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Nov 1 2017   1:24AM GMT

The right five questions to ask before purchasing CRM software

DianeKeller Profile: DianeKeller

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CRM

Shopping for CRM software system can be daunting. Many platforms come with bells, whistles, add-ons and integrations that you never considered — not to mention a high price tag. Adding a complicated, expensive software to your business is not a decision to be made lightly.

However, the time that it takes to implement your CRM is worth it, if you can find the right CRM software to fit your needs.

How can you determine which CRM software system is right for you? Ask these questions, and then take your top CRM candidates for a test drive! Many systems offer a free trial period. The best way to see if a system is the right fit is to put it to work for you. Here’s where to start to make your decision simple.

What do you want to accomplish?

Get your CRM strategy in order before shopping around for a system. Take the time to be clear about what your goals are for capturing your customer relationships. Are you going to use this information for sales, marketing, customer service, or all of the above? What details will you need to consistently report to get the big-picture data you need? Understand the variety of reporting options that come standard with each CRM platform: customer data matters, but that data must drive action. How strong are the reporting capabilities of each CRM?

Reporting is just one piece of the puzzle. Think about what other processes your CRM might need to manage. What tasks do you want to automate? Many CRM systems can automate email alerts for important events, escalate uncompleted issues, and streamline workflows by directing traffic among your teams.

Additionally, consider where your business might grow in the future. Many CRM platforms offer add-ons that you may not need today, but are worth considering as you start to see your company take off. You need a customer solution service right now, but next quarter you might be ready for some online marketing and social media monitoring. Companies like Hubspot and Zoho have marketing and social media capabilities. Others, like Microsoft, will offer project management tools and organizational supplements.

Who will use the system?

What teams will need access to your CRM system? How many accounts will you need? Most CRM platforms, like Salesforce, offer pricing based on the number of users. Factor in things like continuity and mobility: do you have a mobile salesforce? Do you have some team members who cover multiple roles?

Some platforms will also allow you to set different features and access levels for different teams. For example, you might make certain reports available to your senior management team, or limit who has access to sales leads. Consider the existing workflows within your organization. If you plan to grow your business rapidly within the next year, make sure you get a system that can accommodate many new accounts (and ensure continuity and consistent service among your team members).

Should it be cloud-based or on-premise?

Of course, cost is a big factor in choosing whether or not your CRM is on-site or cloud-based. An on-premises CRM solution is often less expensive, but keep in mind the maintenance costs will add up. Upgrades, IT maintenance, and support costs might end up making a cloud-based system a better investment. You might also need a new server to keep your on-site system up and running.

Likewise, if you choose a cloud-based CRM solution, you’ll need the network resources to support the product. How much bandwidth will it use? Will your internet speeds be fast enough for a cloud-based system? Save yourself hours of frustration and internet down-time by running some speed tests. As you add accounts, make sure your CRM won’t crash your entire network.

Typically, cloud-based systems come with quicker installation and regular, easily accessible updates and improvements. You’ll also need to factor in data security to your decision.

Does it integrate with your existing systems?

Just because you’re getting ready to shell out some cash on a new system doesn’t mean you should have to replace your existing software. CRM software can integrate with lots of other parts of your business, including POS software, accounting tools, marketing platforms, and more.You shouldn’t have to manually export and import data between platforms — as long as your new CRM is compatible with the apps you already use. Make sure all your systems will coordinate by asking customer support and double-checking with the vendor before making a commitment.

What is your budget?

Finally, the biggest question of all: what are you willing to spend on a CRM platform? There is quite a range on what a CRM might cost, from freemium offerings to price tags in the millions for enterprise-sized corporations. Mostly, you can expect to pay on a per-user, per-month basis, though some vendors charge a flat monthly fee for a set number of users.

Factor in how many people are going to use your platform, as well as how much customization is required. More customization and more usually lead to a higher price point and higher maintenance costs.

Realistically, a CRM system is a great investment. The ability to capture customer interactions and valuable sales leads: priceless.

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