As a business owner and decision-maker, you must have heard a good deal of buzz about customer relationship management (CRM) solutions and the benefits they bring to the table. However, if you are one of those who are undecided on whether or not to use one for your organization, then you are in the right place.
Let us give you an insight into what a CRM can do for you, how you can evaluate a CRM, and the various types of CRMs so that you can make an informed decision about your organization. But before getting there, let us try to understand what exactly a CRM is.
In simple terms, CRM software helps businesses manage their relationships with their customers. CRM helps you store all your customer information in one single user-friendly space, which all of your employees can access. It organizes your relationship-building efforts with your customers.
What can a CRM do for you?
So, the obvious question that businesses need an answer to is what can a CRM do for you?
There are many stages in a customer lifecycle, and CRM has a role to play at every stage. A CRM solution can help you successfully manage the following functions:
- Building brand awareness
- Lead generation
- Customer purchases
- Building and maintaining long-term customer relationships
A CRM system helps you systematically manage all of your customer details. You can get to know all about them – where they have come from; how, what, and when they purchase from you; and how they interact with you – which helps you to build a strong relationship with them, thereby allowing you to serve them better.
With a CRM system in place, you not only have the contact details and transactions of your customers, but you also get the details about all your previous interactions with them and even social media activity. A CRM system also allows you to get a full picture of your customer’s journey with your organization.
Also, your CRM can automate certain functions of your organization, which gives your employees more time to focus on “big picture” projects. For example, your CRM can send emails and generate leads. Moreover, CRM also offers in-depth reporting and dashboard functions.
And above all, it helps your employees speak in one voice and remain on the same page because everyone in your team can access the information.
If you have a customer base – regardless of the number of customers you have – CRM software can help your sales team, marketing team and your organization as a whole.
There are numerous benefits to using a CRM system. For example, you get a 360-degree view of your business, you get to know the buying habits of your customers, you get to see the communication your customers have had with your organization, and more importantly, it helps you build a strong relationship with your customers.
As mentioned earlier, CRM stores all your customer information systematically in one place. It is a big help to your sales team because they get to know everything about your customers – the interactions they have had with your organization, their likes and dislikes, their purchase history, etc., which helps them to deal with them better.
Also, a CRM system helps improve the productivity of your workforce. Since everyone has access to all the customer information and all of them are on the same page, the solution helps improve cohesion among your team members.
With a CRM system in place, you don’t miss out on opportunities. Since you have all the details of your customers in front of your eyes, you know when you need to call them or whether someone in your organization has already contacted them. After all, making repeated calls to the same customer with the same solution is annoying and irritating. and reflects poorly on the professionalism of your organization. CRM software also streamlines your tracking and reporting functions.
Also, most modern CRMs are scalable. It means you don’t have to change your CRM every time you grow as an organization.
Evaluating a CRM
With so many CRM solutions available in the market, it can be quite a challenge to select the best for your organization. That is why evaluating a CRM is an important step. Depending on the needs of your organization, you need to evaluate a CRM based on its features, functionalities, scalability, security and return on investment (ROI).
First, assess the features that are important for your specific business – such as workflow automation, integration, usability (user experience) and relationship intelligence.
Find out if the solution can automate workflows. If so, learn if it can support the entire customer journey. You also need to find out if it offers automated call logging, and the steps you’d need to take in order to customize workflows.
You also need to evaluate the solution on the integration front. Find out how well it can integrate with your existing applications and data sources.
Usability is another important feature to assess. Find if it has a user-friendly interface, and how much effort you need to put in to customize the interface. Check out its desktop and mobile interfaces, and find out if it offers offline mobile functionalities.
For relationship intelligence, find out how quickly the CRM can help provide customer contact and social network information to your executives. Can it do it with just the name and email, and does it cut down their time? Also, make sure that the solution you opt for does not take too much time (of your executives) on research and maintenance.
Next, you need to look at core CRM functionalities – sales automation, lead management, and case management and self-service.
For sales automation, find out the capabilities it offers for sales acceleration. Also, find how CRM will drive sales productivity. Evaluate the solution on the accuracy of contact data, and whether or not it can auto-populate records and forms.
For lead management, find out if it is capable of lead nurturing, and evaluate if the solution can automate prospect outreach and lead qualification.
For case management and self-service, evaluate CRM on whether or not it can automate calls and emails to improve your services. Also, find out if it delivers all the data to your service center executive so that they can take remedial action at the earliest to improve customer service.
Then, you need to look at the platform requirements. Can the CRM platform be optimized for extensibility and customization? Other points to consider include the following:
- Access to full source code, and if the code base remains consistent across all modules
- Tools or expertise required to customize the CRM specific to the needs of your business
- Program language
- Hosting options – including how to relocate your data if necessary
Next, look at security and compliance. Make sure the solution can meet your data security and privacy requirements, as well as compliance and regulatory needs and governance tools, if applicable.
Pricing/ROI is another aspect to consider. Learn what you will have to pay, pricing models and levels, any hidden charges, total cost of ownership, what else you will have to pay during your association with the CRM, and the return on investments that your solution will offer.
Last but not least, vendor requirements. For example, the kind of customer support, training and other resources the vendor can provide.
Types of CRM systems
Mainly, there are two types of CRM systems – on-premise CRM and cloud-based or on-demand CRMs. Both have their pros and cons. Here is what you need to know about each:
On-premise CRMs – An on-premise CRM physically lives on your premises (read office). The system resides on your premises where you have a server room, and your IT team sets up and manages the system. You purchase the hardware and your IT team sets up and installs the software.
The major benefit of an on-premise CRM is that it offers you complete control over equipment, data and security.
Some of the downsides of an on-premise CRM include requiring a substantial up-front investment. You’ll need an IT team to install and maintain the system, outages can result in downtime and/or loss of data, and scaling and upgrades are your responsibility – which can entail considerable expense.
Cloud-based CRMs – A cloud-based CRM system is an on-demand delivery of the software delivered to businesses over the internet and managed by a team of dedicated experts. You don’t need to buy the software or hardware. Your employees can log in to the system and start using the CRM on their computers or mobile devices. This type of delivery model is known as \ software-as-a-service (SaaS).
One major benefit of a cloud-based CRM is not needing a substantial up-front investment. Others include the following:
- Not having to install or maintain the system
- Not needing an in-house IT team to manage the system
- 24/7 accessibility to everyone in the organization who is an authorized user
- Is scalable
- Upgrades are usually automatic, and made by the vendor
If you are considering a CRM solution, eZnet CRM offers an intuitive, user-friendly system that is easy for employers to implement and for employees to use. eZnet CRM provides the comprehensive support, training and technical capability critical to seamless functionality and end-user acceptance. Contact us to learn more, and begin a free 30-day trial.