LUTZ BUSINESS INSIGHTS
4 things to know before selecting a customer relationship management (crm) software
ryan wade, TECH director
At Lutz Tech, we help companies with software strategies, implementation, and support of core systems. Our clients typically look to us for help in reducing duplicate data entry, automating processes, or enhancing data and reporting capabilities. Over the last five years, we have seen more businesses choosing solutions such as Microsoft Dynamics and Salesforce as the foundation of their software strategy. Here are four things you need to know when considering these Customer Relationship Management (CRM) platforms.
1. Functionality and Features
The capabilities of customer relationship management systems, or CRM’s, have evolved well beyond just managing a sales pipeline. Our clients utilize CRMs to streamline processes for sales, marketing, operations and finance. Today’s CRM platforms are flexible databases that can help you manage data for your key relationships, products and team. In many cases, the best of breed CRM platforms are being implemented in lieu of ground up custom software application build-outs. They offer the majority of functionality that businesses need “out-of-the-box” while providing the ability to configure or customize the solutions to meet your needs.
For most businesses, the differences between the most popular CRM solutions are relatively small. The decision of which is right for your business typically comes down to cost, integration with other systems, and preference for how they look and feel.
One of the largest considerations for any business is the cost to get the system up and running as well as maintain it. The primary costs can be broken down into the cost of implementation, licensing, and ongoing support. The estimated cost will come down to your specific needs. However, it can be helpful to have reasonable expectations during your review.
It is understandable to want to try the software before purchasing, but few clients are able to implement a CRM package on their own. Therefore, consultants are typically involved in helping configure the system to your business and, in some cases, customize the software to meet your needs. Consultant costs range anywhere from $125-$250 per hour, depending on the system and requirements. On average, we have found the first phase of implementation to cost around $25,000-$50,000.
Licensing costs for these systems vary based on permissions and capabilities. Microsoft Dynamics’ monthly licensing is generally $65-$95 per user and Salesforce $75-$150 per user. The platforms also offer lower-cost licensing options for users interested in more limited usability. In addition, most CRM’s provide non-profit licensing discounts ranging from $30-$50 per user per month.
Integration capabilities are another critical consideration when researching CRM platforms. The ability to push, pull and sync data with other systems allows you to reduce redundant data entry and use your CRM as a “source of truth” for customer data. Microsoft, Salesforce, and NetSuite have all built developer-friendly application programming interface layers, or APIs, that make it possible for your systems to talk.
The benefits of systems playing nicely together are clear. However, building and maintaining these integrations requires a deliberate data and process strategy.
4. Ongoing support
The hardest part of any CRM implementation is the final 10%. This is the point where budget and timeline constraints hit the team, and a hard look at what is in and out of scope becomes reality. There are often features or workflows that you hope to implement that will be pushed to later dates. In addition, regardless of how well you plan, there will be changes that you want after the team starts working in the system. The changes required may include small tweaks that your team can handle or more complex changes that require ongoing development support. With this in mind, we recommend two things to increase the success of your project.
The first is that your team members get involved during the implementation process. This allows your team to be trained in making changes to the system while you have the oversight of consultants.
The second is that you retain the contractors for at least three months following the system going live. This typically requires a retainer of hours that can be used for bug fixes, ongoing training, and configuration changes.
We are here to help
Our team is ready to assist whether you need help evaluating your options or understanding your current software. The first step involves a short call to discuss your needs to advise you on the right path. For questions or to learn more about our Lutz Tech services, please contact us.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
RYAN WADE + TECH DIRECTOR
Ryan Wade is a Tech Director at Lutz with over ten years of relevant experience. His primary responsibility is to manage the software solutions practice, including team administration and client relationship management. Ryan is also the lead on Lutz's online client portal, Threadworks.
AREAS OF FOCUS
- Software Consulting
- Client Relationships
- Professional Services Industry
- Real-Estate Industry
- Banking Industry
- BSBA, University of Nebraska, Lincoln, NE
- MBA, Creighton University, Omaha, NE
- Business Ethics Alliance, Committee Member
- Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce, Audit Chair
- Nebraska Tech Collaborative Internship Committee Chair
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