Customer Relationship Management
Choosing the Right CRM for Your Business
Alissa Adler, Principal
Customer Relationship Management (“CRM”) platforms are increasingly important in today’s business environment, as they are the most efficient way for a company to manage its interactions with current and future clientele. There are an abundance of companies offering CRM systems but not all of them are geared toward specific industries. For instance, Podolsky|Circle tracks not only customer/client data, but also real estate related data. Much like matching the right property to a tenant’s needs, choosing the “best fit” CRM for your unique business’ size, sales strategy and methodology is key to implementing a system that will work within your parameters and make your job easier.
As with every decision a business makes, the CRM platform you choose may ultimately come down to ROI. In some cases, for example, the license will be a one-time fee per user. For some CRMs, the charge is a monthly fee – either flat or per user – but there may be a minimum amount of licenses per company required. If it is an industry-specific overlay (i.e. Commercial Real Estate) of a general CRM, there will be an additional cost above and beyond the basic CRM to buy the overlay.
One big consideration for companies with a sales or business development team is whether data will be owned by the company and shared on a “master database” or will be exclusive to each individual user. Depending on company policy, this will affect how privacy settings are applied, whether the CRM is hosted in the cloud or on individual computers and who has rights to the data if a user should leave the company. One of the key components of any successful CRM implementation is consistency. If everyone in the company is not using the same CRM then no one platform can be used as a master database. As a result, not only will the IT department have to support multiple software applications, but information cannot be easily shared between users or within teams.
Most CRMs are compatible with Outlook and/or similar platforms, making contact and calendar syncing automatic – and therefore much easier. Some CRMs also allow users to send form letters and emails with attachments directly from their company server. This allows data to be sent to clients much faster, and it ensures the attachment will always be the most current version.
There is no right or wrong CRM, but it is a long-term commitment and should be researched and tested carefully with input from all potential stakeholders, including the end users, the marketing department, IT and senior management. Where possible, try to demo the software. At a minimum have the CRM provider walk your team through the features and get your questions answered upfront.
- Industry-specific vs. general: Do you want to incorporate industry-specific information? (A CRE firm, for instance, may wish to input lease expirations, property data and client leasing or buying criteria.) If so, an industry-specific CRM vs. a general CRM may be the right choice.
- Training is critical: All CRMs possess unique features that will benefit users in different ways, so requiring thorough upfront training is the best way to encourage new users (especially the less technically adept) to understand the advantages and get the most from the software.
- Hidden costs: There may be hidden upgrade costs when buying a CRM. Decide upfront if the data is to be cloud based and determine whether your current systems are compatible and up to date.