The basic premise of customer relationship management (CRM) is to attract new customers and retain existing ones by maintaining the perceived value proposition. In today’s landscape, a data-driven CRM approach is one of the most powerful pillars of a successful marketing strategy, therefore having the right CRM software is crucial to success. The right CRM system will partner with your company to decrease acquisition costs, increase loyalty and optimise the bottom line.
The type of system that is right for you will depend on your objectives and the type of sector you operate in. If your goals are to improve customer service your CRM choice may vastly differ to if acquisition is your primary goal. A B2B focused CRM system will have different features compared to a B2C focused system.
This post will take a brief look at each component to consider when choosing a new CRM system, providing a checklist for future decisions.
Sales and marketing automation
The need for marketing automation is often a primary catalyst for a new CRM system. A robust system will cater to all your automation needs, allowing for one-time set up require minimal intervention thereafter. Automation can come in many forms, with the ability to send triggered communications being the most prominent.
An automation programme should also be able to manage contacts within your database in relation to their current lifecycle stage, tracking the progression of leads or prospects throughout the funnel from acquisition all the way to conversion.
Depending on your objectives for your CRM system, the ability to contact customers via a number of channels may be vital. Check that your CRM system allows for communication via your desired channels; emails, SMS, live chat, social or phone.
Implementation & compatibility
CRM integration is the process of aligning your new CRM system with existing interfaces such as your website or contact database, and therefore is critical within the selection process. API integration and the level of technical assistance you will receive should be high on your CRM checklist, also be aware of the additional costs that extra technical support could incur.
A CRM system can have all the features you desire, but without a user-friendly interface it can be a frustrating and troublesome tool.
Similar to any website, a CRM system should have an intuitive interface with an easy-to-navigate hierarchical structure and clear signposting. During the on-boarding process, users should be taught the basics of how to use the system by a dedicated account manager or on-boarding manager. On demand training videos are also a commonly utilised tool to provide users with further education regarding their specific areas of need.
User friendliness also covers the device adaptability of the software. With mobile-working at an all-time high, being able to access all features as easily on mobile as they can do on a desktop is a factor for consideration.
Security and compliance features
Your CRM system will inevitably hold a vast amount of data regarding your customers, therefore the security measures and legal compliance of your chosen system is paramount, protecting your data from security breaches and hacking, whilst storing the personal data in a compliant manner. CRM systems can be hosted in two main ways, with each having a different impact on security and responsibility levels;
Software as a service (SaaS): This is the most common platform option, and will give you access to the software through the internet with login credentials. The CRM provider will take full responsibility for data security and compliance as the software is stored on their servers within their data centre.
On-premise: This platform option requires the company to download and install the specialised software onto their own network and devices. The company would take responsibility of data security and compliance as the software is hosted on your company’s servers within your own data centre.
During the day-to-day use of your CRM system, you may stumble upon issues and queries that require additional help than the standard FAQs pages. Ongoing customer support can add a level of fluency to the CRM system, preventing stoppages in work when an issue arises. When choosing the level of support needed, all users of your CRM system should be considered.
Different providers offer varied levels of support, with the most common being; access to a dedicated account manager, bi-annual training days, live chat, quarterly reviews, or a help-desk ticketing system.
Data in isolation is often of limited use. Reporting capabilities which align with your KPIs can provide a visual window into both the strategic and tactical insights that can be gained from your data. Key reporting capabilities to consider are; the ability to customise reports, the presence of visual reporting and the ability to export mass data.
The cost of CRM systems can vary widely. Most systems have a subscription based model which makes them accessible to a wider range of businesses from SME’s to large multi-nationals. Factors which influence costs can include; the number of contacts within the database, the number of communications you will be sending, CRM features selected or the number of users required.
Consider the role that any such system will play in your marketing strategy and apportion your budget appropriately.
A CRM system may be an ideal fit for your business at the current date, but will it stand the test of time? We would always suggest querying the CRM provider about their development plans and on-going upgrades, this would provide you with a good idea of the longevity of the provider and whether it can meet the demands of an evolving business.
With these nine areas in mind, you should be well-equipped to begin your hunt for the ideal CRM partner, but before you begin your search, ensure you’re equipped with what you are looking for in a CRM system and your wider business objectives. Don’t be woo’d by buzz words and marketing jargon, your new CRM system will form a fundamental part of your strategy going-forward and therefore the deciding choice is not one to be taken.