Customer relationship management (CRM) technology is no longer a privilege reserved for the multinational or sectors that master information technology. No matter the size of your business, there is a CRM system to suit your needs. Many SMBs have turned away from CRM due to cost misconceptions. Maybe they just haven’t embraced the new technologies. Perhaps the biggest barrier to small businesses using CRMs is the lack of understanding and education in this area. When you read this article, we hope we have done something to mitigate this problem.
So what is customer relationship management technology?
Customer relationship management is the process by which a company organizes and orders all its interactions with its customers and prospects. This can be marketing campaigns, financial exchanges, document storage, etc. Most businesses use a combination of computers, the Internet, and paper files to facilitate CRM processes. CRM technology makes it possible to do this in one central place using software.
The main advantage of this software is that it is a central repository for all business needs. They only have to search for information in a single system. They don’t need to research different areas or open multiple applications and systems at the same time. The more integrated the system is within an organization, the more streamlined workflow processes will be.
Buy the CRM or rent it?
Not all providers give you a choice, but some will. A basic CRM can be purchased in a single transaction and installed internally in your back office. The other option is to take advantage of payment solutions as and when, more and more available. These systems are rented on the Internet. You pay for each user based on a monthly fee. This solution is often referred to as « hosted » CRM. There are free CRM software that are rented for free on the Internet. However, you usually have to pay for assistance for system maintenance, which is quite rigid.
Hosted CRM has the advantage of being more flexible about where you can access it. Since it’s securely accessible from any internet-connected PC, it’s suitable for businesses with employees working remotely. Buying the software outright can be advantageous for SMEs with IT expertise. However, for most companies, adaptation will become costly, as they will have to rely on external technical assistance.
Renting software on the Internet can also bring other benefits to small businesses. They can, for example, choose CRM software and outsource secure data backups. Thus, in the event of a system failure, essential customer information is copied and searchable. If your CRM provider offers more traditional IT support services, it may be worthwhile to work with an organization that can take care of all your IT systems and infrastructure (web hosting, disaster recovery, network support). With a hosted CRM, you have more flexibility to choose the elements you want and that fit your business needs.
Custom CRM or generic CRM?
Custom CRM systems are usually the most expensive option. However, if they are well designed they can work effectively in parallel with your existing business processes. They can provide a long-term solution to your needs. SMEs therefore need to think about how quickly they need to see a return on investment. Indeed, it can be longer with a custom CRM than with a system that you can start using immediately.
An alternative to bespoke CRM is an industry CRM, which has been designed for similar types of businesses and is usually only tailored to that specific industry. These solutions can be beneficial, as they can offer a certain level of customization to your business as a standard. However, you can find better alternatives than generic solutions with flexible usage options.
Improvements, additions and hidden costs
The majority of CRM providers are constantly updating and reviewing their systems. Thus, they can offer better functionality and greater variety to their customers. These upgrade costs are typically passed on to the consumer who pays for updated versions of their software (usually on an annual basis). They can also take the form of additional modules. This is where a new feature is added to your existing CRM, for a fee. Some ISPs include all upgrade costs in the price of your user license. If you need to transfer customer information, additional costs may arise depending on the ease of retrieval and the amount of data to be transferred. These charges include history, notes, and previous correspondence from your old system to the new one.
In addition to purchasing the software, there are likely costs associated with training your employees to use the application. These service fees are not negligible and any company considering implementing the application should factor this into their budget. Customization fees are also a potential source of hidden costs. This is because a generic CRM may need to be reconfigured in some way to meet your business requirements. The ability to customize the CRM at the user level (without having to pay consultants to do it for you) is an interesting feature to consider for any CRM.
Consider your end users
At the heart of a successful implementation of customer relationship management are the people who use it on a daily basis. Changing your work culture can be a long and painful process for any business. Staff need to see the benefits for themselves and the entire company if CRM is to deliver a successful return on investment. That’s why it’s a good idea to involve your end users in discussions during the pre-selection and final selection phases. This user engagement is a common barrier to many CRM initiatives. As a result, many of them are considered ineffective.
If you can maintain some familiarity with the system change, this should ease the transition from the old system to the new CRM. It is usually better to proceed gradually and not try to make a radical change. Make sure everyone has mastered the basics before introducing the more advanced features.
If you’re using a stand-alone accounting system, see if your chosen CRM can be integrated with it to store all the data. Some vendors have partners with accounting software. They are therefore designed to work together seamlessly. However, be careful not to fall into the trap of buying CRM on this basis alone and neglecting what’s really important overall.
Customer relationship management must be the subject of a thorough and logical reflection. SMBs can benefit tremendously from customer relationship management if it meets their present and future needs. It is also essential to plan for what the company will need in one or five years, as well as in the present. Thus, they can choose the right solution in the long run. If all of these elements are considered thoroughly, customer relationship management can be a blessing for SMBs.