The key to return-on-investment from CRM

By Mike Richardson

SME owners are well aware that their success relies as much on the quality of their products and services as it does on encouraging the loyalty of their customers and that loyalty in the modern world is built through intelligent, customised and well-timed communications that elevate a simple customer interaction to an ‘experience’.

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software that helps an organisation to achieve this degree of customer engagement is an increasingly popular option for SMEs. But the choice of provider is crucial if long-term commercial benefit is to be derived.

Here are six key factors to consider when assessing the suitability of a potential CRM solutions provider.

  • Is the solution user-friendly?

Put simply, if your staff don’t find the solution easy to use, it could cost you dearly in the long run. Ask for a demo or even a trial. Think about how you’ll use it – via desktop or mobile, for instance? – and listen carefully to user feedback. 

  • How easy is it to integrate?

Compatibility with existing infrastructure is vital if costs are to be contained. Ask the prospective provider detailed questions about integration with your systems, especially if you intend on retaining certain elements such as a contact management system, rather than starting from scratch.

  • What security processes are in place?

You do not want your new CRM solution to become a weak link in your organisation’s data protection strategy. Security measures to reduce the risk of data breaches and cyber attacks may include password protection, permissions-based access, change auditing and a data backup solution.

  • Will there be additional costs?

Your provider should offer a consultative approach to helping you choose the right payment package for the CRM solution. As an SME, would a pay-monthly plan be more suitable than pay-upfront? Can you tailor costs according to the functions and number of users you require? Don’t fall into the trap of investing in the all-singing, all-dancing version if that isn’t really what you need.

  • How will you be supported?

In reality, you will only maximise the value gained from your investment if you have access to post-sale support.  How will this be provided, and are updates and ongoing training also available? Via which channels?

  • Can the solution be customised?

Not every business is the same, and a one-size-fits-all approach to software is likely to be problematic. Plus, your needs may well change over time. Be sure to ask whether the software can be customised, and to what degree, and whether extensions and plug-ins are part of the service.

In addition to these practical considerations, remember that a solution provider’s attitude could have as much bearing on the overall success of your CRM as the system itself. SMEs who assess a potential technology partner by their proactivity, commitment to ongoing service and willingness to demonstrate their worth, are more likely to make the right choice and secure real, long-term value for their business.

Mike Richardson, Managing Director EMEA, Maximizer Software