By Larry Caretsky
The CRM software sector is an explosive market. The introduction of cloud based CRM solutions that no longer require the implementation of computer hardware or software, coupled with a large number of low cost offerings for small to mid-size businesses, have fed the global growth of this industry. Growth predictions for this sector indicate that businesses are going to continue to buy CRM software to automate and streamline their internal business processes. Despite the rapid deployment and ease of use of web-based systems, the CRM software sector continues to suffer from low utilization levels and unmet expectations.
Consumers often point to the solution providers for over engineering the software, making it too hard to use. Vendors could argue it’s the consumers who are at fault, having not made the proper commitment to training and best practices necessary to ensure the successful implementation of their software. The blame game continues year after year yet for some reason very little changes.
Why the evaluation process can make or break your CRM success
A high degree of unsuccessful implementations have more to do with a flawed evaluation and selection process than anything else. It’s not the vendor’s fault nor is there a lack of commitment by the consumer. What I discovered is that very often companies are ill equipped in their approach to the evaluation of CRM software. Here is what I mean.
Management decides they need CRM software to improve how they market, sell and provide service to their customers. That’s great! But very often their specific objectives are not well-documented. They may not have given enough thought to the internal and external resources needed to ensure their success. Their staff is told to “Go out and evaluate CRM solutions.” In many cases, they are not clear on the business challenges they are trying to solve or what approach they need to take to complete their assignment. At this point going out and selecting a CRM system is not the answer to the problem, IT IS THE PROBLEM.
Easing the CRM Buying Process
Very few people are experienced software evaluators. As such, they may feel a bit apprehensive interacting with software vendors and they may not know the right questions to ask. Now you have a group of people who are not experienced software purchasers, looking for a CRM solution to address unspecific requirements. This is not a formula for success.
What are the right questions to ask when selecting a CRM?
So what does this team do? Well, they are not at all comfortable with the process so they instead head down a path that they are comfortable with, and become what I have termed the checklist consumer or the commodity buyer. Let’s take a look at these evaluation processes. Later we will compare these to a process that is quite a bit different but delivers much better results.
Stay tuned for the next article in this series: “CRM Buyers Guide for the Checklist Consumer“
Image Credit: “Businessman Holding Paper” by pakorn at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Small to mid-size enterprises that are looking to implement a CRM system to improve how they market, sell and provide service to their customers have become comfortable with on-line CRM software programs that operate in the cloud, but this was not always the case.
Early Challenges of Online CRM Software
Just a few years ago users of traditional contact management and sales management software which reside on desktop computers were initially concerned with the reliability and security of on-line CRM software that operates over the web and for good reason. Early entrants into this space had difficulty meeting several basic challenges; reliability, scalability and customization. Small to mid-size businesses that tried to take advantage of these early on-line CRM systems found reliability to be a significant problem and one that they rarely encountered with desktop software. This was because many of the early on-line CRM systems were not designed for performance or scalability and customers found themselves with periodic downtime, lost data and being told to run large reports overnight rather than during the daytime when utilization was high. In addition, many of these CRM systems offered basic out-of the-box functionality with limited to no customization leaving customers with nothing more than a web based contact management system.
Meeting Today’s Business Requirements with Online CRM Software
Today, several CRM software providers have moved the bar to an exceptional level and now offer solid performance and reliability, scalability to hundreds even thousands of users and the ability to customize their product to meet unique business requirements. There are still quite a few that do not and customers need to pay close attention to the following.
Reliability – simply means up-time. While the internet has proven to be a reliable access portal to data, this does not mean your CRM vendor’s program will be. Many of the low cost programs have not been architecturally designed with performance and reliability in mind. This takes a whole lot of time and testing and cost tens of thousands of dollars to perform. Many smaller firms or start-ups simply do not worry about this and believe if their product is successful, they will deal with this issue at that time, unfortunately at the expense of the customer. The cloud CRM service provider is also something that is critical. Level one cloud service providers are the best in the business, but their service costs a lot of money. Low cost on-line CRM systems typically use tier three or four service providers which saves them money at your expense.
Performance – this relates to how the system performs when there are a large number of people using it. Remember this is an on-line CRM system not one that resides on your desktop computer. On line CRM programs operate in what is known as a multi-tenant architecture which means you are sharing an environment with many other companies. If the system was not designed to support high transaction volumes, you may find yourself with a system that does not perform as expected.
Customizability – On line CRM systems are simply not yet as mature as desktop programs that have been around for decades, but this is changing quickly. Most quality CRM systems offer a reasonable level of customization without programmer intervention. With programmer intervention, many can match the customization level of desktop programs. This level of customization is often quite expensive so customers that require a high degree of customization should make sure they understand the cost associated with its completion.
For companies just starting to investigate on line CRM software, top picks for enterprise level companies would include Oracle and SAP. Mid-size companies will find good solutions in Salesforce.com and Commence CRM.
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