If you listen to the CRM tool vendors, it is crucial for every business (independent of its size) to use a CRM software in order to streamline its processes and collaborate effectively with customers and across the organization.
But is this really true for all kind of businesses and all sizes?
First off – I do not think that there is something like a “one fits all” solution for CRM. Even the vertical solutions from some vendors cannot immediately fulfill all the needs without adaption and customization.
And if you think of CRM as a Philosophy rather than a piece of software, installing a CRM tool will not provide a competitive edge anyway. The “me too” approach does not differentiate and thus is limited in its ability to deliver value to the company and its customers. Focus usually is around cost savings and process automation – nothing that will dramatically increase the customer satisfaction or the customer experience.
So what to do with small businesses (SMBs) that think about CRM and do not want to spend a large amount of money into licenses and consulting / implementation projects?
Good news is that there are so many free (or low cost) options out there that it makes sense to think about creating a CRM strategy that does not rely on a fully integrated CRM suite with a high price tag. With a limited number of users it is possible to create an outstanding customer experience by using the tools that customers use (which are usually the ones that are available without cost) and streamline the activities solely by outlining and communicating a CRM 2.0 strategy.
Ideally the used tools offer some kind of integration to avoid the creation of application or data silos. With the emerging standards, more and more applications will offer the possibility to take part in workflows that span multiple applications, departments or locations. But even if there is no possibility to automate this integration, I truly believe that it is not a big issue to do some of the internal collaboration manually.
Again, if the strategy is clearly set and communicated, it is no big deal to export and import some data and send it around via email… Crucial is that the people (i.e. employees) collaborate and pull together.
With smaller companies this is more important than a highly integrated CRM suite and well defined (but rather inflexible) automated business processes. The attitude of collaboration and co-creation will also help engaging better with customers and thus take the Customer Relationship Model to the next level…
Another side effect is that the employees are able to use the tools the know and love – this Enterprise 2.0 approach will also attract and maintain talent within a company.
In the next post I will outline some free or low-cost alternatives for SMBs when it comes to CRM – stay tuned…