How to Choose a CRM System (Part 5: Select a System That’s Right for You)

Now that you’ve evaluated a number of possible solutions, its time to make a decision. Consider the following when selecting a software vendor:

Interview the resellers before the demo

Familiarise yourself with the various CRM solutions available on the market so you can be confident about your top picks when you short list the best options for your company. By interviewing as many software resellers as possible in advance you can avoid time wasted by sitting through lengthy, irrelevant demonstrations.

Pick the best three systems and ask each reseller to provide the following information:

  • Estimated licence cost for your implementation
  • Estimated build-out costs to adapt the system to your requirements
  • Timeframe for implementation
  • Annual support and maintenance costs
  • Training methodology and training costs
  • A plan for integrating your back office-systems as required

Insist on user friendly software

If your system is not user friendly, your staff wont be able to maximise the full benefits. Make sure you select a solution that’s logical and easy to use.

Ask the reseller these questions:

  • How easy to use is the software interface?
  • Can the interface be modified to more closely match the needs of my organisation?
  • How easy is it to navigate between modules of the software?
  • What type of software documentation and training will be provided?

Evaluate their technical support

You may need to rely on the software vendor’s technical support team, here are some questions to ask regarding the vendors support team:

  • How quickly do they take calls from customers?
  • What are their hours of operation?
  • What options are available for after hours queries?
  • What charges or service plans are involved?

Inquire about their customer service department

Look for a company that is dedicated to regularly providing high qualityservice to customers and has the resources to deal with product questions, customer feedback, order tracking and software registration.

Get flexible reporting

Look for a solution that has the capability to produce the reports your organisation requires. Find out if customised reports can be created with a minimum of time and effort. See if the system will allow you to manipulate the data any way you choose.

Ask about customisability

Does the software allow you to modify all aspects of the system? Do you have the ability to create and modify fields, screens, tables, views, scripts and security settings on the fly?

Ensure options for growth

A good software company invests heavily in engineering and develops new product features and enhancements regularly. The opportunity to move to a similar but more powerful product can give your company flexibility as it grows.

Does it fit your budget?

If your first choice costs more than you can afford, reprioritise your list of requirements and compare them with the features of applications that do fall within your budget range. Then determine which features or modules are essential for the success of the project.

Justify the investment

Once you have decided which product you wish to purchase it may be helpful to create a document or presentation to explain your choice. This document needs to clearly detail the features of the system, the direct fiscal benefits of these features and the resulting long term benefit to the company. It should also outline the total cost for initial implementation, training and ongoing maintenance.

Implementing Your System

What is the best way to make the implementation process a smooth and successful one?

Consider the following guidelines:

Create a blueprint

To smooth the implementation process create a ‘blueprint’ of your CRM related business processes with your consultant or software reseller. This document gives the team a pre-determined plan and a set of guidelines to reach your CRM goals.

Prepare for modifications

One of the most common mistakes companies make is trying too hard to limit modifications to the selected packaged software. If you need software that can meet the unique requirements of your business be prepared to make modifications after installing the “out of the box” solution.

Provide good training

Good training is essential and provides the information, practice and involvement needed for your staff to get the most out of the software.

Test before launch

When it comes to something as valuable as your customer data, you will want to beta test every system component and make certain its functioning properly before taking the system live. Enter mock customer data and see how well the system receives and processes the information.

Plan for ongoing evaluation

Keep in mind that your CRM system will always be evolving. As a result implementation never completely stops. Ongoing evaluation of your business processes will help you maximise the benefits CRM can bring to your organisation.

(Source : Sage CRM)