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Choosing a Customer Relationship Management solution

By: J.A.J Aaronson - Updated: 20 Nov 2010 | comments*Discuss
Customer Relationship Management

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software presents a number of significant potential benefits for businesses of varying sizes. Even as a new business (and, indeed, even if the business consists solely of you), your organisation is likely to be able to benefit from a Customer Relationship Management solution in some form.

A well-planned solution may be able to help you with keeping track of orders and customers, translating leads into sales, analysing sales data, and many other tasks. However, with such a broad range of Customer Relationship Management software available, it is important that you have a clear idea of your needs from the outset in order to ensure that you choose the best available solution.

Common Factors

A number of factors will apply to the deployment of any Customer Relationship Management solution. Some, although perhaps not all, of these factors will apply to any organisation, regardless of its size. In the first instance, you should consider the short and medium term goals of your organisation, as well as the strategy that you currently have implemented to achieve these goals.

Clearly, your goals and strategy will be different to those of a multinational organisation, but the important thing to remember is that the Customer Relationship Management solution that you choose should fit around your goals, and not the other way around. It is likely that increasing turnover will be a significant goal, particularly in the early stages of a business. If this is the case, then you should be looking at Customer Relationship Management solutions that concentrate on customer service, and translating potential customers into closed sales.

Aside from this, the matters that you should address are slightly more practical in nature. One of the most important of these concerns the location of the software itself. Increasingly, Customer Relationship Management solutions are entirely web-based. This has a number of advantages; in particular, it offers you access to all of your vital data anywhere in the world. If you travel a lot, or if much of your business takes place outside the office, this is likely to be a major concern.

It should be remembered, however, that CRM software can be particularly bandwidth intensive. As such, if you do not need remote access to your Customer Relationship Management software, you may find it cheaper to install it on a dedicated computer in your offices, rather than hosting it online.

Scalability and Deployment

The final two major things to consider are closely linked. The first of these concerns the initial scale of the software. As has already been mentioned, if you are a sole trader your needs will not be as extensive as those of, say, a company running call centres. Furthermore, these large solutions will simply not be cost-effective. That said, it is important that you choose software with 'scalability' – that is, it must have the capacity to grow with your business.

Linked with this, however, is the speed of deployment. Inevitably, more complex solutions take longer to deploy. However, the total deployment time will vary depending on the solution; a fair estimate, however, would be that an Open Source CRM solution would take around 20 hours to customise and 100 hours to fully familiarise yourself with.

Clearly, there is no point in learning software that is beyond your needs; as such, you should give careful consideration to ensuring that you are not choosing a Customer Relationship Management solution that is too complex, while still making sure that there is room for expansion.

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