Choosing a CRM System
The first question that has to be decided in choosing a Customer Relationships Management System is, "Do I need a CRM system?"
The answer is, that if you want to stay competitive, you most definitely need a CRM system. A recent Executive Survey by Gartner and Forbes.com reported that the top priority of every firm is keeping customers and selling them more goods and services, followed by attracting new customers. It has to be true, because it is almost always cheaper to keep customers than to get new ones, and it is always easier to sell your existing customers new functionality than it is to try to win over new customers. Your customers know you, so they have less sales resistance. You know your customers, so you know which customers might be interested in a new product or services that you offer, and who might be interested in purchasing an upgrade. That means that a CRM system is a must for your organization, because CRM systems are designed to help you find customers and ensure customer loyalty.
What to look for in a CRM system:
Simple to learn – As much as possible, CRM features should be self-evident and intuitive, so that users do not require special training and don't have to plow through manuals and help facilities to finding out how to do a simple function.
Simple to use – The same interface principles should be used in every place possible. Important information such as meetings and deadlines and "to do" lists should be shown prominently.
Grouping Information - Information that goes together should be grouped together in displays and entered together with related information.
Useful reports – Reports should be geared for use, not for displaying meaningless statistics that are only of interest to IT personnel.
Low Risk – Systems that require a big initial investment in money, IT resources and learning commit you to a specific solution. If you made the wrong decision, you are stuck.
Import and Export data – Every CRM system should have a way to export data to other applications, and to import data from other systems.
Can integrate with other applications – Depending on your business needs and procedures, you may need to integrate customer issues reports with configuration management or quality software for example, or add an interface for customers to submit contact information or fill out a customer care ticket.
Scalable – The system should be able to grow easily with your organization.
Affordable – You should be able to buy only as much CRM system as you need.
Extensible – Systems that supply source code can be modified to support new functionality. It isn't enough for the system to be "open system" because the code has to be well documented, so that your engineers don't have to waste time trying to figure out how it works and so that there are no unpleasant surprises.