No one starts a business because of the admin. But valuable customer data, plus projects and tasks, left floating around the office will eventually end up as a pile on the floor. So the better the back office the better the customer experience. For a small business, the customer experience is everything. Because if you can’t compete on price, or number of locations, or stock levels or product variety, what are you competing on?Well one thing you’re competing on is customer experience.
The advantage of a CRM is that it tries to answer the business-owner’s biggest question as he or she is pulled from one direction to the next: Have I thought of everything?
As a small business owner of some ten years, and user of numerous to do lists, project management tools and CRM systems, here is some experience I’ve learned about choosing and using your first CRM.
Make the most of your trial period.
Consider testing two different systems simultaneously. There’s nothing stopping you trialling two SaaS products at the same time. This way you can input the same data and compare how each system handles it. Use the trial period to find out if you can use a workaround or hack for this things your system can’t do. There is a learning curve. It can be frustrating to be spending weeks learning new software and thinking about how you organise data within you company. But these preparations are essential and can only benefit the customer.
And play hard ball with the free trial.
If it’s not long enough, contact the company and ask for an extension. Be prepared to send it back and choose another.
Don’t make your shortlist too long.
There are many, many small business CRM providers. Their websites all look great, their customers all write glowing reviews. But I had a lot of points of comparison to get through. And too may providers meant I was forgetting which ones I liked best.
Accept that your chosen system will be probably be too basic.
A small business budget will usually get you a system that lacks certain wish-list items. That’s to be expected because the software wasn’t written for you. Rather than look at the features the Saas provider doesn’t have, focus on the features you will be using: are they enough to make the investment in time and money worthwhile?
Finally, I’ve listed three questions that I applied to every CRM I considered. These aren’t the only questions I had but they were a good start in terms of finding a CRM solution that delivered smooth, intuitive day to day usage.
How fast does it load/sync?
How do I access data from a number of different angles?
Is it easy to see what’s important?