Customer relationship management (CRM) software solutions are in danger of becoming commodity offerings. Why? Perhaps because the term is used too loosely to describe applications that do little more than record data or perhaps it is because so many applications out there promise to do the same things. And, does plug-and-play really mean that it is that simple?
CRM vendors may disagree with the argument that so many applications offer the same thing. And while many of them may differ on a few key points, the main purpose is to enable the organization to be better equipped to serve their customers. This means different things to different organizations and should be identified in detail before a CRM solution is selected.
Once the CRM software is purchased, the hard part is over, right? Not quite. What happens after the purchase is just as important as the steps involved in selecting a vendor. Remember that when implementing new technology, it not only has to be intuitive, your employee base must be comfortable enough to use it or they won’t and the investment is wasted.
Any reputable CRM vendor understands the importance of user buy-in when implementing a new technology solution. That’s why it is important that if the vendor does not offer training with the implementation of the CRM package, ask how much it will cost to include it and then purchase it.
Do not leave it up to your IT department to train users; techies and non-techies do not speak the same language and that could be a recipe for disaster. The best trainer for a new technology implementation is a user. He or she will speak the language of your users and will understand what they need out of the system.
Be sure that you have purchased a support package along with your CRM software. Even if you have a fully capable IT department, the CRM vendor’s support staff will be a valuable asset, particularly in the first year. What’s more, the fast pace of technology makes innovations and upgrades readily available in a wealth of applications, including CRM. Many vendors provide these upgrades for free to customers with support contracts.
Finally, be sure that you visit with your CRM vendor representative at least one a year if not every six months. He or she can keep you abreast of the latest technology available, when upgrades will be ready for download and when changes must be made due to growth or mergers and acquisitions.
These individuals can be great consultants and since you are using their product, use their knowledge as well. You will get the most benefit out of your CRM software if you take advantage of the customer service deliverables the vendor has to offer. This is how these companies are striving for differentiation and fighting off commodity status.
Susan J. Campbell is a contributing editor for TMC (News - Alert) and has also written for eastbiz.com. To see more of her articles, please visit Susan J. Campbell’s columnist page.