Maintaining good customer and industry partner relations is key when operating any business. A good Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system can make managing these relationships easier while also contributing to employee productivity and efficiency.
Fortunately, most CRM systems nowadays work quite well, as they can track everything from customer contact information and past interactions with the client to proposals, contracts, invoices, emails and appointments. Most have a reporting tool as well, so that you can monitor what works and what doesn’t. Even so, all CRMs offer different functionality — and pricing — which makes it all the more important for you to do some research and determine what fits you and your business best.
Determine your Business Goals
For starters, your CRM system must fit your company’s size. This means that smaller companies with, for example, less than 10 employees, might be fine with a database of just contact information. For bigger small companies, more functionality will often be required. Do you want to keep track of all communications with a client including emails? Do you want your CRM to interface with social media channels? Make a list of all the functionality you want your CRM to have. Then you'll have a good starting point from which you can narrow down your options.
How much functionality you require will also impact what you’re paying. Most CRMs require monthly fees. For a good, simple package like Zoho CRM, you’ll only pay about $25 per user per month. For a more comprehensive package like Salesforce.com, a leader in the field, you’ll be looking at about $125 per user per month.
Decide on an Access Point
CRM systems can also be accessed in different ways. While some small businesses prefer to keep all their information on premise using a local server, if you want to access your customer database and information off-site, consider a cloud-based CRM that can be accessed via the web. Another consideration is mobile functionality. If your sales people need access while out on the road, be sure to choose a system that works with smartphones and other handheld devices.
Just as with any software, CRM systems are designed to work with certain operating systems, like PCs versus Macs, as well as certain applications. For example, some work with Microsoft Outlook while others with Gmail. Some even work with Google apps, like Google Drive. Make sure that the CRM you choose works with all the systems that your employees utilize the most so you don’t need to invest more money in making other software upgrades.
For medium-sized businesses, some systems allow you to customize the functionality to make them work the best for you. For example, SugarCRM can be integrated with your website so that if you have an email signup form on your website, it can interface with your CRM database. While customization will incur additional costs, it can streamline your business, which will allow you and your employees to be even more productive.
While there are a few things to consider when choosing your CRM system, there’s one thing they all have in common: You are about to change the way you do business — for the better.
Elizabeth SanFilippo is a freelance writer, who enjoys trying new foods from all over the world. But her favorite city for culinary treats will always be Chicago. When not writing about food, she's scribbling novels, and TV show reviews and recaps. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.
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