What is a CRM?

CRM stands for customer relationship management. Almost any company that’s serious about managing their sales, operations and assets employs one. CRMs tend to fall into one of three categories:

  • Operational – This is probably the most common, as the name would suggest, this CRM type focuses on operational processes like sales, projects and ticket management.
  • Analytical – Less common, these types of CRM focus on data aggregation and business intelligence.
  • Collaborative – This type of CRM maximizes communicate between your business and the customers you serve. Often times customers are given access to the CRM to use alongside company employees. Data restriction apply of course.

There are many (possibly tens of thousands) of CRMs out there so how do you know which one to choose? To answer that question, you must first figure what your business actually needs.

Do you need deeper insight in bounce rates for your e-commerce page? Well, an analytical CRM may be the one for you. Maybe you need a more immersive customer experience, if so, a collaborative CRM may be more your speed. And those looking to streamline operations and sales would be best suited for an operational CRM.

Regardless of the type of CRM you decide to purchase, you’ll quickly learn that it is an invaluable business tool. A good CRM allows you to manage workflows, sales pipelines and projects. It’s a must have for anyone working with a virtual team.

Now that you know what a CRM is, how do you decide which provider to go with? As with most things, there is no one-size-fits-all software. The best CRM is whichever one suits your business needs the best and that may not always be the big name providers like Salesforce and Hubspot. Decide what your company needs the most and look for a platform that will accommodate those needs.

Nearly all providers will provide you with a free trial of their software (be wary of those who don’t!). During the trial period be sure to ask about the company’s tech support, data backup policies and available training on the product. It’s imperative to know who to call when you’re having an IT related issue. Also inquire about their cyber security and encryption provisions, especially if you deal with any sensitive information like social security numbers or healthcare related data.

You should also do some independent research, a quick Google search should reveal a review or two about the CRM product. Pay close attention to any complaints about downtime (the time the software is unavailable to users). Software with higher downtime rates, can hinder business productivity and hurt your business’s reputation if your unable access the data needed for daily operations.

Another important aspect to consider is the software’s ease of use. No one wants to be confused by any product they purchase. The user interface and software functions should be intuitive. Granted, there will always be a learning curve, but your CRM experience shouldn’t feel like a Quantum Physics course! When evaluating products, always be mindful of the least tech savvy individual at your organization. In fact, it may prove useful to have them be part of the evaluation. As the old trope goes, a chain is only as strong as it’s weakest link. If the most technologically challenged individual breezes through the software, you are in good shape.

Purchasing a customer relationship management software can be an expensive and time consuming endeavor, so you’ll want to make sure you’re getting your return on investment. Start your search with a clear objective in mind and apply the same level of discretion as you would if you were buying a car. And fret not, if you are ever at lost, Linkedin has tons of qualified CRM consultants. Rumor has it, one of them wrote this article.

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