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How to Compare CRM Systems

CRM (Customer Relationship Management) is a business strategy that should assist businesses with effectively managing their customers. CRM is a broad concept that is primarily focused on customer service. The primary goal is to help you and your employees achieve excellent customer service.

The broad concept of customer management is represented by its best practices, applications, tools, and strategies. This concept has been used over the years as one of the best solutions for resolving issues and concerns regarding customer service. CRM systems can be accessed by purchasing software programs. These packages may differ in form, but they have the same primary purposes. Read the rest of this entry

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Who is Leading in Social CRM?

There is so much buzz about social CRM these days. Companies like Intuit, Procter & Gamble and Citigroup have embraced it in a big way. Gartner is now devoting magic quadrants to it and a slew of companies have raced into this emerging field.
According to Gartner, social CRM will be a $1 billion subsector of the CRM market by the end of this year. The various sites, blogs and communities that comprise this arena represent the fastest growing areas of the Internet. Further, it now reaches more people than email, according to Nielsen Online. Read the rest of this entry

Which Enterprise CRM Tool Is Right for You?

When it comes to customer relationship management (CRM) software and services, there are a lot of choices out there. But which one is right for you? We’ll look at a handful of enterprise CRM vendors — Oracle, Salesforce.com, SAP, Microsoft, RightNow, Pegasystems and Sword Ciboodle — to give you a sense of what to look for in a CRM product and which ones might meet your needs.

The selection process for CRM is a complex affair. No cookie cutter formula exists. Each of the analyst firms has their own methods of evaluating. Forrester has its CRM Wave, Gartner its Magic Quadrant, and Info-Tech has a Decision Diamond, a tailored approach that allows a company to enter its own weighting factors into the equation. But such tools can only act as a rough guide, and the specifics of the intended environment often steer the decision in a specific direction.

“No two organizations are alike,” said Tim Hickernell, an analyst for Info-Tech Research Group.

Not so long ago, the enterprise market allowed only on-premise CRM. But software as a service (SaaS) had matured to the point where it, too, is considered to be fit for prime time. “More organizations are considering lower-cost CRM products, especially SaaS deployments with fewer upfront costs,” said Hickernell. “Concerns about SaaS immaturity are no longer biasing CRM decision.”

His company ranks Salesforce.com, Microsoft Dynamics CRM and Oracle Siebel as the leaders. The first two have moved up into the enterprise space but also have a dominant position in SMB deployments. Hickernell added that Salesforce.com has legitimized CRM SaaS.

“Organizations that need a rapid time to market should consider Salesforce.com,” he said.

On the red side of the ledger, Salesforce.com isn’t strong when it comes to back office integration and continues to lack a partner to cover the ERP side, which can be a deal breaker in the enterprise space.

Microsoft is another company that has moved into the upper bracket in the last couple of years. Microsoft Dynamics CRM platform provides full integration with Microsoft Office, Outlook and SharePoint. It is available hosted or on-premise and is regarded as relatively easy to administer. Surprisingly, Info-Tech said that the CRM module isn’t well integrated with the rest of the Microsoft Dynamics Suite, but that is changing.

Meanwhile, Info-Tech characterizes Oracle as the 10,000-pound gorilla, with unparalleled features, functionality and breadth of industry solutions. Consequently, it is recommended for organizations with extreme vertical industry requirements.

“Oracle Siebel continues to dominate CRM features, but its reputation for cost and complexity are well earned,” he said.

After that come RightNow and SAP. RightNow CX is deemed to be the category leader in customer service and support and customer service knowledge management. It is SaaS only.

SAP CRM, on the other hand, is only recommended by Info-Tech for companies already deploying SAP ERP. In addition to leveraging existing investments, it is a good way to negotiate attractive pricing.

Evaluating CRM SaaS Providers

Software as a Service (SaaS) offers customers a choice of how to purchase and consume business applications.  As pricing can be different from traditional software purchases, it is important to understand any nuances that may result in higher costs than anticipated.  Ask these questions to make sure you are getting what you expected:

  1. How much are the startup fees?
    • Some vendors can charge up to $100k just to turn on the service
       
  2. What other features are available and what do they cost?  Are future features automatically included in my subscription?
    • Make sure everything you need is included up front in your calculations – these costs can balloon in the long run.  Some vendors incent their sales teams to upsell editions later
       
  3. Much of my customer, order, and product data reside in ERP or legacy systems.  Are integration services included in my quote?  How much will it cost to customize and maintain integrations?
    • Simply turning on a SaaS CRM service can lead to more fragmented customer information.   Make sure your vendor is giving you a realistic proposal for a complete view of your customers
       
  4. Is a test or staging environment included?  How much extra is it per user?
    • Sandbox environments are often provided at additional cost that is calculated per user
       
  5. My salespeople are on the road.  Does mobile access cost more?
    • Mobile access can cost an additional 50% or more on top of fees quoted per user
       
  6. How much storage does my subscription include?  What does it cost if I go over?
    • Look for these and other usage limitations
       
  7. Do we get unlimited number of transactions?  If not, what are the fees?
    • Plan for growth
       
  8. How much will it cost to import, back-up or run additional reports on my data?
    • Provided reporting is often not enough – make sure you have free access to your data
       
  9. Where does my data physically reside – with the vendor, or a third party hosting company?  How do I get my data out, and are schemas provided to reassemble the information?
    • Customer data is one of the most valuable assets of any business- make sure you understand where your data is and how to get it.  Make sure your vendor satisfies your regulatory concerns for privacy, security and SOX compliance
       
  10. Will fees go up when my contract expires?  How high can they go, and is the vendor willing to cap them? 
    • Watch for lock-in and fee increases.  SaaS vendors need to achieve profitability too