Are You Ready to Upgrade to CRM? (from Microsoft)

The most basic of Customer Relationship Management solutions for any business is probably an email newsletter. Constant Contact is the grand daddy of these services but there are a few dozen more, which are probably just as good. I’ve recently started using Feedblitz‘s newsletter services.
However, an email newsletter can only take your business so far. What you really need is an integrated CRM strategy and tool(s) which will help you segment your customers and better serve them.
If you sell tires in a tired dealership you don’t have one set of customers – just customers who want to buy tires. You probably have customers with discretionary money and want to spend as much on their tires as they spend on their cars. Someone with $50,000 car does not want the cheapest tires.
I bet you also have some young students or families on a budget who want good tires but very economical.
Some customers might want “white glove” service, while others don’t care if you don’t wash their car after servicing it – and don’t want to pay for it either.
A CRM system can help you properly service these various types of customers and ensure each customer’s needs are met.
It’s into this CRM mix that Microsoft will launch, next year CRM Live – a hosted application for CRM. Several companies are already in this space – such as, Netsuite, RightNow and others.
Information Week writes The opportunity is for Microsoft, a laggard in hosted applications, to catch up, which it will try to do by offering its apps at lower rates. The enterprise edition of Microsoft’s CRM Live, which includes offline access, will be available for a monthly fee of $59 per user, about half the going rate, while a more basic professional edition lists for $44 per user each month and will be available for $39 per month through 2008. “Microsoft is the last one” to the market, says RightNow CEO Greg Gianforte. “Welcome to the party.”
When considering a CRM service for your business, don’t go on price alone. First understand what your needs are, then find a solution to meet that need. Make sure the solution can grow with your business, enables integration to other services, databases and programs you might use. Ensure that you can get good support from the vendor.
If you don’t have an in-house expert to help you, I would HIGHLY suggest you invest in retaining the services of a CRM consultant who specializes in CRM and knows about a variety of systems. An added plus (I personally think a must) is if this same consultant also knows your industry and has helped others.
Start small and do things in stages.