Long gone are the days when we turn to the Rolodex and overstuffed file folders to brief us on customer data. In today’s digitally driven business world, companies are bidding farewell to paper pushing and streamlining data availability in the form of CRM (Customer Relationship Management) solutions.
A CRM is a powerful software that, when utilized correctly, delivers improvements to every department in your company that’s using it. But be warned: not all CRMs are created equal. If you choose the right one, your job just got a whole lot easier. But choose the wrong one, and it could cost you more than just the monthly subscription price.
I. What Exactly is a CRM?
Imagine taking every cell of customer-related data, such as sales history, phone logs, revenue stream, sales leads, email records, contracts, and inquiries, and condensing it all into a single beehive of information: That’s the function of a CRM. It is power and versatility that, until the past few years, no single piece of software could deliver.
CRMs have evolved from customer interaction management software to a fully stocked sales, marketing, and customer service toolbox. CRM Developers heard the plights and pleas about manual entry and inefficiency, and have cast their lifelines to those drowning in data overload and miscommunication. The result? CRMs facilitate the needs of sales professionals, customer service reps, marketing strategists, and other need-to-know employees all in one central platform.
Why You Need a CRM
Truth be told, not every business needs a CRM. But if your business caters to long term clients moreso than one-off sales, you have multiple employees who need to access the same information, you want to measure metrics, or your memory of every customer interaction isn’t 100% accurate, then a CRM makes sense.
Think of a CRM as an official historical archive for every customer. You can log critical pieces of customer data into your CRM for easier locating in the future, look back on past conversations, issues, and inquiries, and even reignite abandoned opportunities . By stockpiling data into a single source, you can easily generate metrics to check your performance, and leverage that information to develop strategies.
The reasons to integrate a CRM to your workflow are as varied as the companies using them, but overall you can expect the same benefits:
- Enhanced Customer Service
- Drive Higher Conversions
- Strengthen the Sales Process
- Improve Internal Communication
- Develop Strong, Accurate Metrics
One solution caters to the needs of multiple departments within a company, which means sharing information internally has never been easier. There’s no switching back and forth between various programs and keeping them synchronized, and there’s less risk of important items falling through the cracks. In turn, your employees boost their productivity and efficiency, and can spend more time being engaged in their role and less time chasing details and waiting for answers.
II. How to Choose the Right CRM
If you are just starting the search for a CRM, or if you have found your current CRM is no longer keeping pace with your business needs, you’ve got your work cut out for you: CRM shopping isn’t a cut and dry experience. With hundreds of CRM solutions on the market, choosing the right one can feel like a blind shot.
There is no one-size-fits-all solution, despite the intense popularity of some of the CRMs out there. It all comes down to your company’s goals when using a CRM, and how those goals can integrate with the solutions a CRM provides. Ask yourself: What do I want my CRM to do for me?
- Track the sales process for every lead?
- Share data throughout the company quickly and easily?
- Increase employee productivity and efficiency?
- Gauge customer interaction?
- Strengthen relationships with customers?
- Provide a single tool that every department can share?
What To Look For
Once you establish solid goals, it’s time to start shopping. Granted, there are hundreds of possible CRMs to choose from, some geared strictly toward sales, others facilitating customer service functions, and some that pull the two together. Recognizing who exactly will be using the CRM can help narrow the field.
Once you stumble upon a few potentials, take them for a test drive. Involve a few employees who will be using the CRM regularly and get their feedback. Import a few pieces of customer data to get a real experience, and jot notes and questions along the way. The key here is to find a solution that your company will actually use, not another piece of software taking up hard drive space.
A few things to consider:
Remote Access: Will your sales people need to access data when they aren’t at their desks? If not right now, will this need arise in the foreseeable future? Mobile usage for just about anything continues to increase, and that could include the need for info on the go.
Security: Does the CRM give you a dedicated server option, or do you have to use a shared server? Dedicated servers can be more secure, since it gives you autonomy on how it’s maintained.
Customization: How easy is the CRM to customize to fit your specific needs? Does the CRM provide enough customization options, now and in the foreseeable future?
Integrations: What other programs are you using (MailChimp, Zapier, Shopify, etc) that will integrate with the CRM? Do these programs need to be integrated?
Ease of Use: Will your employees pick up on processes easily, or will they be watching tutorials every day for the first few months? Every new program takes some time to learn, but the easier and more intuitive the program, the sooner you can start to benefit.
Data Transfer: How can I load my existing data into the CRM? Some CRM companies offer data transporting services, especially if you are upgrading to a newer version of the same CRM. You might also want to ensure you can import and export CSV files.
What To Avoid
CRMs aren’t exactly cheap, and can sometimes end up complicating simple jobs and making your task force less productive. So how can you avoid complete CRM failure? Here’s what to avoid:
Click-heavy navigation. A direct route is usually the quickest, so if your CRM takes too many click through’s to find what you’re looking for, it’s probably costing you in productivity. Remember, CRMs are supposed to make work easier and more efficient. Keep it simple.
Feature-heavy fallout. With encroaching competition at every corner of the CRM marketplace, developers are transforming CRMs into feature-rich machines to stay ahead. But don’t assume those extra features have any merit in your business. If you fall in love with features that can’t benefit you, you’ll soon be breaking up with your CRM.
In-the-moment decisions. Business needs are bound to change as you grow (you do want to grow, right?), so don’t base all your CRM decisions on here-and-now situations. Be as forward thinking as possible before you commit to a CRM to avoid costly upgrades later.
Bottom line, finding a CRM isn’t an overnight success story. There’s plenty of groundwork to lay first, and even more details to build upon. But all that work is useless if your final decision is one that doesn’t fit your company’s needs. This is one instance where doing your research pays off big, so take your time and don’t settle for anything less than exactly what you need.