When people ask, “What is CRM?” the literal answer is, “Customer Relationship Management,” but that doesn’t really convey much in terms of what all CRM does for a business. This CRM definition is too narrow to really explain everything the system does if it is working to its fullest potential and is user-friendly enough to expand and grow as a customer-client relationship changes and grows.
CRM in the broader sense encompasses not only customer relationship management itself but how customer relationship management is handled and the most important elements of a CRM program that are essential to its being successful. The range of CRM software options vary from those that provide simple customer tracking and live chat capabilities to the more complex CRM solutions that can integrate all of the customer relationship data an enterprise has on each client past, present and future in a dynamic information data network.
What should I look for in a CRM software package?
If there’s an ideal CRM software package that works for every company and every situation, it hasn’t been discovered yet, simply because every company has slightly different needs for their customer relationship management needs as well as software implementation.
In general, however, when you are looking for a strong CRM software package there are a few things to keep in mind. If you are shopping for a CRM package, try to forget about the initial price tag at first (as difficult as this may be) and focus on the adaptability, usability and integrity of each system you evaluate as it relates to your particular needs. A few things to consider:
o What are the most important facets of customer relations are we looking to address, and does this CRM software support tracking and updating all aspects of this? For example, if your company wants to customer service to have ready access to changes in customer spending habits and an opportunity to offer new product options based on these records, make sure this capability is built into the software. Customization down the line will be time-consuming and expensive — if you have a primary goal, make sure it is standard in your CRM software package.
o Will the CRM software package integrate smoothly with all platforms currently in use at your company? If you will have to re-enter all databases such as client names, addresses and phone numbers, this will significantly increase the amount of money you’ll spend in the long run. Make sure that you can either integrate smoothly or import all information needed flawlessly.
o Is the product more than you need? An enterprise solution that offers fifteen functions you don’t need and never will isn’t a bargain if you will never expand into that market niche. Just because it’s available doesn’t mean you have to have it. Selling custom-sewn hats? You won’t need a CRM software package for tracking million-dollar overseas accounts.
o Has this CRM software package been used for a company of your size before? If it has been used for companies up to 10,000 and you have 150,000, the system may simply not be able to sustain the volume of data and crash or develop glitches. Look for something more powerful with a support system capable of understanding the size of your company.
Can you build me a dream CRM software package?
Hmm…let’s see. The best CRM software package would be optimally functional across all platforms and have its own customer support backing it, and …. Well, let’s take a look at our own list of what we’d really like in a CRM software package if money was no object and we could “have it all,” so to speak:
o A CRM software provider that has partnerships with other vendors for support in the event you need it for integration of platforms.
o Extensive training from certified CRM software technicians who will walk your people through the process of setting up, using and training others on the system.
o Full data migration capabilities to and from all programs in current use to the new CRM software.
o Offsite server storage backup for all information in the CRM system for added security.
o A toolbox for company programmers for customizing templates for company use — this will save huge amounts of time by eliminating the need to write custom codes from scratch.
o Either in-house consultants or a choice of contracted consultants they recommend (try not to be at the mercy of one consultant when there is a problem).
o A CRM software package designed by a company familiar with our specific industry and its structural needs.
The best CRM software packages enable customer service representatives to review the account information of each client or customer when they are talking to him or her and immediately understand something about that person’s needs, wants and spending patterns.
For banks, CRM software can indicate their banking patterns — are they investing through the bank? Have they recently looked into a money market fund? Do they have substantial funds that could be put to better use than languishing in a simple CD?
A mail order company can note your shopping tendencies and make Christmas shopping suggestions based on past purchases by seeing that you buy a lot of kids’ clothes and that you spend about $200 each holiday. Used correctly, a toy company can steer you toward some bargains and suggest alternatives, enriching your shopping experience and building customer loyalty.
Why does CRM software fail so often after it’s put into place?
You’ve heard the stories about a company buying a CRM software package and then realizing it hasn’t really changed anything. The big-wigs are disappointed, customer service is frustrated, and the clients are aggravated with the new changes that don’t seem to show any improvements in customer service or client relations. How does it happen?
Because CRM software was purchased that wasn’t appropriate, was purchased too soon, or wasn’t implemented properly. If you don’t purchase CRM software that specifically addresses what your customer concerns are, you may have software that is very detailed in an area you don’t need and somewhat lacking in exactly what you do need.
Purchasing too soon means you bought the software before you had evaluated what you really wanted. Many companies by CRM software with a goal “to improve customer relations,” which is not a clear business goal! You should have a very specific, well-defined objective that your CRM software solution can address, and you company should have developed a formal objective before you went shopping for a solution. Retaining customers? Improving the size of current customer portfolios? Penetrating a new market niche? Reduce customer complaints? Improve customer repair response? Determine what it is you want to focus on as a goal, and then choose your CRM software solution based on how it will address it.
Finally, implementation of a new CRM program requires proper management support and effective training. That means that management must be behind it one hundred percent, and not have “head in the sand” approach where they determine that “that’s for customer service, I never did understand that stuff,” and avoid learning how the CRM software works. It is an attitude that will pervade the company.