By Mike Richardson
In these times of 24/7 mobile accessibility, the effectiveness of CRM systems is significantly diminished if the data they hold can only be accessed from a single location. With so many professionals working on the move, businesses need to ensure that their staff can access all the necessary information wherever they are, particularly if they are meeting with a client or a prospective customer, where the ability to view all correspondence will help identify sales opportunities.
On the flip side, customers also use their mobile devices to stay connected at all times, resulting in great amounts of data being generated at an extremely high speed. This information has to be constantly pulled from various outputs, including social media, and fed into a system in order to inform direct marketing campaigns. CRM software allows for an advanced automation of that process, as well as real-time tracking of campaign efficiency.
However, in order to deliver on its many promises, a CRM solution needs to closely reflect the type and needs of a business. By following the tips below, you will be well placed to make an informed choice about your new mobile CRM platform or to assess the performance of a CRM solution already in use.
1. Cliché as it may be, the priority is to determine your company’s requirements. Which departments need to use a CRM system and how many users are there likely to be? For companies that are intending to use their CRM system primarily as a sales tool, a simple out-of-the-box system that will only be accessed by sales, marketing and customer service is likely to be more than adequate. However, if it is probable that you will require extensibility to other business units, check whether such option is available with potential vendors.
2. Another area to investigate is the possibility to integrate with applications already in place (e.g. email client or accounts software). If you’re an investment bank, you are likely to need a complex, tailor–made solution with customised forms and connectivity with various external systems. A small family-run business however, can make do without such complexity and its associated costs.
3. A consideration of how the system is to be deployed and used will have a direct impact on the next question: whether to plump for a cloud or an on-premise solution. The latter might be a good option for companies concerned with data security or willing to pay more up-front in order to avoid greater total cost of ownership later. However, a start-up without a big budget might opt for a cloud-based solution, as the initial cost is much lower. If a company is likely to evolve and require changing functionalities, making adjustments is easier in the cloud than on-premise, but this option offers less capacity for integration with other systems.
4. It is necessary to estimate the expected number of platform users. In a midsize or large company it will be high but fairly stable; in the case of a start-up, it is likely to be changing, so scalability should be one of the most sought after features. The cloud allows for such flexibility with the number of users easily increased or decreased through individual licences. However, it might be beneficial to opt for a vendor that enables a swift change to an on-premise solution, should the size of the company abruptly grow.
5. Mobility is the buzzword of today and not without reason, but it doesn’t mean that every business requires the same level of mobile access. Are the organisation’s operatives, e.g: sales reps, often on the road? Do you encourage home-working? Does the system need to be updated in real-time? And would the company benefit if managers could access the CRM system anytime, anywhere? Usually a certain degree of mobile accessibility has a positive impact on customer service and productivity, as employees can make the most of their time being effectively released from their desks.
6. Last but not least, it is extremely important to make sure that before a new system is deployed, your organisation is really ready for it. In other words, all its members need to support the choice. This can be achieved by involving them in the decision-making process from its early stages.
Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all answer as to what type of a CRM solution will be best for any given organisation and even if a company follows the above guidelines for a contextualised analysis of its CRM requirements, the work is never over. After the original deployment, as businesses grow and mature, CRM systems must follow suit; this means constant performance assessments, ongoing adjustments and staff training. Looking at new areas in which the platform can be used to boost productivity never loses importance.
About the author
Mike Richardson is Managing Director of CRM solution firm Maximizer Software for the EMEA region. Mike joined Maximizer in 2000 when he created and headed the Professional Services Team. He then progressed through a number of senior roles, including Operations Manager and Head of Customer Care, before becoming Managing Director in June 2009. Prior to joining Maximizer, Mike had a diverse career spanning the oil and gas exploration industry, the security sector and business and IT consultancy for SMEs. Mike has a BSc Hons in Electronic Engineering and a Diploma in Engineering (DIPLeng) from Hull University.
About Maximizer Software
Since 1987, Maximizer has delivered Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software and professional services meeting the needs, budgets and access requirements of entrepreneurs, small and medium businesses and larger corporations. Simple, configurable and affordable, Maximizer CRM enables organisations in all industries and markets to increase sales, enhance marketing, and improve customer service, while boosting productivity and revenues. Headquartered in Canada, with worldwide offices and business partners, Maximizer Software has sold over one million licences to more than 120,000 customers.
For more information, www.max.co.uk.