CRM – Customer Relationship Management

CRM: Implementing the right CRM solutions

A CRM strategy will impact across your business. To help you make the right decisions, follow the steps below.

1. Pinpoint your CRM goals

Do you want to attract and retain customers through better customer service, collect more customer data to improve product development and sales forecasting, or integrate customer data from different sources?

Research the market

  • Which are the leading vendors and price range?
  • Which technologies are your competitors using?
  • Talk to your trade associations

Focus on what type of CRM you need

  • Generic
  • Industry-specific
  • Special customisation
  • Collaborative characteristics
  • Standalone
  • Networked
  • Web-hosted
  • Real-time access to sales staff in the field

What are your interface requirements?

  • Other CRM systems, such as those used by your supply chain partners
  • Product data management systems
  • ERP systems
  • Legacy systems

2. Try to quantify the anticipated benefits of improving CRM

How will it effect revenues, profitability and the cost of servicing customers?

Carry out a cost-benefit analysis

  • What is the cost per user or per licence
  • How many licenses do you need
  • If buying, allow for updates, add-ons and in-house support costs
  • If renting from an ASP, include set-up and subscription fees
  • ISDN/broadband to transfer larger files

3. Implementing CRM for specific functions

If you are implementing CRM for specific business functions, ensure that each new solution can be integrated with existing ones. Introducing a new way of working will have an impact on other areas of your business,

  • Increased customer response may effect sales, purchasing and stock management
  • By synchronising these processes, you can prepare for an increase in output

4. Don’t underestimate the amount of data you’ll need to collect

Do you have the resources to cope with increased customer response? Some businesses have had to close down e-mail due to being overwhelmed with customer feedback or queries. If you can’t respond promptly, you may end up alienating customers.

5. Consider security and data protection

Any CRM system must protect customer privacy. You need to be registered under the data protection Act or look at adopting BS7799. If you choose an outsourced solution, are you willing to trust valuable data to a third such as an ASP?

6. Plan for collaboration

CRM involves collaboration and information sharing both inside and outside the company. Are your solutions compatible with your supply chain partners? Are you all ready to make the necessary culture change and are your systems secure? Plan what further training employees will need to use your systems. Talk to your key suppliers and customers

  • What software are they using?
  • What hardware platforms
  • What are their collaboration policies?

Break down the project into manageable chunks. Set up a pilot study. Make sure that your plans include a scalable architecture.

7. Try before you buy

Try out systems you are interested in for a month – many CRM vendors are flexible about evaluation time frames. Wherever possible, install demonstration versions to compare features

8. Plan the roll-out phase

  • Do you plan to integrate CRM across your business processes in stages?
  • How long will the project take? This depend on what type of system you are planning to use
  • How will you co-ordinate team working across the supply chain?
  • Look at training implications – what will the cost be? Decide which staff will require training and allow time for them to adjust to working more collaboratively
  • Do you need to bring in external consultants to advise you on implementation? They can help customise your system and provide training and software support
This business advice article based on Crown Copyright © 2004-2014
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