- 30 June, 2016
Getting a Small Business CRM – A Guide.
Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software is one of the most important tools being used in businesses for better insights and productivity. Keeping aside the nature of business, almost every business involves heavy document management, data and information flows, client records, product insights and the like. Hence it seems much inconvenient to handle such details manually. CRM software streamlines all of the business processes by automating them centrally at a searchable repository.
Conventionally, CRM is associated with businesses or salespeople that depend on selling of miscellaneous business products. The reality of CRM is however, contrary to what it is assumed. CRM is developed in a way, so as to make it behave like a system, which supports the business routines of any of the business organisations. The insights and business intelligence reports delivered by a CRM can have a heavy impact on the future of your business, as these tools are always the key to improved decision making and increased profits.
Besides being a basic business need, CRM is considered to be a tool that advocates a business in a competitive digital market. Having a CRM is no doubt, a necessary business requirement but selecting the best CRM package is a big deal, not only in terms of money, but also in terms of installation and configuration time, associated with the software. A customised and user-friendly CRM has always been a market need – perhaps, you can’t afford to spend a major portion of your and your employees’ time in understanding the behaviour of the system. Neither would you prefer to hire employees, especially to get things done over the CRM software, just because the system is turning out to be a poor fit for your business.
Getting a CRM for a Small Business:
This buyer’s guide is dedicated to help you choose the best CRM package as per your business needs, and avoid any of the nasty scenarios, some of which have been highlighted earlier. We’ll highlight some of the key features that you must consider before going for CRM software. Afterwards, an over view of some of the CRM favourite tools will be presented to help you make a better decision.
Difference Between Customer Management System and Contact Management System!
The most important thing to care of is to acknowledge the differences between CRM software and a heavy-duty Contact Management System. On operational grounds, a Contact Management System and CRM are two different management tools, those shouldn’t be intermingled. However, over the recent years, the line between CRM and Contact Management System got blurred and from functional perspective, a Contact Management System when equipped with some additional modules well served the purpose of CRM for small scale businesses.
CRM Platform: Cloud VS Onsite:
The foremost aspect to bring under consideration when acquiring a CRM is the type of platform your business requires: Cloud or Onsite.
Onsite CRM software works similar to many traditional business productivity suites: install them on individual PC or on a dedicated server machine and deploy its features over the network. While cloud based technologies are trending all over the digital market. However, one can’t derail the benefits offered by onsite services. There is probably no subscription fee (monthly or so). All you need to do is to buy the product once, and it’s yours forever, and it would cost you some bucks only when you intent to upgrade the existing version. Onsite software would not cause you any accessibility issues: it is available on a standalone system for as long as the system is on. However, when it comes to cloud, you need to ensure a working internet connection in order to access the CRM features and data.
Besides witnessing onsite software, taking an edge over cloud, it has its own disadvantages too. For start-ups and other businesses with fairly small setups, there is a bigger commitment of capital to go for CRM software straightaway, instead of preferring Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) vendor. Furthermore, it entirely becomes your responsibility to ensure the working of the system (software and the hardware too), and to archive all of the important business data for maintaining secure backups to recover in case of any technical errors or other disasters. If you wish to acquire to the latest features (offered by the subsequent versions of the software) you will need to pay for the upgrade first. Majority of the onsite software lack features like remote access, which can probably be considered as one of the major drawbacks.
Cloud-based CRM however, smartly transforms the shortcomings of onsite software into its strengths. It delivers what is lacked by onsite system. It provides access to comprehensive set of product features to the users connected over the internet, independent of their physical location. This makes cloud-based CRM a more efficient solution, particularly for start-ups and small businesses, which involves remote employees and workers.
Adding more to the benefits, SaaS vendors are continuously working on new updates and when an existing version if updated on the host, you get access to all of the newly added features, once you log on to the system. The host is also entirely responsible for maintaining secure backups of all of your business data on dutiful servers, designed to house data bulks.
The monthly subscription fee you pay for cloud solution soon exceeds the capital spent on onsite product. And if at any instance, the internet connection shuts down at your business organisation, you lose access to the CRM features. To cope with such emergencies, some SaaS vendors customise the CRM, so as to make some of its key features available offline.
User Support: Single-user VS Multi-user:
Another important decision you need to make is to decide whether your business requires a single user or a multi user system. Most of the Contact Management Systems with CRM features are intended to be used by a single computer-user. The value and usability of the CRM lies in its ability to automate business processes all through the business organisation. To do so, you need to acquire a CRM with multi-user support. Such systems are most expensive to be setup but once they get installed, the whole organisation gets benefitted.
Depending upon the nature of your business, it isn’t a cumbersome task to decide what kind of CRM you need to have. Whatever you choose, you need to make sure that its vendor offers complete support for mobile devices that are being used as part of a business, at your company. Make sure that you have the access to all of the important business data from your handheld devices, such as mobile or tablet.
CRM Features to Improve Small Businesses:
- Ease of Use – The utmost goal of every CRM system is to eliminate the complexities of day to day business processes and keep things simple, yet systematic. That wouldn’t be possible if the CRM is too difficult to use. The interface of the system should be user friendly. An interactive user interface allows the employees to understand and grasp the features those are relevant to their business.
- Tasks and Reminders – The CRM software should support features like reminders that alert up after the pre-set time interval in order to ensure that all the concerned employees are tied up with their tasks, and the project keeps on moving towards completion. Another key feature is the ‘To-do’ list support, which synchronises all of your appointments and tasks and keeps employees and managers focused on the on-going projects.
- Automation of Business Processes – This is one of the most significant features that distinguish a CRM from Contact Management System. A full-fledged CRM is capable of automating multi-step business routines involving multiple employees. Inter-organisation communication and flow of information is managed through the CRM which ultimately eliminates the inconveniencies of manual business process management.
- Business Intelligent Reports – Apart from handling everyday business chores, the CRM software should let you see the progress of your small business. Most of the CRM packages accomplish this task via support dashboards, which provide clear insights to your business and also creates visual report to make things clear.
- Integration – While a CRM is comprehensively dealing with your business, it might be the only software at your organisation. Your employees may want to execute some basic tasks, such as sending/receiving emails via traditional solutions such as Outlook, etc. Hence, you need to look for the CRM that supports Outlook integration and the like. You can also utilise your CRM to boost up the marketing efforts for your business.
- Extensibility – Practically, no CRM package can do everything for a business. There are always rooms for improvement. The same goes with CRM. Try to look for the software that supports add-ins from CRM vendor as well as from third party developers for improved functionalities.
- Tech Support – You need to make sure that the vendor offers the support services as per your business needs. Communication tools for technology support such as phone/IMs/emails are must. Apart from this, find out if the CRM vendor offers assistance in setting up and customising the platform and find out about the costs of doing so.
- Security – Security of the system is another important factor to take care of. You should be able to control which users can access which data. For example, employees should not be granted access to administrator’s profile.
Small Business CRM Products to Consider:
There are many CRM vendors out there in the market and here are some off our favourites:
Vtiger.com – Vtiger is something more than just a CRM (Customer Management System). It offers a wide range of integrated solutions tailored to deal with almost all of the business processes. From email marketing to business management, Vtiger comes with all that is acquired by our business. With complete insights to your business, you can see what grabs the attention of your business audience and can launch successful marketing campaigns accordingly. You can manage your projects accordingly with project management tool integrated with the system. You can assign tasks, set milestones and head towards project completion at a higher pace. Features like customer portal enhance the customer experience by providing customers with the access to the portal. This leads to better interaction with the clients. Customers can also submit a request for some specific service through client portal. You can manage your on-going as well as upcoming tasks and appointments according to the prescribed schedule via built-in calendar and task manager. Vtiger eliminates the inconvenient manual data and file storage and management techniques. All of these hectic routines are replaced by cloud based management solutions that come along the CRM package. The security and controlled user access is ensured along with an ability to get integrated with Gmail, Outlook, Phone call systems and much more.
Microsoft Dynamics – Microsoft’s online CRM offers powerful capabilities to automate customer data, marketing services and related processes that make up your business. Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online provides the most user-friendly interface and custom-built support dashboards. The user interface is designed in such a way, so as to exhibit greater functionality with fewer clicks. One of the most powerful features of the CRM is its ability to get easily integrated with external add-ins for better functionality. You can acquire Microsoft’s CRM on a free trial period to get the most out of it, before integrating it with your business. Features like transferring your business data from spread sheets to CRM are also supported. Users of the CRM can access their data/files from remote locations and/or from their handheld devices such as mobiles, tablets, iPads, etc., provided that they have an active internet connection. The CRM package is equipped with the capabilities to automate the business processes efficiently, with features like document management, task manager, calendar and scheduler, controlling your business in the best possible way.