CRM is an often talked about but elusive process for many small businesses. Just about every large business has a CRM system in place. They use these systems to get to know their customer better, build loyalty and sell more to their customers.
Smaller businesses don’t always have these systems in place. It’s not always for lack of trying. In this connection, Sage North America recently announced SageCRM v6.2 a CRM system that delivers a low total cost of ownership for small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs). This version includes a new pre-configured and customizable screen themes, an expanded editor for multi-lingual email campaigns, and an enhanced graphical view for managing relationships between multiple contacts, among its feature additions
David van Toor, senior vice president and general manager, Sage CRM Solutions North America helps us dig a bit deeper and better understand CRM:
When choosing a CRM system there are those built into software like SAP, NetSuite and those that come separate – like SageCRM – what are the advantages and disadvantages of each option?
A built-in option makes some level of CRM accessible with a larger suite of varied applications, although often integrated CRM has sacrificed functionality during integration. At Sage, our approach is to offer the best of breed functionality in SageCRM in a variety of deployment options: you can get it standalone in an on-premises or hosted format, or you can get the full version embedded in Sage Extended Enterprise Suites. We support mid-sized businesses and find that offering these options better help customers fit to what their business currently needs.
What are some things one should look at when considering a CRM software
First and foremost, it’s about user adoption. Choose and implement a system that your staff (especially sales people) can’t afford not to use. Some vendors, Sage included, are building Web 2.0 capabilities into their CRM systems to help further automate and share customer information. It’s starting with simple mashups like brining LinkeIn and social network profile data into the system on demand and evolving from here. These expanded capabilities can help users decide what available information is most helpful to growing revenue and act upon it, set priorities, make associations between contacts and opportunities, all in a more automated and less time consuming fashion. All this adds up to a tool that professionals use because it helps them in their job, as opposed to using because they are told to.
What about integration with other systems like accounting or marketing – how does this work
I previously mentioned integration as embedded technology in a larger system. The common request to integrate CRM and ERP systems has been advanced with standards-based migration tools, a diverse community of capable systems integrators and business partners who customize and integrate systems, and vendors like Sage that have developed CRM systems that function broadly as platforms businesses and integrators can build applications from. Also, consider that more CRM tools are now available with ready-made integrations to common business apps like Microsoft Outlook and even some of the most popular social networking tools.
What are some good examples of CRM in action – I guess Amazon.com comes to mind -but what else in more recent times
The use of mobile CRM for field sales and service continues to grow. One of our favorites is Panasonic’s use of CRM to support their Toughbook division. Their mobile sales team accesses and updates sales opportunities while traveling. Colleagues at the office get real-time updates from the field to help accommodate demand, while integration into their back office system has resulted in improved forecasting and reduced loss of loaner units.
How does the TECHNOLOGY of CRM fit into the human element of CRM
CRM systems need to work the way people and businesses want them to work. Sounds simple, but this is the classic user adoption challenge. We refer to this concept as “systems that work the way I do.” Easy to use interfaces, seamless integration with other apps, and CRM customizations are key criteria. If complexities exist, they should do so in an administrator’s realm – where they too are offered in the most usable, flexible fashion possible – so every-day users can just get to the information they need without barriers. When users gain actual productivity spikes from a minimal CRM learning curve, real adoption occurs.