Finding the Best CRM System for Your Firm

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By Eric Hunt, Boomer Consulting, Inc.

Customer Relationship Management, CRM, is one of the most important tools a company can use to remain viable. CRM is exactly what it stands for, a system that manages customers. It is a tool that should be used to track everything you do that relates to your customers. With that definition, how does a firm go about implementing a new CRM system that will maximize the information it has on its customers? This is the big question that my company had to answer over the last year. We decided to go to a completely new CRM system and replace one that wasn't giving us the functionality we desired. Not surprisingly, this has been a long process with many things to consider. Here are the processes that will help any firm find the right system. Here are seven steps to follow in determining and implementing a new system.

  1. Decide what you want out of a CRM system.
  2. Research various systems and determine the pros and cons.
  3. Get referrals from users of each system.
  4. Decide on a CRM system and develop a CRM Team.
  5. Customize and develop the system to meet your firm needs.
  6. Develop and implement a training program.
  7. Roll-out, review, and improve.

The first thing to understand is that CRM is not a sales tool. Your firm needs to view CRM as a company tool that everyone will use to track customer info. Step one is deciding what you want out of your CRM system. The best approach is to get a cross-section of your company together and come up with a detailed list of everything you would like to see in the new system. You should have a varied group of end-users from your firm. This will help give you a deep list of needs along with ideas that will separate systems that you will look at. The best thing about this step is that you can get team buy-in on the system you will ultimately decide on because they are telling you what to look for. Your goal here is to get as many suggestions as possible. Then put them in a list based on their importance. This will go along way when you need to decide between systems.

Once you complete the first step, research the various systems and determine the pros and cons. Take your list and start looking at systems and eliminate the ones that don't meet your highest priorities. Don't worry about making the final decision here, but make sure to be strict with your comparison of each system's pros and cons. The 2 or 3 systems that fit your needs should emerge by sticking to your list.

Now is the time to start getting referrals from users of each system you have selected to research. This will be essential information from people who use these systems every day. Ask very detailed questions that focus on your leading priorities. Even if they are not in your industry, they can give you solid information. Also, make sure to ask what they do not like about their CRM systems. A major benefit to obtaining the opinion of an outside user is that you are not getting a “sales” pitch. They have no vested interest in what system you use and should be honest with you when providing answers. Utilize outside referrals as much as possible and you will be able to make a more informed decision.

With this information gathered, decide on a CRM system and develop a CRM Team. Choose the CRM system that fits your priorities and the one that will get the end-user buy-in. Then, it is important to turn the process over to a CRM Team and let them finish the process. This team should be relatively small. It should have a Technical person that will do the set-up and the installation of your system. You also will need a person who understands your firm's processes and procedures and will be a main user. This person will customize your system to meet the needs of the firm. Your firm may need additional people on the team depending on the size and complexity of your firm. If this is the case, keep it representative of the different areas that will have different needs within the new system. By creating a team, you streamline the process and take the bureaucracy out of it. This gives you a small group of decision-makers that can speak on behalf of your firm's departments and their needs.

The CRM Team has the responsibility to customize and develop the system to meet your firm needs. This piece will be time-consuming and intense because the team will be developing the system for the entire firm. Do not rush this step. Give the team the time and space to complete it correctly. The team must continue to keep the list of priorities in mind while also thinking about the end-users. The system needs to be as simple and straight-forward as possible. The goal is to create a system that will be straightforward and easy to implement and learn. The team needs to design the system to capture customer information accurately and to manipulate it efficiently.

Another function for the CRM Team will be to develop and implement a training program. They will be the experts on the new system and will know how it works from the very basic of levels. Transferring this knowledge is essential to the entire process. Employees with a good base of understanding will be more apt to utilize the new system. They will also use it correctly to the benefit of the entire firm. If possible, a degree of individual training is highly recommended. This will allow team members to ask questions relevant to their job functions and will help facilitate their learning process. What ever method you choose to train employees, make sure they are all on the same page when you decide to switch to the new system. Establish a solid date to complete the training so everyone understands when they need to be ready. Also, training gives you a chance to reaffirm your company's processes and procedures and should be intertwined with the CRM.

The last step is to roll-out your system to the firm. The team is trained; now they can start using the system. After a few weeks of use, it is time to review the system. Is everyone using it correctly? Is it as functional as desired? What changes can you make to improve the system? The last step may be the hardest as some employees resist change, training may no have been effective, or the system may need to be improved to meet their needs. Whatever the case, do a review periodically and make improvements based on end-user feedback. This review will provide continuous improvement and deeper functionality of your CRM system.

Customers in today's world desire companies that will go that extra mile with service. A strong and functional CRM system used by the entire team is a great step in the right direction. Remember, Customer Relationship Management is a total company function and not just a sales tool. From the top of your organization to the bottom, everyone needs to be on the same page. Follow these steps, pay close attention to the details and your new CRM system will help all facets of your company.

Eric Hunt, Boomer Consulting, Inc.
Email: [email protected]

Eric Hunt is the Marketing and Sales Representative for the consulting firm of Boomer Consulting, Inc. located in Manhattan, Kansas. He works extensively in the area of sales support and development. His main areas of focus include the Boomer Technology Circles™, client services, and the implementation of Boomer Consulting, Inc. marketing initiatives.


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