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Best Practices for Leveraging Your Existing CRM System

Many businesses outgrow their CRM system. But, before you consider purchasing a new one, make sure you’ve gotten as much value as possible out of your existing investment.

Do you Really Need a New CRM System?
For many companies, the first CRM system they purchase serves as a “stepping stone” – a way for them to gradually implement a customer relationship management strategy and familiarize themselves with the technology.

It also allows them to assess the benefits of customer relationship management, as well as its impact on both clients and employees. But eventually, the time may come to move on to a bigger and better CRM system.

After a few years, many businesses realize they need a more advanced solution, one that provides a broader feature set to further drive improvements in service delivery, a more intuitive interface to increase user adoption, or deeper business intelligence capabilities to more accurately report performance and results back to management.

But a CRM system is no small investment. Recent consolidation in the CRM market, combined with increasingly aggressive competition among larger vendors, is making CRM buyers more cautious than ever before, according to leading industry analyst firm Forrester Research. As a result, companies are re-thinking their plans to replace their current CRM systems, and are instead looking to squeeze more value out of their existing solutions.

How to Evaluate Your Current System
Before you consider buying a new CRM system – which can put both a strain on your financial resources and burden on your IT staff – make sure you’ve gotten as much as possible out of the one you already have. Schedule some time with your vendor to discuss the following:

Are you using the latest and greatest release of your CRM system, or are you still running an older version that may be out of date?

Chances are, since you made your initial purchase a few years ago, your vendor has launched at least one “new and improved” CRM system with expanded features and advanced functionality.

Compare the capabilities of the latest offering with those provided by your existing solution. If the new version provides the features you need to address your requirements, then an upgrade may be the way to go. It will be far less expensive and time-consuming than tossing out your current CRM system and replacing it with a new one.

Add-On Enhancements
Which value-added features did you opt not to purchase with your CRM system the first time around?

While they may not have been useful to you then, they may be just what you need now. Take another look at those features, and see if implementing them will give you the same level of functionality as a new CRM system. Or, perhaps your vendor has introduced new add-on capabilities that will address your requirements.

Reporting and Analytics
Nothing helps a company increase the value of its CRM system like reporting and analytics.

With reporting and analytics, businesses can transform the massive volumes of raw customer data stored within the CRM system into valuable, timely, actionable insight into customer needs, wants, preferences and behaviors.

This intelligence can be used to drive company-wide process improvements, enhance product and service offerings, launch more targeted marketing campaigns, and more.

Perhaps your current CRM vendor offers advanced capabilities in this area. Or, you can check out the many third-party business intelligence packages designed to work seamlessly with today’s CRM systems.

[Photo courtesy of architectmagazine.]