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How to Select the Best CRM Vendor

by Corie Kaftalovich

December 9, 2010

There is a misguided belief that selecting the best CRM solution is what makes or breaks a CRM project. The truth is that CRM success depends just as much on the selected vendor as it does on the solution’s features suite.

Companies must keep in mind that when committing to a CRM solution, they are simultaneously committing to a long-term partnership with the vendor. But just like the solution, vendors come in all shapes and sizes and finding one that is attentive, reliable and trusted is not a simple task. In attempt to make things easier, this article will serve to highlight 5 elements all companies should consider when selecting the best CRM vendor.

Customer Service & Support Offering

A company can only reap the direct benefits and value of a CRM solution if the users are trained well enough and supported sufficiently. In evaluating CRM vendors, it is imperative for companies to take note of how much support the vendor provides and at what cost. While many CRM vendors, like us, offer unlimited ongoing support, others charge per support call. Knowing this information in advance can save your company a significant amount of money and will help to narrow down your search to the more cost-effective CRM solutions.

In-house or Out-sourced

If a vendor passes you on to one company to begin your purchase, another to get deployed and yet another to receive support, your so-called “partnership” with that vendor becomes less reliable and dependable than initially presumed.  When a vendor provides the majority of their services in-house, companies can be rest-assured that the individuals behind their deployment are knowledgeable on t heir specific needs and requirements and will therefore provide the most quality and trusted customer service.

Customer Profile

By investigating a vendor’s customer profile, a company can gather what type and size of company the vendor typically works with. Not only does this help to identify whether they specialize in the small-medium sized or large enterprise market but it also indicates if they’ve served other companies within your industry. Selecting a vendor that has worked with an industry peer sheds light on their ability to customize and meet the needs of your company type. Selecting a vendor who has not implemented their solution within your industry might result in a longer and more difficult deployment and potentially an unsuccessful launch.

Case Studies and Reviews

Companies can accurately gauge the pros, cons and user experiences of working with a vendor by consulting customer case studies and user reviews. These resources can typically be found either on the vendor’s website or through a vendor directory and provides great insight into whether the vendor has sufficiently met and surpassed the user’s expectations and needs.  These sources also identify the extent of support and hand-holding that the vendor provides companies, which is a crucial thing to consider if deploying a CRM for the first time.

Years in Business

Though some new companies can offer more attentive customer service than some industry veterans, knowing your software vendor has been in business for numerous years provides a level of comfort unmatched by the new guy’s quality service.  A CRM vendor’s years in business are a direct testament to their experience and ability to deploy their solution to a variety of clients. Although this element is not the most crucial, is it a good indica tor of their success rate and ability to accommodate the changing needs of a company over a period of time.

This article serves to highlight how crucial it is for companies to evaluate the vendor behind the solution so to ensure their success and satisfaction with CRM. Other important factors to consider include vendor partnerships, service models, method of implementation and the list goes on.

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Corie Kaftalovich

9/25/2013 8:50:43 PM

Thanks for both of your comments.

I completely agree with you that user reviews are weighed very heavily when it comes to selecting a suitable vendor. I also agree that the reviews must come from a credible, reliable source.

I believe that as social media takes a more prominent role in shaping the customer experience, people can look to these networks as a source of feedback from users. People now blog about their opinions and experiences with products and readers can really gauge an accurate understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of a product.

Dave Hannon

9/25/2013 8:50:42 PM

Great point Scott. Case studies are an invaluable source of information for software buyers, but they are only as useful as their source. In the more anonymous online realms, it's even more important to confirm the source of any information you plan to use and make sure it comes from a source you trust.

Scott Wallask

9/25/2013 8:50:42 PM

User reviews and case studies are very important. Think of how many of us now read product reviews on consumer sites like Amazon. I don't know if there's a good way to "police" those reviews to make sure they remain legitimate (you don't want someone stuffing the ballot box for a product). I know we here at SAPinsider carefully vet case studies for our conferences and don't allow case study customers to co-present with their vendors, which is one way to keep the focus on the customer's user review of a product or function. I'm sure there are alternative checks and balances to use, too.