What is a CRM?
This question is seldom asked these days, especially where a company is already using accounting software, or a spreadsheet, for their customer and sales data. The term Customer Relationship Management still provides a good description of the purpose of a CRM database. A CRM at its core is simply a database of customer, prospect and other business related information. These days most CRM systems provide the same core features such as storing Company details, Contact details, Notes, a Calendar, and Opportunity management system. Most businesses know they need a CRM when time is being wasted simply looking for, or compiling, accurate lists of names to then conduct a marketing campaign, or even just looking for a client’s phone number. The outcome most companies are seeking from a CRM is more complete information about who their business deals with, accessed quickly, shared by all the staff that need the information. To help small businesses using spreadsheets for contact management, Tall Emu are now offering a free CRM system suitable for replacing those spreadsheet lists.
What’s apparent in Tall Emu’s CRM is a set of features that most companies are seeking, and that is a system that is ”more than just a CRM”. Look closely at TECRM and you’ll see that many of your business issues can be solved out of the box, or with a little customisation, or sometimes with moderate level of development. The important point to keep in mind, is that the result is a single software database system and a single user interface. No longer is there a need to search for a 3rd party tool to perform yet another function, and then to return to another tool to finish off the process (typically found with 3rd party quoting systems). Build it into TECRM and consolidate the design effort, and your investment.
Considerations when choosing a CRM system
Generally, a CRM system is chosen based on its ability to solve particular business issues. If the business needs to do any of the following then a CRM system can help:
- Centralise and share data
- Eliminate spreadsheets to manage business contacts
- Eliminate email systems (such as Outlook) to manage business contacts
- Eliminate accounting systems to manage business contacts
- Manage mailing lists such as catalogue list, monthly specials list, and other types of mailing lists
- Letter merging to multiple Contacts each personally addressed
- Personalised email to a group of selected Contacts
- Allow mobile staff to access data whilst out of the office
CRM systems can be broadly categorised into three types:
Each of these solutions meet particular business requirements and budget.
- Out-of-box solution and customisable (Tall Emu CRM)
- Out-of-box solution but non-customisable
- Fully customised solution
Briefly the advantages and disadvantages are:
- Semi-customisable systems combine the normally expected CRM features plus simplicity in customisation so that fields can be added, removed, or moved around on the form. Training and support are also slightly harder due to any customisations that may have been done.
- Non customisable systems are substantially more simple to install, configure and to be trained on. However, any additional functionality or modifications cannot be made. This type of CRM system is a good point-solution but will need to be replaced with another database system when the business demands more functions that the CRM is not capable of performing.
- Fully customisable systems can meet almost every requirement a business has that can be implemented into software. Completely new functionality can be added to suit the business process, departmental requirements and integration requirements. However, the cost of these systems are not easily justifiable to most SME businesses due to extensive hardware upgrades and long-term onsite consultants during the deployment period.
When choosing a CRM system there’s also consideration as to how to access your data. There are two ways to store your CRM data:
1. On-premises database
2. Web-based access, to an on-line database (now called “cloud based”)
Briefly, the advantages and disadvantages are:
- On-premises database requires IT systems that may not be in place, and consequently investment into IT infrastructure may need to be considered and dealt with. However, integration with other internal systems if far easier, your data is held on-site and can be backed up and maintained by internal staff.
- On-line database is typically licenced using a subscription payment model, which means the cost of the CRM system will be an ongoing cost to operations for as long as the database needs to be accessed. The data can only be accessed when there is an internet connection and is not suitable for staff who need access to their information in planes or trains. The database will be held somewhere else in the world to which no control is provided to the customer. Access to your data will be dependant on whether subscription payments are made. There may be a cost to extract your data if you choose to change CRM products. However, online CRM database systems relieve the company from having complex IT systems as the data is accessed via a web browser. Your staff can be located anywhere in the world and still have access to their data and won’t need to implement complex IT systems to do so.
When choosing the CRM system make sure the database itself is robust. We recommend Microsoft SQL Server for two reasons: It’s robust, and, it provides a reliable synchronisation engine (available in particular SQL Server Editions, please research the Microsoft web site).
On-Line Vs On-Premises
On-premises CRM databases provide faster response times, and far more flexibility and functionality. It’s also possible to synchronise data onto mobile devices and access the data when not connected to a network such as when on an aircraft or in a vehicle.
There are several benefits for both types of CRM systems, however, in the end it’s the business requirements that will decide which is the suitable architecture. The one outstanding benefit of on-line systems is the relief from complex in-house IT systems, as all you need is a web browser to access your data.
Keep in mind that the purpose of a CRM system is to provide a database of client information that is easily accessible by staff. This is achieved by providing a simple and effective user interface. When the product is simple to use the likelyhood of uptake is improved and consequently staff members find fewer reasons not to use the CRM system. The role of the CRM database is to share information so the greater the staff uptake, the more likely the data is accurate, it’s constantly updated with more contributions to records thus making the CRM data more valuable to the company as a whole.