One Size Does Not Fit All

Mike RichardsonMike Richardson, MD of Maximizer Software EMEA, offers advice on choosing a CRM system for the mobile era

The continuing rise of mobile technology has raised not just customers’ expectations of how the companies they deal with should communicate with them, but also, expectations of people within those businesses as to how they should operate. In fact, when it comes to managing customers and qualified prospects, mobile CRM access has become a great enabler. The ability to access up-to-date client information any time, anywhere, is essential in a working world in which, increasingly, people need to be able to tap into their office systems on the go, at home or working at an alternative office location.

One of the most important decisions a company can make in this developing environment, therefore, is to choose a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) platform that supports mobile functionality, while providing, at the same time, all the other features and specifications that are essential to the business going forward. For instance, in addition to relying more heavily on mobile access, many businesses are now looking for ways of feeding marketing data through to their CRM systems for use by sales people.

CRM software can become an indispensable tool for facilitating these and many other marketing and sales innovations, but with a myriad of available options, choosing the right one is no easy feat. What follows is a simple guide to selecting the best platform for your business.

First things first
The first priority is to determine your company’s requirements. Start by asking which departments need to use a CRM system, and how many users are there likely to be. Some companies utilise their CRM systems primarily as sales tools, and in such cases, a simple, out-of-the-box deployment is more than adequate.

In many companies, however, management wants to extend the deployment of the CRM platform to other business units, so if you want your CRM offering to span departments – sales, marketing, customer service etc. – you need to make sure that the solution you opt for has the capabilities you will need all in these areas and is extendible in the way you envision.

Another key issue to examine in the initial stages of reviewing your CRM options is to determine if your organisation is ready for the CRM system’s implementation. In other words, are employees engaged and do they understand the reasons behind the introduction of this new tool and how it can make their working lives easier? It is imperative the CRM platform has the usability that your employees want and need; you need buy-in to the system you choose at all levels.

Cloud versus on-premise
A careful and contextualised analysis of the pros and cons of both options is a key to making the right choice. On-premise solutions are good for companies concerned with having the tightest data security or those willing to pay more up front in order to avoid greater total cost of ownership later. However, a start-up or a growing small- to medium-sized business without a big IT budget might opt for a cloud-based CRM solution, as the initial cost is much lower, with reduced infrastructure requirement.

In order to leverage the data in your CRM system as fully as possible, you may need to integrate it with other company systems. The nature of your business will determine the integration you require and some of these options may be available out of the box. Synchronisation with commonly used applications, such as email client or accounts software, is increasingly popular, but if you’re after significant customisation, with data being pulled from more obscure sources, it is worth keeping in mind that on-premise solutions offer more flexibility. On the flip side, the cloud allows for more adjustability after the initial implementation, making it a better choice for organisations with changing functionality requirements or a fluctuating number of users.

As customers’ digital footprint increases, it is hard to imagine marketing without social media and integration with popular platforms is necessary if you want to make your CRM social too. For example, contacts and companies entered into a database can be automatically searched on LinkedIn, allowing for an effortless connection. Data available from other popular platforms can also be pulled into the system via links and customers’ social media activities can be monitored in real time.

Preparing for a mobile future
It’s not without reason that marketers are placing an increasing emphasis on mobile capability. As customers take to their mobile devices to stay connected at all times, so should the companies they have dealings with. This doesn’t mean, however, that every business requires the same level of mobile access and certain questions have to be asked.

The essential questions to ask are these:

  • Are your sales or service people – or others – often on the road?
  • Do you encourage home-working?
  • Does the system need to be updated in real-time?
  • Would your company benefit if managers could access the CRM system at any time and in any place?

Usually, a certain degree of mobile accessibility has a positive impact on the customer experience and staff productivity, as employees can make the most of their time and always face clients with the latest information. For instance, if a customer cancels an appointment at short notice, a sales person can view other clients and prospects in the vicinity, get the latest details on their situation, contact the most appropriate one for a face-to-face meeting and then visit them with the full facts to hand – all while ensuring that time out of the office is not wasted.

The right system for the full benefit
Implementing the best CRM platform boosts employee productivity, improves the customer experience and facilitates a better management overview. With the right system, workflow is improved through easier access to feedback, and results, including the success of marketing campaigns, can be monitored in real time. Plus, with certain platforms, all screens accessible from a desk computer can be viewable on smartphones and tablets, making companies as mobile as their most digitally-savvy customers.

When it comes to CRM, there is no one-size-fits-all solution, and with the economy only just starting to show signs of recovery, now is not the time for poor investment decisions or highly speculative experimentation. Thoroughly investigating available options to ensure you make the right choice of CRM system that best fits your company is crucial.

Mike Richardson is MD of Maximizer Software EMEA