For many businesses, Customer Relationship Management, as a strategy, is considered the pinnacle of successful, sustainable and profitable long term operation. Effective execution of this strategy is supported by a piece of software to manage people, processes and business insights. But in a world of increasingly complicated technology, millennials flooding through the gates and every man and his dog offering to sell you software, how do you reduce the risk involved in selecting and using CRM to your advantage?
Your CRM partner
If you’ve been reading our blogs for some time, you’ll know this is a common theme. For CRM to be successful, you must be able to trust the people you choose to work with, even when they challenge you. In fact, to us, that’s a dead giveaway of a good partner; one who questions why you work the way you do, where you want to be and how you think you’re going to get there – and offers insight on similar implementations they have worked on. Sadly, there are still companies who will try to convince you that the one product they sell is the perfect match for your business because of its umpteen different benefits and features, but never try to learn more about you to work out the best solution for your business.
Consider this: if you are new to CRM, you will need much more guidance from your CRM partner, so you should choose one with an approach that matches your needs. Do they differentiate themselves on the product they sell and the price they can sell it at? Or are they more interested in making the solution work for you, whatever it takes? Will they give you a fixed price to prevent project costs spiralling out of control? There is an awful lot to consider when choosing a CRM partner – do your homework and make sure you can get the right amount of hand-holding from them.
The CRM software
Taking the risk out of the software you choose to run involves a lot of checks which will vary depending on what you need from CRM. Quite a few people researching CRM get hung up on extensive lists of mandatory features. But if you look around at all of the research available on successful CRM implementations, not that much of the success is attributed to the chosen platform. More important factors include adapting your culture to be customer centric, and breaking down legacy process barriers preventing swift and easy interactions with customers. Some areas to consider on the software (not feature) front are:
- Where can it be hosted?
- How simple are integrations to/from it?
- Can it be tweaked to grow with your business in the future?
- Are other businesses similar to yours already using it successfully?
Talking to a company who already uses the software can offer a valuable perspective on the solution because they can share any challenges they have had along the way – and if they have used the same partner, even better!
The CRM vendor
It’s not uncommon for people to not fully differentiate the CRM platform and the CRM vendor when investigating options. When thinking about the company that owns and manages the product, you want to be sure that, in the context of reducing risk of buying from them:
- Their reputation within the community on their own customer centricity is strong
- They are committed to continually evolving the product going forward, providing regular software patches and updates
- They, through their partner network, have relevant knowledge and experience to help you use the CRM software in a way that supports your business
Something that can end up costing companies a large sum of money if not considered is, do you really need the best of the best? While you could buy from the biggest vendors with the most money to spend on product evolution, small and medium sized businesses often find better value when NOT looking at the market leaders.
Many professionals in the CRM industry believe that the biggest risk involved in adopting a CRM culture is not the software involved, but rather, the openness and ability to embrace change within companies considering CRM. I realise this sounds like something that’s probably not a problem. Many times, I hear “It’s no problem, we all want change” – but when it comes time to walk the walk, there will almost always be struggles because the perceived change is too great, or happens too quickly, or without context or education etc.
You can reduce the risk of these struggles by engaging the user community very early on. Give regular updates about what is happening and explain to people how it will help them do their job. If people can see how it personally helps them, they become much more willing to take the time to learn the ‘new way’. A user could even end up as a CRM champion who helps other users. Ensure a fair evaluation of the market is done so that when asked the question, “why are we using this platform”, you can very quickly explain how that software aligns with your vision.