What every organization should expect from its CRM vendor.
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Last month I conducted a workshop for a group of telecom industry sales executives that focused on what their customers had a right to expect from them, and how CRM solutions could help them meet those expectations. At the end of the day, two of the attendees reversed the question: They wanted to know what they had the right to expect as customers from their CRM vendors.
The results generated from CRM initiatives vary widely, and in many cases we have seen that the success or failure of a project can be significantly influenced by the support given by a CRM solution provider. With that in mind, here are the five key expectations a vendor should meet to earn your trust, and your order.
Expect vendors to understand your business.
I am still amazed at the number of occasions I see a CRM salesperson start telling a client exactly what he needs during their first meeting. Based on a cursory understanding of some high-level business needs, the salesperson begins presenting everything their product can do, and immediately starts asking for an order.
We should place the same expectations on CRM vendors that we place on our doctors. If I had an inflammation problem with my ankles from running, and two minutes after I starting talking to an orthopedist he recommended surgery, I would walk out of his office. How could he prescribe a solution to my problem before he has made a full diagnosis? Maybe I am training too hard, maybe I have the wrong shoes, or maybe my running form has changed. If any of those were the case, the corrective action might not involve surgery.
Expect your CRM vendors to invest the time to meet with people from your various business functions to get to know what is going right or going wrong with the way you are marketing to, selling to, or servicing your customers. To do this, they should have people on their team who know your industry. You shouldn't be training their staff. Only by doing their homework will they be a position to start prescribing.
Expect vendors to propose a solution, not a product.
When they have completed their needs analysis, expect them to then demonstrate that they understand your operations by doing a customized demonstration of how their product can help you address your specific business challenges. An average firm will use fewer than 10 percent of the total functionality of a CRM suite. Require your vendors to show you the specific parts of their systems that have value to you, versus doing a dump of every feature they have.
Further, expect them to back up their claims. Ask for contacts at other companies that they have worked with who can verify that their applications can indeed solve your type of problems. If they are a newer firm with few customers, don't automatically dismiss them, but do ask for the names of independent analysts who can support their claims.
Expect an ROI model and implementation plan.
In today's business environment any and every significant purchase needs to be justified. Do not just accept a simple price quote or product proposal. First, expect your CRM vendor to help build the ROI model to support your system-investment plans. If they have a solid understanding of your problems, as well as experience in dealing with those issues through the use of their products, they should be able to quantify for you what the hard-dollar benefits will be as a result of your implementation.
Second, they should be able to give you a detailed, realistic time line for what the various phases are that you will go through to get the system into full production. This time line should also include a listing of the resource commitments you each need to make.
Expect to receive a postimplementation assessment.
After the system has been deployed, expect the vendor to come back at a predetermined date and conduct a project review to determine what your new performance metrics are as a result of leveraging their solution. Today many executive management teams are not just accepting preimplementation ROI projections. They want to see that those promises are delivered. Expect your vendor to help build that business case. You will need to show the gains you have made to get the funding to continue your CRM implementation.
In return, be ready to offer to discuss the gains you have achieved with others. Just as you will have reached out to existing users during your evaluation process, you should be willing to serve as a resource to other end-user firms that follow you.
Expect the same level of sales support for follow-on purchases.
Finally, realize that a CRM implementation is a process, not an event. CRM vendors are continually enhancing and expanding their product offerings. With these major upgrade releases comes significant new functionality, along with, in some cases, a significant price tag in terms of additional license fees, system integration expenses, and training and rollout costs. Expect your vendor to invest the time to go through a new sales process for each new major phase of the project.
Although you will now have a solid understanding of what their systems can and cannot do, don't limit your future planning to just your own experiences. Expect your vendors to do the same type of homework--needs analysis, custom demonstration, ROI plan, and implementation plan--to earn your future business as well.
Most of us who spend the majority of time working with our own customers forget that sometimes we are the customer. If you want to increase the chances for the success of your CRM efforts, you need to buy from CRM vendors the same way your customers buy from you. Set high expectations, and make them earn your business. You have every right to do so.
Jim Dickie is managing partner for Insight Technology Group, a Boulder, Colo.--based benchmarking firm that specializes in researching how companies are reinventing they way they market to, sell to, and service customers. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.