Lead tracking, sales quotation management, and contact management are important components of a customer relationship management system. But a full-fledged CRM system can do much more than collect customer records in a database.
The contact database is the key component of any CRM system, no matter how rudimentary. It should allow you to enter and maintain information about customers and prospects, such as name, address, telephone number, and e-mail address.
If you sell to larger customers that typically have several contacts, look for the ability to manage a group of related contacts for one customer. This will allow you to quickly change information for all related contacts when the customer’s address or other details change.
Reporting and analytic capabilities show wide variation among CRM applications. At a minimum, look for the ability to generate standardized reports that list customer and prospect contact information and sales lead opportunities organized by customer representative.
Another important tool is a report writer that permits you to design your own CRM reports. Most CRM solutions provide a report writer, but it may not be that easy to use unless you’re a techno wizard. If your front office staff has to contact your IT department every time they need a new report, you haven’t found software that improves your operations. Try creating a custom report or two when you evaluate the software to check out its ease of use.
Good CRM analytics will let you slice and dice your CRM data to answer important questions:
- Which customers are highly profitable? Which customers are most loyal?
- Which sales representative has the best lead conversion rate?
- Is it better to get any new customer, no matter how small, and upsell later, or are small customers largely unprofitable?
- Look for good analytic tools that will answer these and other questions that will give you insight into how to improve the performance of the business.
When integrating your CRM system with other business applications, consider your key customer communication methods. If e-mail is an important way to maintain contact with your customers, see how a CRM system can integrate with your e-mail system, including e-mail client software. For better or worse, Microsoft Outlook has the largest number of CRM integration options among e-mail clients. CRM solutions that integrate with Outlook are available from both Microsoft and third parties.
Similarly, for a CRM application used in a call center, see if integration with your telephone system is possible. Can caller ID information such as the number for an incoming call be passed to the CRM system? If so, the CRM application might then retrieve the customer information linked to that phone number, so it’s instantly ready for your customer agent’s review when answering the call.
The demand for more analytical CRM capabilities is usually tied to the number of customers and distribution channels your staff manages. If your business sells to a few dozen large customers using one distribution channel, you probably have straightforward analytical requirements and may not require anything special. On the other hand, if your business sells to thousands of customers, using several distribution channels, you need top-notch CRM analytics that are up to the job.
If your contact list is large and complex, look for the capability to profile customers. Profiling can then be used to segment customers into groups with different buying patterns and distribution channels. You can then use data mining techniques to analyze the behavior of these different customer segments. Your business may be able to better serve a customer segment by developing new products or services or by creating a new distribution channel.
If your products and services have a complex sales process, you may need to manage the workflow of sales opportunity leads. Look for CRM workflow capabilities that will allow someone to pass leads on to others in your business who are involved in the sales process. A good workflow system will allow your opportunity leader to keep on top of overall progress and ensure that no one drops the ball handling an important sales lead.
If you have a mobile sales force, consider how they will use the CRM system while on the road. Can they access it using a smartphone? Will they be able to synchronize data using a notebook computer, which then updates their diary and allows them to view appointments? Mobile users need to be able to access the key components of a CRM system, otherwise it will not work.