The most important part in customer relationship management (CRM) is indeed the customer himself. While acquiring customers is a critical function of any business, a far more important and difficult part is retaining them.
Indeed, CRM is about creating a customer-centric business philosophy and culture. However, from the IT managers standpoint, adhering to a few good principles can help go a long way in ironing-out difficulties that usually comes in the way of effectively rolling out the solution.
Understand where you want to go: Like Julie Andrews sang in the Sound of Music, its always a good idea to start from the scratch, and note the high-level customer-related issues that the organisation wishes to address, before procuring a CRM solution.
If all that a company needs is a good sales forecasting tool, the good old Excel can do a pretty decent job. But if the need is to map the entire customer life cycle, from someone being a prospect customer to a repeat one, a full-blow CRM solution will fit the bill.
Fit your needs, not the other way around: It is best to opt for a solution that fits your needs perfectly rather than be a retro-fit. For instance, if the top three things that your company is trying to accomplish are going to change, your application must be ready to respond and deliver the reports, the metrics and the dashboards in a suitable manner.
Look for ease of use: Thats probably the most important thing when youre rolling out an application for your sales, marketing and services professionals. If they are unable to get the hang of it in a few minutes, they just give up.
Make sure your data is safe: Many small businesses dont often think about the critical customer data that sits on the typical salespersons PC just waiting to be downloaded onto a USB drive by someone and taken away. So, when considering a CRM solution, make sure you think about securing the data and discuss any issues you may have with vendors.
Hire experts to implement and train: Its important to let experts manage the implementation and training part for the simple reason that sometimes the hiccups in erecting the system can be frustrating and time consuming. And getting an expert to train is also a good way to show to the sales force what the system can do rather what it cannot.
The author is GM-IS at Sundaram Clayton