Found Features | Uncovering Hidden Capabilities in Your CRM Software
Getting More ROI From Your CRM Software Investment
So your Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software implementation is complete, your users are adopting the system and you're beginning to achieve your customer relationship objectives. Great news! However, as you probably know, CRM is never really finished; your customers' actions, behaviors and expectations are always changing and so before long you'll find both new opportunities and problems to address.
What to do? When business conditions or customer strategy materially change some businesses begin the CRM software selection process all over again, searching for new technology to address their new issues. But smart businesses do something different: they look internally at the resources they have already invested in their CRM application for answers.
The current era of CRM systems are so versatile and so sophisticated that, in many cases, the feature sets needed to accommodate emerging issues are already present. These features may not have been needed to deal with the conditions that initially drove the CRM purchase, so they sit dormant, and possibly unrecognized, until needed. Or in the case of cloud-based SaaS CRM solutions, new features can be introduced in the normal course of upgrades but go unnoticed by staff that could put them to use.
So how do you avoid overlooking these useful features and, at the same time, maximize your CRM software investment?
"The most critical thing is your mindset," says Scott Adams, CEO of MobileHelp, a Boca Raton, Florida-based company that provides a nationwide personal monitoring service. "You have to understand that CRM is always a work in progress, and you have to be deeply interested in the critical applications that run your business – interested enough to keep learning about them even after they're up and running."
After MobileHelp implemented their CRM software system, Adams started finding new roles for it. "For example, we started to use new features for our sales efforts," he says. By investigating the sales and marketing data the system tracked, he discovered some ideas for sales that he had not encountered before. "When we began, I had no idea what lead source meant, or why it might be important. We were not using that functionality. Now, we're applying the application more thoroughly." As a result, Adams' team is learning not just about the application but about the advanced thinking that went into designing it and how his company can benefit.
A similar set of conditions has Thomas Cook France, that nation's second largest travel company, experiencing a second wave of CRM application utilization with their SugarCRM system. Cathy Bou, the service group coordinator in charge of the customer management program, identified a set of basic issues when the system was first implemented: control of customer data, better management of sales leads and target customers, improved communication with customers and with Thomas Cook's internal teams, and to help grow sales generally.
Once the CRM application was in production, she began to explore new ways and methods to use it, identifying fresh issues and then working with her staff, SugarCRM and the system integrator for the project. She also had backing from managers within Thomas Cook that helped push additional functionality out of the CRM implementation.
The company invested about four months to audit and identify business problems - and then find out how their CRM software could help solve them. Once problems were identified, the bulk of the solutions were not identified by the vendor or the integrator, but by the company project manager, Cathy. This shows the company took real ownership of their system and continues to invest a healthy curiosity to get more out of it.
In order to take advantage of the hidden powers of your cloud CRM application, "That 'always on the lookout for functionality' mindset is really important," said Sam Biardo, CEO of Technology Advisors, a Des Plaines, Illinois software consulting firm that specializes in SugarCRM, Microsoft Dynamics and Sage implementations. "There are companies that find new problems and say, 'my CRM system doesn't do what I need it to do now, and I don't want to investigate it any further, and I don't want to pay anyone to show how it could do those things.' If you're spending $500 to $1000 a year per user, but you're not willing to think about this, you aren't going to have a good experience or financial return with CRM."
Biardo recommends developing a longer-term strategic plan for CRM software investment and utilization, which includes not only the needs of today but anticipates future waves of issues that CRM software may handle. "If you can't deal with it in year one, then deal with it in year two," he says. "Having that idea in mind keeps you thinking about CRM evolution as an ongoing process and that tends to lead you to learn more about your CRM system on a continuing basis."
That process may include the use of an external consultant, especially if your business lacks significant IT staff. "It's always great to have someone in house who likes to change his own oil, so to speak," Biardo comments, "but the reality is that it's not always possible or timely to manage the information about CRM features. Software vendors are introducing new features all the time, and it's hard even for them to get the word out about the things they add when they update their software. For a lot of businesses, having an internal or external expert who can navigate this information is very useful."
But the critical thing is to keep assessing your business's objectives and needs and to keep digging into your CRM system's capabilities. "CRM is not a set-and-forget thing," advises Biardo. "If you overlook the power you already have, you'll fall into the trap of going and buying new software each time you encounter new serious issues. If you want to keep costs low and effectiveness high, stay as interested in your CRM system as you are in the rest of your business."