What is CRM and why do you need it?
Simply put, without customers, a company cannot survive. Unsurprisingly, customers influence the way every single company conducts business. Effectively managing interactions to best serve customers and prospects while staying aligned with evolving business goals, including growth and profits now serves as a major challenge. Consequently, customer-centric companies achieve the greatest success today by using flexible Customer Relationship Management (CRM) solutions to manage the customer-facing processes of their business.
But what exactly is a CRM anyways?
According to CRM.org, “CRM gathers customer interactions across all channels in one place. Managing centralized data helps businesses improve customer experience, satisfaction, retention and service.” The ultimate goal of CRM is to provide a single repository for information about your current customer base, as well as your potential customers. By enabling the right CRM for your company, every customer preference, previous transaction, service request or question ensures that no opportunity passes without an effort to make another sale.
Whether you’re a small business, medium-sized company, or a large enterprise, we want to provide you with our insight to help you take a more customer-centric view of your business. We will discuss how to weigh and consider your CRM options, answering questions such as:
- How can CRM address customer-facing processes unique to your industry?
- How can CRM work with your company’s specific business processes?
- What CRM capabilities are available that will help you keep pace with rapid changes in your business and market?
- How can CRM deliver quantifiable business results?
- Are there CRM implementation approaches that mitigate the expense and risk for your business?
Companies need to take a strategic and informed approach to their customer relationships and CRM selection. Over the years, some companies have spent large sums on CRM only to have it fail to deliver the results they had hoped for. When CRM deployments do not meet expectations, it is often due to a lack of clear business strategy or executive sponsorship, poor technology fit, inadequate planning, or a combination of these factors.
As we will explain, CRM is first and foremost a strategy, and CRM technology enables and supports this unique business strategy—not the other way around. To avoid common pitfalls, it’s important to be aware of this and other core CRM success principles discussed below. With an ever-increasing number of factors to consider in CRM system selection, it can be difficult to navigate technology options with confidence. Ultimately, that is why finding the right partner that can fit your every need is critical in the success of your CRM implementation.
One of the best ways to learn how to achieve CRM success is to look at how other companies have made it work for them. By collaborating with our customers by hearing their insight, we have been able to refine our CRM solutions to better fit their needs. With the complexity of CRM system evaluation in mind, we’ve compiled our CRM insights to create this article to help companies like yours take a considered approach to CRM evaluation, informed by real-world success.
Use these five principles as a guide for selecting the right solution and, ultimately, deploying CRM successfully. These principles will help you develop a CRM strategy that is executable, measurable, and aligned with your company’s strategic goals. Whether you consider CRM the “glue” that holds their business together, or the “backbone” to opening doors to new customers, CRM is fundamental to your business success.
CRM is not just a purchase, it’s a strategy.
No matter how sophisticated, no technology can be successful without a strategy to guide its implementation and use. Business strategy and technology must always work hand in hand to bring a customer-centric plan to maturity. CRM solutions will help you get to know your customers better, understand their needs, and respond to them to create a valuable customer experience. However, companies evaluating CRM options should remain mindful that CRM is and will continue to be a business strategy that requires the proper alignment of business processes, people, and technology to create a long-lasting profitable relationship. Consequently, before your company even considers assembling lists of requirements or evaluating available solutions, you need to take the time and effort to articulate your CRM strategy and goals clearly.
Start by looking to develop a CRM strategy that puts customers at the focal point of your business, whether that be through stronger customer relationships or through improved customer loyalty. It is also critical to define the full customer arc from first encounter to post-sales services to ensure that your customers build a bond with your company. Additionally, involve employees in the CRM vision and implementation as creating a personalized interface will reflect exactly how your team works. As a result, developing your CRM strategy is one of the most challenging building blocks of CRM success because you must understand the market, industry, and customer drivers that influence the selection of your company’s products and services.
Key questions to consider!
- How will CRM support your corporate strategy?
- Which departments or functional groups need to be involved in system design and who will use it? Which processes will be impacted or require change?
- Have customers been asked for feedback about the level and quality of service they receive and expect?
- Do you have a strategy and communications plan that includes employees and partners in the CRM selection and rollout process?
- What are the training requirements to drive user adoption?
Why you need your CRM to fit the way you work.
New software frequently brings new beneﬁts, but it can also bring new difficulties if it forces you to change the way you work to ﬁt the software. In addition to being disruptive, if rigid new software is “imposed” on your workers, this can breed resentment against the latest tools and hinder user adoption. With CRM, where success is closely linked to user adoption, this can present a signiﬁcant obstacle. Consequently, as your business processes have often been built up over years of experience, utilizing a CRM that does not fit the way you work can diminish your unique competitive advantage.
If your organization requires robust sales, marketing, service, and channel management capabilities, the ability to customize your CRM solution easily and cost-effectively is essential. Moreover, the ﬂexibility of a CRM solution, or lack thereof, is determined by its underlying architecture, which directly affects the extent it can be customized and integrated. Numerous CRM customers have taken advantage of its ﬂexible architecture to model their unique processes and consider themselves well positioned to meet evolving demands. Thus, for forward-thinking enterprises that want to generate more growth and enhance their business agility in an everchanging landscape, a flexible CRM system is vital for success.
Key questions to consider!
- What are the conditions of your market?
- Are they stable or dynamic?
- Do you plan on changing how you do business to remain on par or outperform your competition?
- What does your technological infrastructure currently look like?
- What is needed to support new systems, new data sources, and new users?
- Can your current infrastructure collect all important and relevant customer information?
- How will your company accommodate change and growth within the system?
Why you need to measure CRM benefits.
Too many companies measure the outcome of their CRM strategies only as an afterthought. While understanding that a CRM system is necessary for their business, many fail to set out quantitative goals or metrics for tracking hard results. Unfortunately, many organizations can’t prove their success or meet their original objectives. Subsequently, most organizations have a need or desire to measure the success of their CRM implementation. Goals and metrics must be quantiﬁed and benchmarked right from the start to ensure that the right data is captured. Thus, the right processes must be implemented to quantify results down the line properly.
However, it is important to remember that every organization has a different vision for their CRM project. By looking at our customer stories, while there is considerable overlap, each of our customers have different goals and purposes for implementing their CRM. Therefore, it is incredibly important to develop pre-set requirements for metrics that work specifically for your company and the industry you are in. As a result, comparing actual results to established metrics will help provide companies with the information they need to determine whether your CRM strategy is working and to what effectiveness.
Key questions to consider!
- Are your ROI metrics derived from a corporate mandate?
- Have you established key business metrics? How will you report on them?
- Have you benchmarked current conditions and metrics for future comparison?
- What might the long-term cost be to your business if you choose not to adopt CRM?
Why you must consider total cost of ownership.
There’s a good reason why industry analysts commonly use time horizons of at least three years when helping CRM vendors and customers set expectations for the total expense of a CRM project. Few organizations have unlimited budgets; and CRM is not a one-time cost. It’s important to understand the full costs of a CRM implementation to help plan, budget, and select systems appropriately. As SugarCRM notes, “The total cost of ownership (TCO) is the purchase price of a product, plus the costs of operating and maintaining it. So, you should consider software licenses and employee salaries to run it, training associated with the technology, onboarding, ongoing support, maintenance, upgrades, and more.”
Instead of looking to eliminate up-front investments, look at ways to minimize your TCO over time. As mentioned previously, finding a CRM that fits the way you work is vital for success, however it also is incredibly-cost effective. Given that customization can account for a large share of the CRM implementation cost, find a solution that more closely matches your needs from the start to reduce cost and implementation time. A flexible and industry-specific CRM provides the most pre-defined functionality for lead management, sales automation, and customer care. Customization is then only needed to implement unique business processes and integration points.
Key questions to consider!
- Are you considering costs over a three-year period?
- Have you planned for change or growth?
- Could you outgrow a “quick fix” and wind up spending more money a few years down the road?
- Have you considered the costs of data security and the cost of potential security breaches?
- Does industry-specific CRM make sense for your company?
Why you need to pick the right CRM partner.
Finding a CRM solution that ﬁts your needs is more than just a checklist of features and technical requirements. Implementing and supporting a CRM system is an important and sizeable project, and the factors in its success extend beyond the system itself, to the CRM company you partner with and the kinds of supporting services they offer.
When selecting a CRM, understand what services you will need to achieve your project goals. Is implementation enough, or do you need a partner to develop a CRM evaluation criteria, post-implementation maintenance, or customization through remote system management services? Similarly, pick a partner that know your industry inside and out. If you find that your company would spend too much time teaching a potential partner about your business and industry, that is valuable time and money wasted. The right CRM partner for you is not just the partner that offers the lowest rates, it is the partner that understands your needs and already has the experience to implement a system tailored to your company.
Key questions to consider!
- Does the vendor have experience in my industry?
- Does the vendor have strong, current references from reputable customer companies?
- Has the vendor worked with companies our size?
- What kinds of implementation support can the vendor provide?
- Does the vendor follow a defined implementation methodology?
- What kinds of training options are available, and how flexible are they?
- What kind of technical support options and resources are available post-implementation?
- What if we don’t have the skills in-house to support or manage the system?
Since our founding in 2009, we have deployed over 620 CRM implementations with a Client Service Rating of 97%. From companies within the Homebuilders, to Manufacturing, and Financial Services, we have guided countless companies to their lifelong CRM system. With the help of this article, we believe that ever company must take these necessary steps to maximize their potential with their CRM. Without a proper plan in place, purchasing a CRM is not enough to separate yourself from the competition.
The keys for CRM success are clear:
- Find a CRM solution that meets your expectations and corporate strategy
- Utilize a CRM that works the way you work
- Focus on defining CRM business benefits during the selection process
- Consider the Total cost of ownership (TCO) so you do not go overbudget
- Pick the right partner that benefits you
Click below and find out which platform is right for your company!
How Tokara Solutions is ready to help you get the most out of your CRM:
The business landscape is anything but static. Having a fully integrated, end-to-end CRM for every step in the customer journey is essential for any business looking to achieve the most while maintaining an ease of mind! Tokara Solutions offers help in providing the best CRM for you and your company! With an average of over 18 years of CRM consulting, Tokara’s wealth of knowledge in integrating and maintaining CRM systems is rooted in our devotion to supporting small, medium, and large size enterprises.