Evaluating a CRM system

A CRM is one of the most crucial applications that your company will evaluate. Switching once you have your data in there is a pain. This makes the evaluation critical.

 

Size doesn't matter when it comes to selecting a CRM. Whether your company is large or small, a CRM helps you to stay competitive by helping your team to:


  • Track all customer interactions
  • Maintain organisation wide visibility into opportunities
  • Improve customer service
  • Automate mundane tasks
  • Improve sales team efficiency
  • Achieve simpler and more accurate forecasting


This is just a small sample of the benefits your company can gain from a well selected and implemented CRM. In order to achieve these benefits, you first need to select the right system. In this article, we will give you some important high-level ideas to consider as you go through the evaluation process.


What do you and your organisation want to achieve?

Understanding what you are looking to gain from your CRM purchase is the most important first step in an evaluation. If you don't know what you want to achieve at the end of the process, you can set yourself up for failure as vendors and resellers will use this blank slate to sway your decision and make you overlook the core reasons your company is making this decision in the first place. Start by documenting the current pains you have in your day-to-day and what would make that easier. Once you have this template, share it out with other teams like sales, marketing, finance, and customer success. Understanding the needs of every end user will help you to ensure a successful rollout (or at least give you a fall back when someone complains that it doesn't do what they wanted).


How will your team use the product?

Modern CRM systems come replete with a wide variety of features from basic contact management to full marketing automation. It's highly likely that your company doesn't need all of them. While it's great that one CRM can manage all of your social media accounts for you, if your company isn't active on social media, this should not impact your decision. Gather the needs of each department that will use the CRM and avoid buying a one size fits all solution. Nowadays, most CRMs come with different user licences so it's very possible that the same product can fulfill all the needs of each department; as long as you understand those needs you're off to a good start!


Cloud V. On-Premise

This debate will come up with every purchase and your company will often be firmly in favour of one or the other. If you have especially tight security needs (eg. data must never leave a certain country) and a solid IT team that can manage and upgrade your system, on-premise makes sense. However, if you have little to no IT resources and your data security needs are less stringent, cloud software allows greater agility and better access to new features as they are rolled out. Most companies nowadays will be more cloud focused. However, a word of warning - if you are moving to a cloud solution from a highly tailored on-premise application, be aware that you may ruffle a lot of feathers. End users will have become very used to certain nuances of your existing system that will not be available in the new product. Ensuring a broad scope (many stakeholders with a few use cases each)  in the requirements gathering process will help to mitigate this.


Integrations

Are you a Google or a Microsoft shop? What hardware do people use? Mac, Windows, Android, iOS? CRMs are accessed by multiple people throughout the organisation and interact with many of your existing systems. The most important and obvious integration is your productivity suite: emails, docs, and calendars are seamlessly integrated to remove the tedious 'updating the CRM' process that sucks the time and energy out of your team. However, there are many tools that your CRM will integrate with that may be less obvious. Systems like your ERP/accounting software, HR software, and even your phones, can all be integrated with your CRM to provide significant value and streamlining to various departments. Essentially, any time a user needs to export customer or employee data, this could be an integration. Strive to select the CRM that integrates with the largest number of your core systems. If there are missing integrations, it's important to ensure that the chosen product has open APIs so that your team can customize an integration (note that this will require some basic development resources from your team).


Implementation + Training

As CRMs are so powerful these days, it is common for companies to not get the full value from their system. Many companies will rollout a CRM with great excitement, only to find that nobody uses it and processes remain manual, completely destroying the ROI of the project. There are a number of actions that can be taken to avoid this, such as setting and enforcing rules for the team, relying on the automation in the system, and of course a broad up-front evaluation of how everyone will use the system. Outside of these standard best practices, the two most effective things a company can do to ensure user adoption is solid implementation and comprehensive training. When evaluating your chosen provider, it's also important to evaluate how the solution will be implemented. Selecting a vendor that has local implementation partners will help you to get hands on support - a solid training package for all of your users will dramatically improve user adoption. Finally, selecting a vendor that is specifically designed for your industry can help to ensure features and functionality that are relevant for you. A word of warning here: industry specific CRMs, while more catered to your industry, will often be smaller organisations with fewer integrations and less support and implementation resources.


User Experience

It is very difficult to evaluate user experience without getting your hands on the software. Different users like different experiences. Some users will solely use desktop while some users like field sales reps will predominantly access the system via their cell phone. Make sure to include a variety of users representing different departments and demographics when you trial / POC the software. This will help to identify the best overall user experience for your organisation.


Compliance

Finally, it is important to ensure that whatever software you are using supports your compliance obligations. If you are a healthcare organization, ensure that your CRM is HIPAA compliant; if you operate in Europe, ensure GDPR compliance, etc. Not only should the product be compliant, but it should also contain functionality to help your organisation remain compliant. For example, GDPR requires companies to provide all customers with reports on their data upon request. Your CRM should enable you to automate this process, saving your team valuable time and effort.


Conclusion

Deciding on your CRM is a big decision and one that can be very painful to roll back. To maximize the probability of success, a broad review of the needs of your organisation will help to make sure you are covering as many bases as possible. At some point, you will need to make the effort to understand your users needs, and it's much easier to do that before you make a vendor selection than after. Boil down these user needs to the core requirements of your business and keep it simple. It's a complex purchase, but ultimately it needs to be simple for your users.