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7 Factors in Choosing a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Package


Many business reach a point in their growth when they consider implementing their first customer relationship management system (CRM).  Some of them start by using Excel or SharePoint for tracking customer data, then reach a point when they need functions that these tools do not easily provide, such as reports and dashboards or integration with other systems.

There is a wealth of online information available to companies shopping for CRM, so this blog post provides a starting point on some key factors to consider:
  1. Write down your requirements. A list of business needs will help you evaluate CRM options.  For instance, a requirement might be to allow customers to submit customer service cases online, or for sales people to track their performance for commissions. 
  2. Find something geared toward your industry. Not all businesses are the same, and many CRM systems are available which are tailored to your specific vertical (industry). For instance, you can find a CRM for insurance sales, health care providers, law firms, and many other industries.  If one of these suits your needs you will save significant time and money over buying and customizing a generic CRM product. 
  3. Choose a cloud-hosted CRM.  The leading CRM products, Salesforce and Microsoft Dynamics 365, are hosted by their vendors in their online cloud environments.  This means the vendor is responsible for backups, updates, and security patches.  Only rare circumstances require that you host your CRM on your own servers. 
  4. Determine which modules matter. The traditional modules for CRM are sales, marketing, and customer service.  Other modules are now offered such as project management and field service.  You need to know which modules or apps you plan to use so you can focus on evaluating the right ones and get pricing that includes the modules you need. 
  5. Get a demo and trial. Don't buy based on product feature comparison tables.  Stacking up features does not give you a sense of how it will be to work with the product.  There are online demo videos on YouTube and most vendors offer trial subscriptions so you can explore the system on your own.  You can also contact the vendor and get an online or in person demonstration from someone who is proficient with the product.
  6. Check your budget. CRM is affordable, but be sure to check on charges for extras such as additional storage and modules.  You can generally expect to pay something around $100/user/mo. for CRM subscriptions, depending on the modules you need.  If you have a large number of users, you may be eligible for volume discounts. My company InfoStrat has a calculator for Dynamics 365 pricing
  7. Look at compatibility for integration and user experience. CRM does not operate in a vacuum.  Consider how the product will fit in your IT infrastructure.  Does it integrate with your security to allow single sign-on? Do you need integration with document management or your website?  CRM vendors offer some built-in integrations and third parties offer integration tools at additional cost. 
Subjective factors are also important to consider.  The user experience, or look and feel, of the CRM will make a big difference in whether users adopt it.  The best CRM system, after all, is the one that is successfully adopted by your users. 

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