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A CRM (customer relationship management) is the name for any system or model used to manage a company’s interactions with its current or future clients or customers.

It can be used to organise, automate and synchronise all of the customer facing areas within your company: from marketing to sales to customer service to technical support.

CRM gives you the time to develop other areas of your business, whilst giving you the reassurance that you’re not letting your existing clients down or responding to new enquiries in an efficient manner.

These are few of the benefits of implementing a good quality CRM

  • All of your clients’ information is stored in one place, it’s easy to update and share with the whole team.
  • Updates by colleagues should be saved immediately.
  • Every member of your team will be able to see the exact point when your business last communicated with a client, and what the nature of that communication was.
  • CRMs can give you instant metrics on various aspects of your business automatically. 
  • Reports can be generated. These can also be used to forecast and plan for the future.
  • You will be able to see the complete history of your company’s interaction with a client.
  • Calendars and diaries can be integrated, relating important events or tasks with the relevant client. 
  • Suitable times can be suggested to contact customers and set reminders.

There are obviously many more benefits to implementing a CRM, if you need more of a basic understanding of CRM and are a fan of over-long metaphors please read my piece from earlier in the year What is CRM and why do you need it?

What to consider before implementing a CRM plan

  • Do you have time to implement the CRM properly? Smaller systems for smaller businesses may need a month or two, whereas larger scale companies may need six months to one year. Implement it slowly and carefully, department by department, making sure each team has adjusted to it fully before moving on to the next. 
  • Make sure you and your team knows how to use it. This requires thorough training. The CRM will be useless if it just sits there unused.
  • Do you need every single feature offered by a CRM? It’s possible that some features are a waste of money for your particular needs. Different systems do different things, so make sure it also does exactly what you need it to.
  • Finding one system that will fit your needs in one package may not be possible, so be aware that you may need to customise it to fit into your company. There are infinite possibilities here so don’t get too carried away as costs will rise accordingly.
  • Make sure you know the total cost of your CRM. Not just the upfront fees or monthly charges, there’s also the amount of time, working hours and business that may be lost during implementation.
  • Ensure that the CRM works on mobile devices and can be accessed remotely. Employees aren’t necessarily sat at their desks when it needs to be used or updated. Real-time updates are necessary for ensuring that clients aren’t contacted twice with the exact same follow up.
  • If you’re leaving one CRM system for another one, how easy is it to transfer you existing data? CRM providers may keep your information in encrypted, difficult to export format, therefore outside help or applications may be required.
  • Does your hardware have the correct minimum requirements for the system you’re interested in? 
  • Will it work for Outlook, Gmail or whichever email provider your company uses? 
  • Does you CRM have full social media integration? It’s vital that any customers or clients interacting with you on social channels can be included in your CRM updates. You will find this happens increasingly as your public facing channels become more popular. For more detailed information download our best practice guide CRM in the social age.  
  • Do you have a fully CRM trained analytics team that can study and understand the data and reports the system will generate? It’s probably wise to implement a cleansing plan for your existing data before the new system is implemented. Sifting through contacts to remove any duplicated or defunct leads.
  • Can the system be easily updated, guaranteeing that it won’t become redundant in the near future?
  • Having an extra piece of software in the company, especially one as integral as this, means there’s a lot more to manage and possibly to go wrong. Make sure you have the technical support in place to ensure its smooth running.

For more on CRM read these helpful implementation tips from experts from within Econsultancy and outside.

Christopher Ratcliff

Published 7 July, 2014 by Christopher Ratcliff

Christopher Ratcliff is the editor of Methods Unsound. He was the Deputy Editor of Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or connect via Google+ and LinkedIn

686 more posts from this author

Comments (9)

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Brad Hodson

And the most important thing to consider is: how easy will the CRM be to use on a daily basis?

I mean, seriously. Just because it has all the features, and it's easily upgradable, and it's customizable doesn't mean that your team will have an easy time using it.

You can pick and choose CRM software all day, but unless you find one that is within the level of your team's ability and won't make their jobs harder than they already are, you've got a dud on your hands.

Brad Hodson
JobNimbus, http://www.jobnimbus.com

over 2 years ago

Matt Hardy

Matt Hardy, Joint MD & Digital Director at The Real AdventureEnterprise

Interesting post Christopher - all valid points when choosing a CRM *system*. Perhaps your blog title would be better referencing the system focus?

CRM is much more than system-enabled, data-driven marketing. It's more a philosophy, an approach to earning a place in peoples' lives through the delivery of engaging experiences and genuinely useful tools & services...which ultimately builds a valuable long-term relationship.

All too often those three letters are used to refer to systems...and that doesn't do them justice.

But then you would expect me to say that :)


over 2 years ago



Do not forget to select the right implementation partner, in terms of proven experience - referrals and employed senior experts. Remember, price is not the only tendering parameter. Underestimation of the implementation partner selection process can lead to a CRM implementation failure!

over 2 years ago


Chris Moody

While I agree with much of what you say, CRM is not 'a thing', like a database or a social media platform. It's not a noun, it's a state of mind, an approach, a combination of strategies that encompass data management, communications, customer service and so on.

It should include everything a company or brand does with or for its customers; how it knows who they are, what they like, how they interact with the company, in all channels and all touchpoints.

I might go so far as to venture it's not 'a' thing, it's everything.

over 2 years ago

Andrew Campbell

Andrew Campbell, eCRM Strategist and Consultant at First 10 Digital LtdSmall Business Multi-user

Matt and Brad are spot on in highlighting the need to address the human and organisational factors critical to effective adoption of any CRM system.

Another high level pointer is to think of the CRM Plan (what programmes you will run in order to enhance the customer experience and deliver value to the business) as sitting inbetween :

* CRM Strategy (what value proposition you will engineer across the customer life cycle/purchase process; which segments you will serve and which KPIs will define success)
* CRM implementation (how you will deliver these programmes and what specifically what data, content, decisioning and campaign management components will underpin them). And don't forget those people, process and organisational considerations highlighted earlier.

This top-down, structured approach will help you keep control of the many dimensions involved in a successful CRM deployment.

over 2 years ago

Mike Wood

Mike Wood, Portal Business Manager at PharmiWeb SolutionsSmall Business

I agree with @Brad Hodson - you're better off with a simpler system that people will use (and can understand) than a more comprehensive system that is beyond what you need.

We ditched Salesforce and build our own simple system that actually gets used. ... and we add features as we need them.

over 2 years ago


victor clar, Strategy Analyst at GSI Commerce

Any CRM directory or specific providers you would recommend?

over 2 years ago


Vanisha Oogarah-Hanuman

CRM is a strategy that helps to enhance customer experiences and thus enhancing performance of the business/company through customer loyalty.
CRM is much more that just a system. For CRM to be successful, a company need to take into account a lot of dimension and factors.

Information Technology is just one item to be considered for successful implementation of CRM.

Implementation of CRM has to take into account people, process, management commitment, change, culture, structure amongst others.

about 2 years ago


Andrew Heriot

A well-thought-out article – thanks, Christopher! I would add that it is also important to consider whether you will opt for an in-house or a cloud/web-based CRM solution. A cloud solution would address point 12 where the system would be upgraded regularly and in turn provide the flexibility for your company to respond to marketplace opportunities. Understanding the options available and how they could impact the day to day running of the solution chosen is key to user-adoption, we invested into a research piece that guides CRM project managers through the process of what to consider, pros’ and con’s etc. which you can access by visiting http://www.max.co.uk/landing/ensuring-your-crm-delivers

Andrew Heriot
Maximizer CRM

about 2 years ago

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