As an executive of a company servicing the Customer Relationship Management software sector, CRM has become a bit of an oxymoron for me. I believe that building long term business relationships with your customers requires a commitment to providing quality products and great customer service. This traditionally involves reaching out to your customers and engaging with them so that they realize the maximum value from your product.
But many small to mid-size companies and CRM vendors that service the SMB sector just don’t see it this way. The vendors prefer that you just buy their product over the internet. If you need assistance send an e-mail and they will get back to you when it’s convenient for them. The buyers seem to feel comfortable with this and often hold the position that if I need assistance using your product, then it’s too hard so I’m not interested. It’s almost as if they view CRM software as nothing more than a commodity.
Your CRM Success Needs Your Commitment
Interestingly enough industry reports have indicated that there is as much as a 70% failure rate among CRM implementations. This is far worse than any other segment of the software industry. Much of this occurs in the SMB space where companies never get off the ground and as a result discontinue the service.
You could place the blame on the CRM software providers for developing products that are too hard to use; or perhaps the management of the company that purchased the system for failing to properly match their business requirement with the vendor’s offering or assign a champion who’s in charge of the CRM system. I blame the management and here’s why.
The CRM sector is crowded and highly competitive, with several hundred solutions ranging in price from free to more than $200 dollars per user per month. Most of the offerings targeted at the SME sector offer basic functionality and as such are very easy to use so this is not the problem. Furthermore, they are designed to offer limited to no customization so that the customer can’t get themselves in too much trouble. This is because with price points of free to $15 per user per month the vendor cannot afford to hire the resources to provide customer service. So when you see CRM products offered for free — no contract, or go month-to-month with no commitment, they mean it.
The real problem lies with the management of these small to mid-size businesses that have limited resources, are stretched thin and often do not understand that in order to improve how they market, sell and provide service to their customers they have to do more than download a cheap piece of software over the Internet. This commodity mentality is what I believe has led to the high failure rate in the industry. So how does this change?
Successfully Implementing Your CRM Solution
First, the management needs to agree that No Commitment – Means No Results. The first task is to make a commitment to put someone in charge of the CRM process. A champion who will document the business challenges such as ‘we need to improve lead generation‘. Then focus on finding a CRM solution that will address these challenges and a CRM vendor who can provide advice, counsel or value added services that will ensure results.
CRM is a two way street and you need to feel comfortable that the vendor has the staff and experience to make a commitment to your success. As I stated earlier you won’t get this by putting your credit card over the internet. This does not mean you have to mortgage the business to find a quality product and company that can deliver both at an affordable price. There are several good ones and you may be surprised to find out that the difference between a low cost CRM product and a CRM solution provider offering the value added services you need may be less than you think.
About the Author:
Larry Caretsky is President of Commence Corporation, a leading provider of online CRM software for small to mid-size businesses. Caretsky is considered an expert in the field and has written numerous white papers on the subject and the book, Practices That Pay – Leveraging Information to Achieve Selling Results. All are available from the company’s web site at www.commence.com
Image by Piero Fissore on Flickr under Creative Commons license.