Does Everyone Need a CRM? No.

Customers. They’re why we exist. Whether we make widgets or write novels, we do so with the hope and belief that there is a customer who wants and needs what we have. In theory CRMs allow us to use technology to learn more about our customers and prospects and use that information to improve our processes and products. Don’t forget though, that “Customer” and “Relationship” Come First in CRM. If the user experience is not enhanced by the management system, it won’t help your business.

We have walked alongside several of our clients as they evaluated the plethora of CRM providers out there. It’s really tough to decipher what is the best fit when your information is coming from a sales rep, trained to convince you their CRM is exactly what you need.

Data and technology are only parts of the picture. Strong brands take customer information and use it to build relationships and increase loyalty.

According to one Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software developer, a CRM “allows businesses to manage business relationships and the data and information associated with them.” The theory is simple: know your customer, serve them better, increase loyalty and sales. But what is the story? What do you need to know before buying CRM software?

1.       Know yourself. CRM is much more than a database or repository of customer information. CRM is a way of doing business. Do you seek to know your customer? Do you work to provide the best, most seamless, least painful customer service experience? Does your organization share your passion for knowledgeable, proactive customer engagement? Everyone from the warehouse to the boardroom should have the customer front of mind.

2.       Know your customers. Even the most integrated, cloud-based, full service CRM program is only as good as the information that goes in. How do you track customer service interactions? What sales reports do you already run and can those reports provide data at the customer level? Many CRM programs allow you to classify customers (Most Valuable, Growable, 3rd Tier, 4th Tier, Below Zero) so knowing what data you have or will need to maximize software capability is important.

3.       Know what “problem” you’re trying to solve. Know what you want and ask the CRM sales representative to show how his or her product addresses your needs. Then get references from other businesses in your industry or that are similar in size to your organization. Ask for a trial period to make sure the product performs to your expectation. Also get a clear picture of service after the sale. Most CRM software requires a hefty investment and ROI takes upwards of ten months. Make sure you understand how software updates and troubleshooting issues are handled.

Like almost everything else, technology is a means, not the end. There are many slick and shiny CRM products available but it is important to remember that those products are not just for you, they should affect your customers’ experience. Get buy-in from your whole company. Commit (or recommit) to doing everything with a customer focus and then, if it’s right for you, invest in software that can take your business and customer interactions to the next level.

Many tools are available to help you get started. Here is just one of them. For more insight and ideas, follow Gerard Marketing Group on LinkedIn.