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SoftwareMedia Blog | August 1, 2014

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What Questions Should You Ask A Potential CRM Supplier?

What Questions Should You Ask A Potential CRM Supplier?

Many businesses are moving away from traditional Customer Relationship Management methods and opting to implement modern CRM software due to improved productivity and reduced costs.  However, the main challenge most businesses face is choosing the right CRM solution.

The modern consumer expects a lot more from a business in terms of better customer service, deeper customer relationships, and improved customer interaction.  For this reason, the older methods of managing customer service are no longer acceptable from the consumer standpoint.

Additionally, increased consumer demand has made it next to impossible for businesses using traditional systems to keep up with their customer’s expectations.  As a result, many businesses are implementing new CRM solutions to improve customer service while streamlining business processes and at a reduced cost.

CRM software offers many different levels of tools to help businesses get to know customer preferences better, increase sales, and improve productivity across the entire organization.  The current CRM solutions are smarter, faster, and offer the latest technologies at a fraction of the cost of previous CRM platforms.

In this article we will look at an overview of CRM software as well as offer some helpful information on how to choose a quality CRM supplier.

What is CRM Software?

CRM software is a platform which is used by businesses of all sizes to help maximize marketing efforts and improve customer service.  Many businesses use CRM software to increase sales, generate new leads and prospects, and get to know existing customers better in order to create highly targeted marketing campaigns, facilitate ongoing customer interaction and engagement, and easily organize and automate back office tasks.

The current CRM software on the market is very intuitive and provides advanced tools for integrating all data related to leads and prospects, current customers, and organization employees throughout multiple departments.  The software also enables businesses to handle marketing campaigns, customer service, product inventory and sales, and other related tasks from one location.  CRM solutions have grown in popularity since they keep everyone within an organization on the same page while maximizing profits and improving customer relations.

Resource – see the official wiki page for details in market leaders for CRM software (although someone need to update this)

How Does a CRM Solution Work?

CRM software can be setup and configured in-house using a company’s IT infrastructure. Or, it can be offered by a cloud services provider who assumes responsibility for the maintenance, updates, and support of the infrastructure while the client access CRM solutions using an Internet connection.  Either way, CRM software is easily accessed by entering your individual username and password.

Once you have logged into the CRM platform, all applications are readily available from one location or “Dashboard.”  Some of the tools include but are not limited to marketing campaign management, lead and opportunity management, product and inventory management, invoicing and billing, team and task management, email marketing, social media interaction, call center integration, reporting and analytics, mobile CRM, and much more.

All of the above mentioned tools are configured to integrate with one another to provide a comprehensive and easy-to-use management tool.  Typically, CRM software can easily be customized to provide specific tools your business may require and according to the industry you are associated with.

How Can CRM Software Improve Your Business?

A CRM software solution can significantly improve your business since everything is accessible from one platform and in one location.  Instead of shuffling business tasks among employees which are distributed across multiple departments, everyone uses the same platform which is accessed via an individual username and password.  This keeps everyone within an organization on the same page, eliminates errors, and provides excellent customer service and satisfaction.

Additionally, the advanced tools which are included in modern CRM platforms remove a lot of the guesswork out of creating marketing campaigns and makes customer upsells easier due to easy tracking of popular products and tools which allow for customer feedback.  CRM software also streamlines back office tasks which are necessary but tedious and time consuming.  This allows you to focus more on important initiatives, which contribute to business growth.

What Types of CRM Software is Available?

There are different types of CRM software available which provides implementation options for businesses of all sizes.  This is especially helpful when it comes to all levels of IT budgets since some types of CRM software are quite cost effective where other types require an extensive IT infrastructure which is typically suited to larger businesses with significant IT budgets.  Some of the different types of CRM software include:

  • Open Source:  Open source CRM software is made available as a free download and distributed at zero cost to the end user.  This type of CRM software is available with an unrestricted license however, there are licensing conditions which vary according to the provider.  Open source means that the source code for the software is freely available for modifications and customization.

Organizations which use open source CRM assume the responsibility for setup, configuration, updates, and maintenance with support provided from the open source community.  Some of the open source software platforms include SugarCRM, vTiger, XRMS, and CentricCRM, to name a few.

  • Dedicated CRM:  A dedicated CRM software solution is typically installed, configured, and maintained on the company premises or “in-house.”  This type of CRM software is the costliest to implement since it requires an IT hardware infrastructure in order to run the software applications.  Dedicated CRM is typically implemented by large enterprises that have substantial IT budgets.
  • Web-Based or Cloud CRM:  CRM software which is offered by a cloud services provider is software that is housed on a remote server and maintained by the cloud vendor.  The end user then accesses the CRM platform via an Internet connection using a username and password.  An example of web-based or cloud CRM software is Microsoft SharePoint which is maintained by Microsoft and offered to businesses using an Internet connection.  Many small to midsize organizations with limited IT budgets choose this option since there is no infrastructure to maintain.  It is also cost-effective since you pay a flat monthly fee per user.

Resource – See the OUR CRM website to find out more about the original CRM software Systems for Microsoft SharePoint.

What Questions Should You Ask a Potential CRM Provider?

Before you commit to implementing a new CRM solution for your business, you should first assess specific business needs for both your current situation and in the future.  Having knowledge of your business requirements in advance will help you to ask the right questions to a potential CRM provider.  Once you have accomplished this step, here are a few basic questions you should include along with the specific questions related to your individual business requirements.

Type of CRM Platform

The type of CRM platform offered by the CRM provider will have a significant impact on the productivity of your organization.

  • Is the solution scalable to meet the changing needs of your business?
  • Is the software flexible enough to create customized processes?
  • Can you integrate data into the software from other sources?
  • Does it allow for collaboration?
  • What does the solution deliver in terms of performance?
  • Is it user-friendly and easy to get started?
  • Does the platform allow for future expansion?

Implementation

The manner in which a CRM solution is implemented is important to the time it will take before you are fully up and running.

  • Is the CRM solution only implemented on your business premises?
  • Is the CRM solution delivered on-demand and accessed via an Internet connection?
  • Is it necessary to install the CRM software on your device or is it accessed via a web browser?
  • Does the CRM software accommodate mobile access?

CRM Provider Reputation

It is important to ensure the CRM provider you work with has a positive track record for reliability and excellent customer service.  This ensures solid business continuity and productivity.

  • How long has the company been in operation?
  • What is their experience with your specific industry?
  • What type of platform do they use and is it compatible with your devices and operating systems.
  • What type of training do they offer?  Is it in-depth and ongoing?
  • What is the quality of their technical support?
  • Is the company able to provide references on request?
  • What partnerships has the company established? (I.e. Microsoft, VMware, etc.)
  • What is the company’s strategy for disaster recovery?
  • How does the company compare to other CRM providers?

Cost

Cost is always an important consideration, especially if your business operates with budget limitations.

  • Is the cost calculated per user or is it a one-time fee?
  • Is training included in the cost?
  • Is after sales support included in the cost?
  • Is tech support included in the cost?
  • Which functions are considered standard and which ones are provided at an additional cost?

Lastly, it is important to determine the benefits the CRM solution will bring to your organization.  If the benefits outweigh the drawbacks, then it is likely a new CRM solution will be a wise investment that delivers many benefits over the long term.

David is currently taking a sabbatical from his career in IT in order to further his studies. He is using his 11 years IT experience in order to create a range of (hopefully) interesting blog entries!

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