks, and send messages to other users. When sales team members find themselves out of the loop, they will be encouraged to use the CRM system.
Just as the ERP system refuses to pay vendors without proper registration via the system, the sales department should refuse to pay commissions and travel expenses not entered into the CRM application. The idea is to present this requirement as a paperwork necessity rather than as punishment.
Any level of participation short of complete adoption and compliance is a failure. All the members of the sales team must live within the CRM system and managers must be consistent and patient in ensuring that it is done.
The sales department under a CRM regime will make more sales in less time than one without CRM. Customer service will improve since any member of the sales team will have the total customer history available, if needed, to fill in for another sales team member.Management will know which members of the sales team are making preparations to keep their personal sales pipeline full and supporting the company’s sales goals.