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How to choose a CRM system: Expert Guide

 

Understanding how to choose a CRM system cannot be simplified down into a single checklist, it is much more complex than that. Before you embark on your CRM journey, we need to consider why you are choosing to invest in CRM in the first place.

Get your CRM strategy right first

It may sound obvious, but many organisations dive into a CRM project without truly understanding what CRM is. They often fail to understand that embarking on a CRM initiative without a clearly defined CRM strategy will inevitably lead to confusion, missed targets, and employee disillusionment. In the worst cases, it can result in decreased customer satisfaction – the very opposite of what you were hoping to achieve.

If you want your CRM project to succeed, having a clearly defined CRM strategy is essential.

how to choose a crm system

Laying the foundations

Even before you begin considering a CRM strategy, you need to be sure you have a well-defined, robust, customer-centric strategy in place. This is an essential component for today’s B2B and B2C businesses.

If you haven’t defined a customer-centric strategy already, a new CRM system won’t help you, no matter how good it is. Remember, CRM itself is not a customer strategy. CRM is a facilitator. It is designed to help support customer strategies you already have in place.

If you have a customer strategy that is clearly defined, the first aspect you need to remember is that your CRM strategy is a long-term, company-wide initiative. It is not an ‘IT-only’ concern that many come to believe. It is important that every department, including those at the very top of your organisation, are involved in the strategy.

A good CRM strategy clearly articulates to each of your stakeholders how CRM will improve the business.

Your CRM strategy should demonstrate and quantify the business benefits to all departments, at every level. This will help you secure the vital internal buy-in needed during the tricky early CRM project stages.

Applying your CRM vision to a clear set of defined outcomes and desired results is critical too. You need to know:

  • How you are going to measure your success and failures?
  • How do you know your investment is performing?
  • What do you need to change to ensure you are getting the most from your CRM system?

Also, CRM systems are not static. Your CRM strategy needs to be flexible, evolving to meet the changing needs and expectations of your customers and clients.

Remember too that CRM is a tool and, like all tools, whilst they make life easier, they don’t do the work for you. It’s true that the very best CRM systems, like Microsoft Dynamics 365, enable you to align your business and customer strategies to enhance the customer experience, drive customer loyalty, improve retention and increase overall profits. But they only do this if both your customer and CRM strategy are well understood.

The bottom line is that only when you have a clear CRM strategy in position should you move on to consider the fundamental question of how to choose a CRM system.

Choosing your CRM System

No matter what kind of business you’re in, customer relationship management (CRM) is an integral part of its success. It’s how you win new customer business, and how you keep your customers coming back. This is why understanding how to choose a CRM system for your business is more important than ever.

The benefits of a CRM system speak for themselves:

  • Ensures you stay in control of your customer base
  • Allows you to strengthen relationships with increased customer insight
  • Improves customer service and optimal communications
  • Explore and identify new prospects
  • Generate those all-important leads

What’s more, it’s ever-evolving, always looking to tackle new issues and improve the way businesses worldwide manage and interact with their customers.

But with so many options on the market, it can be hard to know which one is right for you; after all, each business has its own unique needs, so it stands to reason that you need to find the right match.

choosing a crm system

 

In our opinion, it’s all about asking the right questions.

These will help you to really pinpoint what you want to get out of a CRM system and help to inform your decision-making when the time comes. With that said, take a look at our comprehensive guide on how to choose a CRM system for your business.

What value does it need to add?

Traditionally, CRM systems were used to keep records of contacts and accounts, but nowadays it’s about much more than that. You need to be thinking about what your CRM system can do for you, and how it can make your life easier. It’s no longer just about holding information, but about how you use that information to help your employees, and your customers, therefore improving your business.

At this point, it is worth highlighting the impact GDPR has had on the CRM industry. With changes in the data protection regulations, companies have had to get to grips with their data and the information they hold about their current and future clients.

They are required to stipulate the data they capture, its purpose, and the length of time it is stored. This shift in the law is to balance out the rights of the consumer and of the business, and most critically requires companies to evaluate the information that they are capturing and it’s value to the business.

It can be framed by a simple empathetic statement: “How would you feel if this was your own personal data?”.

Key GDPR questions to consider when selecting a CRM system:

  • Is your customer data difficult to find? 
  • Do you honestly know the extent of the information you hold on your prospects and customers?
  • Do you need help honing your customer comms?
  • Is your sales team asking for intelligent insights?

Try writing down all the things you need a CRM system to provide. You’ll then be able to use this as a sort of checklist when weighing up the different options. Most importantly, you can prioritise the items in this list to help you wean out the must-haves versus the nice-to-haves

crm system

Is it specific to your industry?

Gone are the days when there was one blanket system for all sectors. In more recent years we have seen an increased demand from clients to have a tailored CRM solution suited to the specific industries needs, and even tailored to suit the individual roles within their business. When understanding how to choose a CRM solution, this is a critical factor.

At Xpedition, we have a number of solutions, based on Microsoft Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement, that have been tailored for specific industries and for specific user roles. Our experts work closely with clients to understand any unique requirements that our clients may have and provide them with various options on how this can be achieved.

We have considerable experience across all industries, working with organisations of all sizes and crafting CRM systems for multiple sectors, including financial and professional services. In addition, we assist clients on a range of role-specific requirements including Sales, Marketing, Customer Service and Project Service Automation.

Choosing a tailored CRM solution can often save you time, and allow you to begin benefitting from the system much sooner.

Tailored solutions can also offer specialist functionality that you might not get from broader CRMs. Ultimately, specialist problems require specialist solutions and your CRM needs to reflect that.

Is it scalable?

Let’s face it, the majority of businesses want to grow – so they need software that will grow with them. And if growth isn’t your priority then that’s ok too. Perhaps you want to improve operational inefficiencies. This is equally as important, as is anything that contributes to the optimal performance of the business. This is why understanding your overall CRM strategy is so important.

No one wants to make another investment just a few years after their last.

Think ahead and make sure the system you choose is flexible enough to cope with future expansion and changes within your business.

Ask yourself:

  • Can it be upgraded?
  • Is it easily adaptable to different needs?

Of course, it also needs to be right for your business at this moment in time, not just in the future, so this future flexibility really is a crucial part of the consideration process.

crm solution

Is it agile?

Different from scalability, your CRM system needs to be agile enough to work on a project by project basis. The most complete CRMs have the flexibility to be implemented in phases, by department, function, office and when required.

One project may require automated workflow processes to improve efficiency as a primary function. Another project might need support to make the shift from a pre-built portal network to a custom-built portal with API capabilities. Where one project needs basic elements to function successfully, another may need a more complex and bespoke solution.

Your chosen CRM should be capable in as many scenarios as possible; flexible and forward-thinking.  

On-premises or Cloud-based?

There are often two ways you can deploy a CRM system: on-premises (where the database is installed on your server) or via the Cloud (also known as a SaaS solution, where the data is stored online).

There are pros and cons of each, so we’d recommend familiarising yourself with them so you can properly weigh them up. The vast majority of our clients opt for a cloud-based solution. With this, you have the benefit of being able to manage and access your data anywhere you have an internet connection, which is ideal if your team is dotted around in different locations. You also benefit from always being on the latest version!

When making your decision, you’ll want to think about the size of your organisation and how complex your data is, before considering the advantages and disadvantages of each solution.

How secure is it?

Security is of the utmost importance, especially when considering cloud-based options. No one wants their customer data to come under threat; at best you lose the trust of those who keep you in business, and at worst you run the risk of legal battles, so make sure you consider what security measures each system has in place.

choose a crm system

 

Can it be integrated with your existing systems?

Integration is incredibly important too. Whether that’s with your email accounts, marketing automation solution, Office or G-Suite, or an ERP system, you’ll want to know that whichever system you choose will be able to work alongside other solutions. After all, a CRM system should be helping you to streamline your operations, rather than acting as just another thing to add to the list.

If it can work in harmony with your other systems, then you’re smooth sailing.

Is it mobile-friendly?

We’re living in the age of mobile-first technology – more people are accessing the things they need online on mobile rather than desktop, so there’s no reason your CRM system should be any different. If your business can manage its customer base, diary and appointments, tasks and activities via a mobile phone, then you’re likely to see a huge increase in efficiency, as people will be able to work while on-the-go.

What 3rd party apps does it support?

Most software now has an array of 3rd party apps that help improve and customise their capabilities, and your CRM system is no different. Before choosing your CRM system you must consider what 3rd party apps it supports. You may be saving a small amount on your payment but if a competitor CRM system offers greater functionality and customisation through 3rd party apps it can often be the deciding factor.

Important additional functions from 3rd party apps you should consider include:

  • Document Generation
  • Document Management
  • Marketing Automation & Social Media Platforms
  • Digital Signatures
  • Portals

Are they committed to improving their product?

Software licences are expensive and we all want to see a return on our investment. Find out if your CRM system is investing your licence fee into research and development. They should be aiming to consistently improve their product and service to you. If their product hasn’t changed in years they may be taking your annual maintenance fee for granted. The best CRM systems do not.

crm

 

Do you have a defined budget?

As with any technological investment, you need to choose the right CRM system for your budget. Prices can vary depending on the features you’re after and the number of users you need to deploy. Make sure you get an understanding of your budget before you make big decisions.

Be aware that the upfront costs are not always the same as the final costs.

CRM systems need to be maintained and upgraded. They may also require annual license fees or similar so plan your budget to ensure post-CRM implementation costs are taken into consideration. The best vendors will offer free trials of their software, so you can try before you buy.

Final thoughts

There are lots of factors to understand when considering how to choose a CRM system. However, by asking yourself each of the questions above, you’ll be able to properly evaluate your requirements and narrow down your selection.

Remember, when it comes to choosing your CRM system it’s not a case of one-size-fits-all. Make your decisions based on what’s right for you and your business – and then you’ll really feel the benefits.

If you need help choosing a CRM system or want to learn more about how they can help your business contact a member of our expert team today. We will be delighted to answer any questions you might have about CRM and Microsoft Dynamics 365.

If you’re interested in reading some of our detailed CRM case studies for the Wealth Management, Private Equity, and Accountancy sectors take a look at our library here.