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 Chuck SchaefferHow to Compare and Rank CRM Software Solutions

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The CRMsearch.com CRM Software Evaluation Framework

Summary

  • A structured CRM selection does more than choose the best CRM software system. It identifies how CRM software can most facilitate and impact the most important business outcomes. This understanding will aid CRM planning, jump start the CRM implementation, reduce time to value and increase user adoption.

  • A six-step software selection framework brings objectivity and clear measurements to CRM software evaluation.

The proliferation of cloud Customer Relationship Management (CRM) applications has increased exponentially since the turn of the century. In our most recent count, there were over 200 CRM systems that sell into the North American marketplace alone. And when you consider that no CRM software vendor has more than 20 percent market share, the wide and diverse availability of CRM systems can be both liberating and overwhelming to business leaders and IT executives.

Also, when you recognize that among the market leading CRM systems, about 80 percent of their capabilities are undifferentiated, you can reallocate the bulk of your CRM evaluation time away from the overlapping and common features toward the roughly 20 percent of unique capabilities that separate the applications and most contribute to making the best CRM selection decision.

A good CRM software selection starts with good goals. That's why we start with a Design Thinking workshop to identify the most important and highest impact user, customer and business outcomes, and then advance to focus on the points of differentiation (i.e. the 20 percent) among alternative systems.

To focus limited time in the right areas, and achieve a measured analysis of each CRM software system under consideration, we use a six-step comparison framework.

CRM Software Comparison Framework

The 6 dimensions that show the best fit solution, and the most significant differences among competing CRM systems, include the following.

  1. User Experience. A CRM user interface is like a joke, in that if you have to explain it, it doesn't work. Consumer technologies have set the standards for a rewarding and productive user experience. However, when comparing CRM systems you need to understand the differences between the user interface (UI) and the user experience (UX). The UI is focused on simplicity and visual presentation, but the UX facilitates user journeys, business processes and prioritized use cases. Selecting the CRM system that best accommodates the UI and UX for your users will lead to increased ease of use, staff productivity, user adoption and software utilization.

  2. Prioritized Capabilities. These are the CRM feature sets needed to achieve the most essential user, customer and business outcomes defined in the Design Thinking workshop. They might include things like mobility, offline operation, customer self-service channels, predictive analytics, artificial intelligence and email or social network integration.

  3. Process Automation. Our mantra at CRMsearch.com is that everything that gets repeated gets automated. Highly efficient and automated processes that satisfy users and customers become your intellectual property. But before you can digitize you first need to streamline, standardize and simplify. Each CRM system handles business process automation differently.

    CRM Software Process Automation

  4. Software Extensibility. Business objectives and requirements change from time to time. That has a cascading effect that requires changes in CRM software. Software customization is a last resort. Two better options to evaluate are the vendors low code/no code tools and third-party ecosystems. Some CRM systems offer graphical and non-technical tools that allow significant changes to be made to the software. Using the CRM software's tools and constructs reduces maintenance, improves stability, maintains scalability, eases continuous updates and lowers the total cost of ownership.

    Third party ecosystems are another option. Several CRM vendors offer integrated independent software vendor solutions to fill gaps or enhance capabilities. Understanding if and how these ecosystems may apply to your top objectives should be part of your CRM evaluation.

  5. Vendor Viability. After investing time, money and training in a CRM solution you want assurance the vendor will stick around to recoup your investment. Assessing vendor viability for large CRM vendors is quick and easy. But if you are considering one of the many small, specialized or lower cost CRM vendors more diligence is needed. Several CRM software vendors have shut their doors without advance notice. That disruption is magnified for cloud CRM vendors that are holding your data. Mitigating this risk is essential.

  6. Value and ROI. For many CRM buyers this step delivers a big surprise. While price is normally not the top objective, it's always an important consideration. Due to tiered subscription pricing plans, licensing requirements, needed add-ons and support plans, the differences in CRM software price-performance, value measurement and Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) can be extraordinary. Once you view the top CRM systems ranked according to value, ROI and TCO, it's not unusual for clients to then ask, "is the top CRM system really worth the significant price premium?" Viewing the CRM rankings objectively helps make that decision.

    CRM Software Comparison Analysis

By weighting and prioritizing each of the six dimensions, CRM software systems can be fairly compared and objectively ranked pursuant to what's most important to any individual CRM buyer. End

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CRM software is a mature marketplace. The leading CRM software applications are about two decades old. They have accumulated broad and deep capabilities. In fact, about 80 percent of their capabilities are common and undifferentiated.

 

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