Using technology in your business

Choosing the right CRM software for small businesses

27 April 2015

Choosing the most appropriate CRM system to support your customer service is vital.

The concept of CRM dates back to the 1990s and the emergence of software firms that specialised in front office, customer management packages. Prior to this, many organisations developed their own customer relation management systems, often based around databases, emails and spreadsheets.

However, the market for packaged CRM solutions has grown rapidly since then. Much of the activity around CRM has been focused towards large corporations, but this is changing. Small and mid-sized enterprises (SMEs) are investing more in CRM technology and the options open to them are expanding.

There are established CRM vendors that specialise in :

  • Small business software
  • Larger enterprise players that tailor their products for SMEs
  • CRM through online-hosted software as a service (SaaS)

Choosing your CRM systems

Keep it simple

A CRM solution for a small business has to be easy, simple and effective.

Small companies have limited resources, so the system has to be easy enough for their sales and customer support people to pick it up. Implementation and support must also be simple - there's no time to spend months or even years installing it.

Don't overcomplicate things

You should draw up a list of functional requirements - and be sure to be keep it realistic.

  • Are you looking for a contact management system, or a sales force automation system?
  • Do you want to manage customer information, track sales activities and look at the information by running reports on those activities?

If that's all you're after there's no need to pay out for extra bells and whistles.

Keep your ambitions in mind

You might be a small business today, but where will you be in a year or two?

In 10 years, will you still be a small or medium-size company? Hopefully not.

As you grow, your CRM system will need to be able to keep pace with you. It must be able to scale to meet your growth projections and evolving business needs. Having to rip and replace your customer service systems would be a disaster. Make sure your CRM solution can handle an expanding workforce and customer base.

In-house or online?

Typically CRM systems have been run and managed on PCs or networks in the office. But businesses now have the options of "on demand" models, where the program is hosted and managed by a third party and accessed by you via a web browser.

This Software as a Service (SaaS) model is well suited to small companies as it eliminates up-front investment costs. It is paid for monthly or quarterly and can also be terminated at short notice.

A SaaS system can scale up or down according to the company's needs and reduces the need to have a full-time, in-house technology manager - allowing the company to focus on its core business rather than maintaining and running an IT operation.

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