Finding the right CRM system: to buy or to build?

Home » Knowledge » management » Finding the right CRM system: to buy or to build?

When the word ‘CRM’ is used, it’s easy to make a primary assumption that this refers to a standard ‘off the shelf’ piece of software which very often doesn’t conform to an organisations processes and ways of doing business.

A stigma has been attached to various ‘standardised systems’ in the past and companies have often experienced a series of headaches and frustrations with a system which dictates how they should essentially conduct their business on a daily basis.

On the other hand, while an off-the-shelf system will give many companies the basic functionality they need, more often, to remain competitive in the industry in which you operate, a custom built CRM system will go a long way in giving you an edge and more crucially will beunique to the way you do business.  When you require total efficiency, have very distinct businesses processes or want to achieve and maintain that competitive advantage, a bespoke CRM system is the only route for you.

The possibilities with CRM have significantly evolved over recent years.  While ‘Customer Relationship Management’ seems to be just another technological acronym, the reality is that it’s much more than just that.

Albeit, customers are integral to a business’s success and should therefore lie at the heart of all business processes but stemming from this are a range of internal stakeholders who also benefit in a number of ways and it is customised systems that can ensure all individual needs are met throughout an organisation.

Forbes Magazine recently reported that CRM is forecast to grow to a $36.5billion worldwide market by 2017.  This mammoth figure in itself speaks volumes as to the sheer focus and demand from organisations for systems that effectively pave the way for business growth, systems that encompass effective lead management, smart reporting, forecasting and most imperatively, good, solid customer relations.

For many organisations, the advantages of custom built systems far outweigh those of standardised systems and here are the main reasons why…

Industry Specific Applications

Off-the-shelf solutions are exactly what they say on the tin.  They are packaged as standard solutions through a ‘one size fits all’ approach and very often cannot be moulded around the strategies and objectives that an organisation set out to achieve.

Take for example large organisations who work on a global scale against multiple regions, serving multiple sectors.  Organisations this size require bespoke applications to allow them to have the flexibility to not only grow but to customise the information that they capture from multiple sources and manipulate this data considerably in the form of customised reporting functions.

We as a company adopt a ‘co-creation’ approach to how we deliver our washing plants, customers are at the essence of what we design, create and ultimately deliver and the same should be said for implementing any kind of product and particularly a CRM system.

The crucial missing element here with off-the-shelf systems is this ‘co-creation’ component, they’re packaged up and boxed off with no active involvement from the end user and ultimately no thorough understanding of how a business conducts itself and what’s important to a business.  Companies should reap considerable benefits from the moment data is captured in the form of enquiries, right through to lead nurturing, the point of sale,the range of support services and beyond if applicable.

Most off-the shelf CRM systems will offer the basic features under each business process but it can’t be tailored or delved into further in order to capture exactly what you want.  A tailor made CRM which allows you to dictate just how much you capture on a customer, gives you strong, concise insights from which you can build up a picture.

Quality Lead Management

t’s a no-brainer that sales are at the core of every business regardless of industry, sales generate revenue and it’s the revenue that funds future growth and expansion.  For this reason therefore, sales lead management is an integral part of any CRM whether it’s for a small SME or for a large global organisation.  The sales team ultimately want quality information at the click of a button, information that isn’t cumbersome to maintain.

As well as providing sales teams with greater access to customer data in order to identify and engage with every prospect, a CRM system can act as a tool that clearly defines their path to a sale and not as a drain on their time.  This in turn could shorten the sales lifecycle by managing and accessing opportunities in the sales pipeline.

Very often, with ‘off the shelf’ systems, the sales processes are already pre-defined, with obviously no flexibility to accommodate the wants and needs of the key users and this can prove to be a major road block when it comes to user adoption and in this regard co-creation is crucial.

A bespoke CRM can also allow you to track business activity, interactions with customers and even internal communications among various team members.  Moreover, the management of a sales team will prove to be less laborious through the instant generation of key reports which reflects real time data.

Customer Profiling& Highly Personalised Communications

Organisations work tirelessly to generate a larger customer base but how easily accessible is this information and more importantly what do you know about your existing customers?

While most off-the-shelf systems will feature a basic level of customer profiling data such as geographic locations, company types etc, to get a true picture of what makes your customer’s tick, a tailored system built from the ground up can offer you a wealth of information which you can clearly define and label according to your business.  This level of customer profiling will place you in a more favourable position when it also comes to customer communications.

If you know at a glance what products your customers purchase from you and even how often they buy, instantly you have a picture of what key messages can be derived from this and this can make communications much smarter, more powerful and more engaging in the future.  Moreover, this can lead to increasedcustomer retention by providing a more personalised service.

Automation = Time Saving

The ability to create and embed automatic triggers and email reminder notifications to carry out specific tasks or follow ups are invaluable features of any CRM system that will allow you to drive a consistent customer service experience and boost productivity.

Moreover, integration with Microsoft Outlook or other email clients such as Google Mail will allow you to effectively manage your calendar and key tasks.

As well as automating ‘to-do’ lists, an effective CRM system can also boost productivity by removing the need for tedious paper-based administration, again, another huge time saver.  A standard CRM will prescribe what these options are whereas a tailored CRM system will allow you to be the decider as to what those key actions are for your sales team and this again can allow you to be the driver of key performance indicators.

A collaborative platform, avoiding information silos

At the essence of any CRM system is the ability to centralise data in one key, easily accessible location.  By consolidating and housing all valuable customer information in one centrally integrated place, this will improve collaboration and help streamline communication if the relevant people have access to this easily.

It will eradicate the need for various individuals to create and maintain spread sheets throughout mounds of different file locations.  Ultimately, an effective tailor made system can cleverly integrate the main business processes including sales, marketing, project management and aftersales across a diverse range of projects.  It also has the potential to allow you to effectively manage complex relationships including partners and indirect sales channels.

Mobile Realm, Browser Compatibility & Offline Access

It’s one thing having an effective, streamlined and user friendly CRM in place but does this meet the needs of remote, field based workers who may not be office based for a large part of their time?

This is particularly pertinent for sales teams whose role requires constant, effective communication with customers.  Increasingly, as with anything else in the online domain, accessibility of information is shifting to the mobile realm and this is crucially important for CRM also.

To get the most out of the data that you have, individuals must be able to access this through mobile devices including smartphones and tablets and this should be in the form of extensions to their desktop versions.  Moreover, it’s equally important to ensure that the user interface has been streamlined and is cross browser compatible too for ease of use on a small screen.

Offline access is vital also for people who travel extensively, when internet connection is not possible, sales teams must be able to carry out basic functions to allow them to effectively continue to do their job.

By offering an offline version, this will not hamper the efficiency of the sales team, they will be able to work effectively offline and whatever changes or updates they have carried out should be automatically synchronised to the live version once an internet connection has been obtained.

With standard systems, this offline function may be limited and may not effectively serve the needs of a remote sales team.  Tailored offline apps can specifically be developed as leaner version to your full CRM system and again, you will be in a position to specify what form this should take.

Web-based CRM Systems

Web based systems offer solutions to businesses for managing relationships where there is no hardware or software located on the customer’s premises.  The application is accessed solely through a web interface, making the system accessible from any device that can access the internet.  Most web-based CRM systems will offer significant cost savings when it comes to implementation on-going costs can be proven to be significantly lower also.

The ideal CRM solution for enhanced business performance?

In short, in order to remain competitive and particularly on the global stage, a customised CRM system will allow companies to increase business efficiency, win more sales and help keep customers happy through the ability to manage a large customer base by segmenting and filtering information effectively.

Heavily customised, integrated solutions are a smarter alternative to the normal run of the mill systems that already saturate the market.  In essence, latest forecasts show that organisations irrespective of size and scale are realising that the most valuable assets they have are solid, long-term customer relationships which can ultimately be achieved through custom designed CRM systems.

Ursula O’Dowd is the CDE Global Marketing Executive. In this article, she assesses custom built CRM systems against off-the shelf systems and the impact these can have from an internal organisational perspective. CDE Global are currently developing a new online customer web portal which will offer customers a consistent, streamlined and attentive experience ensuring that customers have easier access to information than ever before. CDE Global operates in 4 sectors, construction and recycling, mining, industrial sands and environmental, across the 7 main global regions.