If you read about Customer Relationship Management (CRM), you’ll undoubtedly learn of various software, implementation strategies, successful and failed outcomes, and other interesting information. Unfortunately, within this overload of facts and tidbits of information, we sometimes forget about what CRM is really about: nurturing relationships with the people that come into contact with your company, in order to increase the loyalty of existing customers, and hopefully gain a few more along the way.
In other words, CRM is not about the software: CRM is about people and processes.
That’s right: you need both to be in place for your CRM project to succeed. It’s one thing to have processes about how customer complaints are handled, but it’s quite another to have employee that care enough to solve them to the best of their ability. On the other hand, the people that care will be powerless to assist customers if they don’t have timely access to the information they need. So, once again: people and processes go hand in hand, and their combination will precede any successful CRM implementation.
If people and processes are the cornerstones of happy CRM endings, why is there so much talk about software?
Software is a very efficient way of implementing CRM (when done successfully) as customer information can be
- centralized: employees have the important information readily accessible at their fingertips
- shared: when a customer interacts with one employee, the information entered into the CRM system is immediately accessible to all
- standardized: data is formatted consistently, paving the way for anything from mail merges to detailed statistics
- protected: backups prevent untimely information loss, and access management prevent unauthorized access
- analyzed: centralizing standardized data allows for intricate analysis to better the customer experience even further
So, yes, software is a powerfully ally for CRM. However, you must realize that a CRM project is not an IT project! Implementing a CRM initiative within your company does not consist of purchasing some CRM software, installing it, and letting you users loose. That is a recipe for mitigated success, at best.
Instead of technology, concentrate on establishing sound customer relationship processes. Once those are in place, establishing requirements and selecting software will be a formality.
What if you have no such processes in place, or you know they are sub-par?
I suggest installing a no-cost production-grade CRM solution, such as SugarCRM or Fat Free CRM. This will provide you with a robust tool used by both large companies and smaller start ups, while not costing you a cent in licensing costs. Such a setup will enable your company to try its collective hand at CRM, and teasing out what works and what doesn’t. In the end, you’ll end up with realistic ideas on how to implement or fix your customer-related processes, and rock-solid requirements to measure CRM software against (should you decide on using a different CRM tool).