Plenty to Weigh in Choosing the Right CRM

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – When it comes to picking a customer relationship management system, there’s plenty for small businesses to consider. And with hundreds, if not thousands, of options available, it can seem a daunting task.

Factor in the cost and time required for implementing a customer relationship management, or CRM, system and it’s easy to see that the decision should not be made lightly.

“We’ve gone through a ton of different iterations and a bunch of them have not worked,” says Ryan Mirto, director of marketing for Rhiel Supply, Austintown. The janitorial and pool supply company is in the midst of changing its CRM. “I’ve found that one of the most important things is how easy will it be to implement. Who are my target users within the company and how will they adopt it?”

Regardless of industry, making sure users are comfortable with a new system should be among the top priorities, says Eileen O’Loughlin, a senior content analyst with software review site Capterra.

“Too often, end users aren’t involved in vetting potential solutions,” she says. “A representative from each stakeholder group, from day-to-day users to higher-ups who’ll use the data and the tools, should be involved in evaluating the software.”

That list of evaluators isn’t just limited to salespeople, advises Jeff Ryznar, owner of 898 Marketing, Canfield. While CRMs are most frequently associated with the sales process, he notes that anyone who’s involved with customers – such as service, installation or billing, for example – should be comfortable with the system.

“Managing those relationships requires communication with the customer – that’s the marketing side – but it also requires multiple touchpoints within the company,” he says. “You’re looking at sales leads, reporting and multiple people who are in touch with clients.”

Users’ abilities should also factor in, Mirto and Ryznar say. The kinds of support a software developer can offer after installation is just as important as functionality.

“If a small company doesn’t have a chief technology officer or some IT solution, make sure that what you choose has robust training, a help desk, customer support and even ongoing training,” Ryznar says.

Adds Mirto, “All too often, something goes down or something breaks and you need to figure something out. Especially during implementation, it can be tough because if the users perceive it to be difficult, it sets you back 10 steps.”

Choosing the right system also includes making sure a program’s offerings can fit well with the company’s needs. There are plenty of CRM options available, each with their own qualities. Sites like Capterra compile indices and reviews to provide those exploring the software with a checklist of available features – mobile access, document storage, custom reporting, calendars and more – alongside information on cost and user reviews. Searches can also be sorted by popularity, affordability and user-friendliness.

“The importance of user-driven perspectives to the software selection process cannot be emphasized enough,” O’Laughlin says. “They provide insights from real users on the positives and negatives of each solution and enable businesses to make a more informed purchase decision.”

For Rhiel Supply, the ability to customize the software was a top consideration. The company has business-to-business and business-to-consumer operations, Mirto says, and being able to configure a CRM to handle both is crucial.

“On the B2B side, prices aren’t necessarily set,” he says. “It’s not walking into a store where the sign says this costs $9.99. It could be the same product with 10 prices and it’s a challenge to find software that can handle that.”

Another difference is in the form of contacts, he continues. Whereas on the retail side of the business, most households have one or two contacts, B2B customers buying chemicals or janitorial supplies can go far beyond that.

“There may be 15 contacts at one company. So keeping track of who we go to for what or how one person plays into the buying process is stuff that a good software can work into,” he says.

Cost considerations are an obvious factor, Ryznar says, as systems can range from $10 per user per month to flat fees of thousands of dollars per month.

Before founding his marketing firm, Ryznar worked with the Cleveland Cavaliers at a time when the organization began using CRM software. Figuring out the right price point was among the first steps, he says.

“Once we found out what our price point was, it became ‘Does the solution have sales solutions that are easily communicated across channels? How are you going to use the solution itself? Do you need marketing aspects?’ ” he says.

Finally, Mirto points out that trials are available for most CRM products, ranging from a week to a month. It isn’t enough to work out every detail of how it’ll be used. But it’s often enough to get a feel for the system and know if it’s the right fit.

“Thirty days isn’t enough to set it up the way you need it, but you can think forward about how it can be customized to meet your needs,” he says.

And once a decision has been made, after all considerations have been weighed, Ryznar says the most important thing post-purchase is to commit.

“Defining customer experience functions within your company and what this tool is supposed to do can take a long time,” he says. “Be 100% sure that you want to make the jump.”

Pictured: Ryan Mirto, director of marketing for Rhiel Supply in Austintown.

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.