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I am often asked in my capacity as a Virtual IT Director “What’s a good CRM?”  So I thought I would write down my thoughts on Customer Relationship Management systems.

Your business process system is one of the most important assets in your business. If you ever wish to sell your business and buy that boat to sail around your island, it will be scrutinised by potential buyers. Equally, it is something that your staff will look to for structure and process in their day to day roles. Take the purchase and use of your CRM seriously.

My 10 thoughts on CRM:

  1. I always recommend that you start with the end in mind, so ask yourself: what management information do you need and how do you want your clients managed? Once you know the answers to these questions, this will help you identify the kind of functionality you need.
  2. Do you want a cloud-based system, or server-based? Rumours of insecure Cloud should not distract you from considering outsourcing your systems, especially if your infrastructure needs attention.
  3. Will it help you manage your staff more objectively? Correctly recorded data helps you and your staff understand the sales process and the elements of it which make for more visible activity, better management and thus a happier workforce.
  4. Is the supplier you are looking to buy from “going places”. Do they have their eye on the technology horizon and thus are ready for new methods? Those that are not will cause you operational difficulties in the medium and long term.
  5. Management Reports. What do you need to see daily, weekly, monthly etc… to help you run your business? Make sure that the system you chose can cope with interrogation.
  6. How will your system be supported when it goes live? Make sure that your support helpdesk closely emulates your own operational times.
  7. How often will it be updated? There should be a constant investment in research and development and this should be focused in areas which bring benefits to the users and the organisations – rather than change for change sake. Update means change and change can distract.  Updates should be positive and improve your processes, but should not cause disruption to your work force or flows.
  8. Don’t rush the purchase of a CRM to fill a process gap in the business. The most important part of the CRM project is the spec of the system.  Take time to document and test the functions that are critical to your business now and in the future.
  9. Is the supplier you are using “in your world”. I often see a mismatch of styles and approaches of client and supplier which can lead to miscommunication, inappropriate specification of the system and thus poor implementation and usage.
  10. And most importantly: Is it simple and easy to use? Looking after clients is usually seen as “admin” when the CRM being used is complex.  Looking after clients should never be seen as admin.

(And to squeeze in the 11th, the cheapest initially doesn’t always turn out to the be the cheapest long term, so be careful of systems that claim to be cheap but configurable, as time = money too!)

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