Cheat Sheet to Pick the Best among Many CRM Products

CRM ProductsIn the customer-centric market, development of better relationships between business organizations and customers has become a primary concern for many businesses. Software development firms have come up with the solutions to these challenges in the form of CRM software.

The business software market is fairly saturated with CRM products. While these solutions seem quite similar on the outside, this is not true when it comes to the built-in features, customization, scalability and many other things related to this software’s functionality.

This is why we have created a cheat sheet to follow when you are deciding which of the CRM products you should get. Remember the name and the reputation do count, but your primary concerns should be the features and how they align with your business and CRM goals. So, let’s start.

Cloud-Based vs On-Premise CRM Products

Cloud-Based vs On-Premise CRM Products

A business software can be on-premise or cloud-based. Since they are quite different, it is important to understand the key differences between these two deployment options before you make your choice.

On-premise CRM tools will require of your in-house IT team to perform installation, tuning and maintenance. The core of the software will reside on your servers, while the clients will be installed on all the devices connected via Intranet and Internet to your main server.

This type of software has its downsides, it still may be right for the businesses with large IT teams capable of performing updates, installations and upgrades whenever there is a need for such interventions. On-premise CRM software is sometimes a necessary solution, because some firms have very strict security policy that dictates all business software used has to be protected by a corporate firewall.

On the other hand, cloud-based CRM products are quite often the preferred ones because of the flexibility they offer. Cloud-hosted CRM software is located on the vendors’ servers to which you will have a connection via Internet.

Cloud-based CRM tools are good options for companies that don’t want to invest in buying and maintenance of extra IT infrastructure, don’t want to hire extra IT staff, and want to enable the workforce to access CRM software anytime and from anywhere.

Cloud-based CRM software is generally the preferred option, as it offers more benefits than the on-premise one.

Deep Customization

CRM software can be divided in two categories based on the configuration options they offer to the users – what you see is what you get (WYSIWYG) and customizable ones. Let us be clear right at the start, if you are a first-time CRM software buyer, a deep customization feature might seem overkill.

But at some point of time, you will be forced to better organize your client lists and other data, so that your company can make better use of this software, and that’s when you really learn to appreciate this feature.

CRM solutions that allow deep customizations can be easily made more relevant for your company’s specific work. With this in mind, we would like to point out that of all possible customizations, the dashboard one is extremely important. The top-notch CRM software will enable you to customize all elements of your dashboard, allowing you to remove everything that’s not relevant to your work.

If you want to find a CRM tool that truly enables your business agility, make sure to give it a test run and to see whether the customizations are something you need, or the default dashboard has everything you need. It is also important to know that CRM software vendors either allow users to make the customizations, or require the users to cooperate with their developers in order to make specific adjustments to the dashboard.

Mobile Ready CRM Products

If you want to improve the relationship between you and your customers, you will definitely have to consider opting for a mobile-ready solution. Mobile CRM will enable all of your employees to use this software on the go from any laptop, tablet or smartphone.

All the representatives of your service, marketing and sales departments will be a few “screen-touches” away from their daily tasks, planners and lists. In fact, all the features that work on desktop computers also work on mobile devices.

Furthermore, all of your employees will be able to access previous customer interactions with your company in order to custom tailor offers and address some issues that may arise in advance. The account details are also available on mobile devices and all this is located and accessible from a single interface.

Mobile App Availability

Mobile Ready CRM Products

Mobile readiness and mobile app availability are not the same thing. While the former applies to accessing the CRM tool by using browsers on mobile and desktop devices, the latter implies that the CRM tool vendor has developed dedicated app for all major smartphone platforms (iOS, Android, Windows Phone).

A mobile app on the employees devices will significantly improve the speed at which they operate. The app interface is built to allow easy access to all the built-in features. This is incredibly powerful opportunity for remote workers and sales representatives who have to be able to access customer data and analytics as quickly as possible.

The most modern CRM solutions come with mobile apps, which also allow customization. Application wizard guides users through the setup process, which allows them to customize pages on the mobile version of the CRM platform. The same app will look completely different for marketing managers, sales representatives and service agents.

These apps are quite useful when your sales representatives go into the areas with no internet coverage. The app will store all the data, upload and synchronize with the server as soon as the device connects to the internet. The benefits of on-the-go CRM system should not be underestimated.

Analytics

Using a business software that has no analytics features will put you in serious disadvantage to your competitors. This is why your future CRM tool should have advanced analytics features. The cutting-edge analytics will enable you to do the following actions:

  • See average activity durations.
  • See the number of all activities including the overdue ones.
  • Browse activities by categories and compare completion duration times.
  • Compare weekly and monthly analytics retroactively.

CRM tools with analytics functionality are great tools if you are looking for new ways to assess and improve your business performance. Reports will provide valuable insights and help you identify bottlenecks in your operations, so that you can adjust your strategy accordingly.

By utilizing customization and analytic features, you can turn your CRM tool’s dashboard into a real-time business performance monitor. Quite a neat option, that will allow you to track all the important indicators and compare them to the ones of previous time periods.

Automation is a Must-Have

There is a great bunch of tasks related to CRM operations that are repetitive and boring by nature. Following up the documents, important dates for the clients, upsell opportunities, prospects, leads and campaigns is a daunting task.

Besides, it can also cause the employees to make costly mistakes that could have been easily prevented with an automated software solution. Finding all of this information in time is also crucial, and with legacy methods, it’s nearly impossible to do it before the deadlines hit you, causing you to lose clients.

The automation will not only reduce the number of errors, but it will also simplify and speed up the work on numerous tasks. Some of the top-notch CRM products even have smart systems in place that will enable you to set the relationships between all the documents based on clients, orders, opportunities and leads.

The automation makes things even easier by keeping the data in the central storage, so that whenever you create a new document, the fields get populated with the information from this central storage. The synergy of automation and notification systems builds up to a transparent workplace where everyone is notified in real time about the changes that took place.

With a smooth information flow, there is almost no room for mistakes or missed deadlines.

Built-in Collaboration Tools

Built-in Collaboration Tools

The collaboration between employees has always been of a great importance to business organizations. The more efficient it is, the more productive employees are. This is why when sorting out the best of the best CRM tools, you should look for collaboration features, and not only the ones that will promote collaboration and communication between employees and teams, but also the ones that will make the communication with the clients much easier.

The best CRM tools provide access to extensive communication tools. The additional perks, such as a calendar and planner, are also neat. With collaboration features, the employees will be able to easily manage meetings and tasks by linking them to the documents in the database, such as client portfolio, opportunities, reports, etc.

In addition, managers can generate reports on the collaboration tasks, number and duration of calls, number of sent emails, calendar density and number of meetings. This feature alone will put your organization in a position to have full insight into the collaboration efficiency, with the opportunity to identify pain points and bottlenecks to be worked on.

Social Networking Aspect

Social networking within the CRM software is a real thing, and it is definitely worth consideration. Your employees are social beings and if you provide them with the means, they will gladly participate in the social network that fosters better collaboration and relationships between them.

These types of social networks are conveniently labeled as enterprise social networks (ESN).  Some of the CRM tools have a built-in social network features so that employees can collaborate on projects by using an interface that resembles some of the most popular social networks, such as Facebook.

Since it is integrated with the other CRM features, the employees can share project- and client-related information with anyone they want, and it’s just few clicks away. This is just another extension to other collaborative features found in CRM products. Since it is very powerful, you should definitely consider opting for the software that has it built-in.

Knowledge Management

Did you know that employees spend up to 20% of their work time looking for documents and searching for information that is crucial for the task they are working on in unorganized repositories and by consulting their peers?

In order to build better relationships with customers, an organization has to keep track of the best practices, some of which may be discovered by different employees dispersed throughout service, marketing and sales departments.

This is where a knowledge management system comes in handy. Especially if it comes as part of the CRM software bundle. You employees can use it to share valuable knowledge, document templates, ‘how to’ guides, case-specific best practices, presentations, numerous scripts and write their own articles.

Building a knowledge sharing culture definitely takes some time, but it’s obviously worth it.

Enterprise-Wide Development

Enterprise-Wide Development

Having separate CRM software for marketing, sales and service departments contradicts the very purpose of using a CRM tool. In the end, it can create an even bigger mess than before it was implemented, damage the relations with your customers and reduce the productivity of your workforce.

This is why you should look for one CRM tool that can be used by all of the above-mentioned departments. You will not only experience reduced administrative management costs, but increased efficiency and seamless collaboration between coworkers and departments as well.

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