How do you choose the right CRM? The selection process can be overwhelming when there are hundreds of CRM solutions available. When it comes to making a decision, you may feel you are drowning in a sea of vendors, product descriptions, and technical jargon. How do you cut through the noise and determine which CRM is best for you?
This article will walk you through creating a CRM selection checklist and the six essential criteria it needs to include.
1. Know What Features and Functionality You Need
Software companies have sophisticated sales teams who know how to pitch their product aggressively. If you don’t have a clear idea of what you’re looking for, you can be pulled in many different directions. You may end up stalled by indecision, thinking every CRM vendor is an equally good fit. Worse still, you could end up choosing the wrong CRM platform.
The more organization and planning you do, the quicker and easier the decision will be. Before shopping around, take a close look at your business. What are your company’s goals? What pain points do you want to resolve?
CRM success depends on asking the right people the right questions. So, gather your key stakeholders together—executives, staff, and customers—and conduct an internal review.
Questions for Executives
It’s up to executives to make sure they select a CRM that adds strategic value to the business. Some top considerations before choosing a CRM vendor are:
- What are the most inefficient processes in your company?
- What operational processes and workflows need to be added?
- Who is going to use the CRM? Do you need a CRM that works for all departments? Or do you want a CRM that specializes in one area?
- How do you want to visualize company data? If you’ve been working from spreadsheets and sticky notes, you’ll be amazed by the array of charts, metrics, and reports a CRM can generate.
- How much automation do you need?
- Do you need a CRM tailored to your industry? You can choose the right CRM customized for virtually any sector—real estate, health care, manufacturing, and hospitality, just to name a few.
- How much time do you have for implementation and training? Some CRMs have an easy setup and intuitive interface. Others require extensive training before use. In general, more functionality means more complexity and a steeper learning curve.
Questions for Employees
A CRM can provide powerful tools for upper management. But you also want to find a CRM that boosts productivity and efficiency for the entire staff. Check with employees to see how a CRM can help them work faster and smarter. Some sample questions for staff are:
- What are your primary duties?
- What tasks stand in the way of your primary duties?
- What resources do you need more of?
- Can you describe your workflow and any bottlenecks?
- Are there any tasks you’d like to see automated?
- What is the most common difficulty you face with customers?
- Who do you communicate with most?
- How is communication with customers? How is it between departments?
- Which daily activities give you the most stress?
- Which daily activities give you the most return?
Consult With Customers
Who knows the client-facing side of your business best? The customers, of course. Online reviews, social media feeds, and customer feedback forms can give you insight into what it’s like dealing with your business. The right CRM can address slow service, communication gaps, and other problems you discover through customer data.
CRM Vendor Criteria
After your evaluations, you will know what to look for in a CRM. You can use the feedback from managers, staff, and customers to develop your CRM selection criteria. From there, you can create a shortlist of vendors that meet your requirements. This will significantly shorten the CRM selection process and ensure you end up with a product that solves a real business problem.
2. User Experience (UX)
Even the most sophisticated software is worthless if your staff doesn’t use it. It’s critical to consider user experience when selecting a CRM. You don’t want to choose a cumbersome tool that employees resent using. It may be rejected or filled with fictional data.
A user-friendly CRM will result in higher rates of adoption. So, prioritize the UX and find a CRM that folds easily into your staff’s routines. Most CRM vendors offer a 30-day trial so employees can test drive the product. If you find the platform isn’t user-friendly, it’s not the right software for your business.
3. Does It Work With Other Software That You Use?
Technology drives efficiency in a business. But too many tech tools can slow you down. You have to jump from system to system to complete your tasks. Plus, the tools don’t “talk” to each other, forcing you to enter data across multiple systems. This ad hoc approach to technology can create unnecessary stress and confusion for employees.
A CRM won’t add to your stack of technologies—it will streamline them into a single platform. Imagine being able to access all your third-party apps and integrations from a single dashboard, including email, social media accounts, and marketing tools. It’s possible with the right CRM.
Before purchasing a CRM, check the app store to ensure it integrates with the tools your business relies on most.
4. Hidden Costs of CRM
No one needs to tell you price is an important factor when selecting a CRM. But you may not know how to calculate the ‘total cost of operation.’ That’s industry-speak for the unexpected costs that may arise when implementing your new software.
Some of the hidden costs to look out for are:
Pricing Tiers: Be sure the features you want are included in the pricing tier you can afford. Also, look to the future—is the CRM affordable throughout all it’s tiers? As your business grows, you may need to move to a more expensive subscription with added functionality. Calculate whether the solution will remain cost-effective as you scale.
Caps on data: Some CRMs use data caps to squeeze more money out of their customers. Ask the CRM vendor whether there are any storage or contact limits.
Integrations: Most CRM systems offer hundreds of third-party apps and integrations. Integrations allow you to plug your favorite tools into the platform seamlessly. They also provide a way for you to enhance and customize your CRM. But they come at a cost. Check the app stores for pricing and take note of the cost structure. Is it a monthly subscription, one-time licensing fee, or pay-per-user?
Data migration: Transferring data to your CRM takes time and money. Plus, some systems and apps require ongoing data migration. It’s crucial to develop a data migration strategy so you can budget for the cost.
Customer support: Some CRM vendors monetize customer support. You may be subjected to limited hours and long waits unless you subscribe to their premium service option.
5. CRM Customization
CRM is an effective tool that can improve efficiency, collaboration, and customer relationships right out-of-the-box. However, it is unlikely to match your business processes and needs precisely. What’s more, you don’t want your CRM functioning exactly like your competitors. Where’s the business advantage in that? The ideal CRM will allow for some tweaks to make the solution truly yours.
The degree of customization varies between vendors. Niche solutions like Pipedrive tend to offer less flexibility, whereas large enterprise systems like Microsoft Dynamics abound with customization options.
Most CRMs will allow you to customize at least some entities and fields-no coding needed. All that’s required is a basic understanding of the system and its data structure. The vendor’s app store will provide add-on tools to further customize and enhance the CRM’s capability.
6. Data Safety
As Clive Humby said, data is the new oil in today’s economy. For the average business, it is their lifeblood. When you turn company data over to a CRM, you are placing your most precious resource in the vendor’s hands.
For this reason, CRM is particularly attractive to hackers. All your customers’ private information, such as credit card numbers, medical records, biometrics, and other personally identifiable information (PII), is housed in one place. This presents a veritable goldmine to cybercriminals.
It is imperative to choose the right CRM vendor that abides by the strictest data safety protocols. If a vendor isn’t transparent about their security systems, it’s a massive red flag.
Select the Right CRM Tool for You
There’s no one-size-fits-all formula for how to choose the right CRM. Every business is unique and will define CRM success differently. To find the best software for you, evaluate your business processes and come up with a CRM feature checklist. The best CRM solution will meet those requirements, as well as being secure, customizable, user-friendly, and cost-effective.
Are you still having trouble choosing between vendors? Try the FindMyCRM selection tool here.
Not sure what you need?
Use our free guides and tools. Just fill in the forms with your requirements and get a full report and list of CRMs that could be a great fit for your business.