Things to consider when evaluating a CRM vendor

By | February 9, 2018

Once you have reached the stage where you have identified your CRM needs, your next step would probably be to pick out a few vendors which you believe would be able to provide the right solution for your company.

Evaluating and finally choosing a CRM vendor  is quite a straightforward approach and based on continuous feedback

between the vendor  and you .

The following is a list of areas you might want to think about  when evaluating the different CRM vendors.

It is advisable that you invite at least two vendors to the table so you are able to compare the CRM offerings.

1   Customer and industry profile

Studying the website of the different vendors, you

can get a good  idea of the types  of companies that

a particular ven-dor  works with, as well as the size of companies. Look at vendors who have  worked  with companies and industries which are similar to yours . Also consider the types  of CRM solutions  this vendor offers. Is it only a niche solution or is it a horizontal solution which can fit all types  of businesses? You’ll want a vendor  who can match to your specific needs.

3   Partner network

Most European markets want a local partner to provide local support during and after the CRM implementation . If this is important  to you, then it makes sense to look into the ven-dor’s partner channel. Does the vendor have local partners? Do these partners only implement or can they also offer business consulting? How much CRM experience does the local partner have, what is their certification  status and how many implementations have they been involved with? These are highly relevant questions to get answered before you engage in a buying process with a potential partner .

2   Years in the business

There are a lot of start-ups and newbies on the market who can offer trendier CRM solutions  to meet customer’s needs .  However,  it’s always smart to consider those vendors who  have  been in the CRM market  for a longer  period  of time .  The number of years that a CRM vendor  has been in the market  directly reflects  the amount  of experience and know-how it has in deploying and implementing CRM successfully .

4   Freedom of Choice – Technology

Most companies get caught up in choosing an

on-premise solution or a cloud solution. It’s best  not to get caught up in choosing a vendor  solely on the deployment option or type of technology .  Just because you need one deployment option today doesn’t  mean that you won’t need the other  one sometime in the future .  Choose a vendor  that can help you keep as many doors  open as possible .

5   Free trial/ assisted demo

Depending on your skills and time, it’s a good  idea to at least check  out a few demos/videos to get an idea of how the system works .  You probably  won’t learn

much by just opting for a free trial, which, in most, cases consists of an empty database .  The best  solution is an assisted demo,  where  you let a sales  person walk you through the software and show you how to navigate

and use  it .  Once  that is done,  some  vendors will allow you to play around with a demo  database for a few weeks which contains data  so that you can get a feel for the system .

When you are watching  the demo  or playing in the system,  make sure to evaluate the user interface,  as

well as its ease of use .  Ask the vendor  to show you how many clicks it takes to do specific tasks  or processes. How intuitive is the user interface? Are the buttons labeled clearly? Are there  tools tips to guide  you along

the way?

6   Service & support

Your users will need training to get up and running with your new CRM solution .  Outline your training objectives and needs .  Training can be provided in various ways: online, instructor-led or train-the-trainer. Investigate

the options  for training and support and find out if the offerings match your needs.

7  References

And, last, but no least, remember to talk to references . You’ll get a good  understanding whether or not these vendors really helped customers like you .

Look for references that are similar to your business.

Find out whether their situation  is similar to yours .

If you do, then you may uncover if your business will likely succeed with this vendor .

Dont forget to ask about technical and non-technical factors such as:

  • How long was the implementation?
  • How much training and additional services were needed, if any?
  • How did the vendor handle any problems that were encountered along the way?
  • How easy was the software to learn and to use?
  • What has been the feedback with regards to usability

from the different users?

Our Appendix section includes  a list of questions you can ask during an interview .

Measuring the success of CRM

Many companies or businesses measure the outcome of CRM as an afterthought .  Unfortunately,  If measurements aren’t set up from the start, then you will never  know if your CRM initiative met the business goals  or not .

Setting up the goals  at the start of the project can help you to do three things:

1     Explain to the business why your companyhas implemented a CRM system

2    Communicate  the business goals  you want to achieve

3    Follow up on the success of CRM in your compan

To determine the impact of CRM on your business, baselines for key business metrics need to be established as a starting point .  After the baselines are established, you will then need to set up some  goals  to work towards .  These goals  will help you to track the success of the CRM project  as compared to the baseline .

In the following, we will give you some  guidance on how to define the baseline

and how to set up goals:

  1. 1. How to define the baseline

Defining the baseline basically means that you document where  you are today with regards to certain  business goals  and metrics .

If your company has a strategy towards growing markets, then it would be interesting for you to find out how many new customers your company got on board  in the past

12 months.  You could also find out how the customer development has been in the past  3-5 years.

If your strategy is to retain customers, your baseline would be the amount  of customers that your company lost in the past  year .  You could also benchmark the development of “lost” customers over the past  3-5 years  and split the numbers by customer category so you could see which category had the biggest impact .

Other areas you can use as baselines could be:

  • Revenues
  • Sales  activities
  • New leads
  • Number of complaints
  • Customer satisfaction
  • Sales  effectiveness

Comparing actual results  to the established metrics will enable you to see if your CRM strategy is working and how effectively.

  1. 2. Creating goals for your CRM project

Every company has a different vision for their CRM project because business challenges vary from company to company .  Every vision brings with it a variety of business goals  to measure .  For example, one company’s challenge could be that they need a CRM system to centralize customer information and improve sales productivity .  Another company’s challenge could be that they need to improve customer retention and increase overall efficiencies.

Also remember that each  business process will have different goals. For example, if you are in Sales, your measurements for success will be different than if you were in Customer Service .

The Sales  department might measure the number of open cases, the number of deals  closed, the number of sales activities completed per sales  rep, etc .  while the customer service  department would measure the response time, how quickly cases get closed, case load per customer service  rep, the number of lost and or overdue support tickets, etc .

Start out with realistic goals  and use  percentages for better understanding .

For the purpose of visualizing how to set up your goals/ metrics, you can use a simple matrix as shown below. We provide you with one example for sales, marketing and customer service:

Department: Sales

Goal: Increase revenues

Metric Baseline last year Baseline status Goal this year Goal year 2
# of prospects        
# of new customers        
# of retained customers        
# of open opportunities        
Close rate        
Sales  stage duration        
# sales  calls made        
Amount of new revenue        
Amount of recurring  revenue        
# of proposals given        

 

Department: Marketing

Goal: Improve campaign  response rates

Metric Baseline last year Baseline status Goal this year Goal year 2
# of campaigns        
# of responses/ campaign        
# of purchases/ campaign        
Revenue generated / campaign        
# of new leads        
# of opt-in’s        

 

Department: Customer Service

Goal: Improve customer satisfaction

Metric Baseline last year Baseline status Goal this year Goal year 2
# of cases closed the same day        
# of cases handled by agent        
# of service  calls        
 

Average number of service requests by type

       
Average time to case resolution        
Average response rate        


T
hese goals  will also work as milestones which help you

to keep in mind WHY you wanted a CRM system in the first

place and WHAT you wanted  it to do for your business

Conclusion

So there you have it – Everything that your company ever wanted to know about  CRM (customer relationship management) summed up in one place .

CRM is the key to creating great customer relationships and building customer loyalty .

CRM also helps  to organize business critical information, improve productivity and is the glue that holds together sales,  marketing and customer service which paves the way for further business growth .

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