Customer Relationship Management (CRM) technology has historically been seen by Small to Medium Sized Enterprises (SMEs) as prohibitively expensive and firmly in the domain of big businesses. Now however, vendors have spotted that SMEs are increasingly receptive to CRM technology and suddenly everybody from small players to tech giants are offering SME-specific solutions.
Not only is the market flooded with vendors to choose from but SMEs also face the dilemma of whether to opt for a hosted or on-site CRM solution. Factor in a healthy dose of technical jargon and the process of selecting a CRM system can seem incredibly daunting.
The key is to select a CRM system that is not just an SME-generic product, but one that meets your company's specific needs. In order to do this, research is essential.
CRM provides a single, integrated portal to all customer information, making the information easily accessible to everyone requiring access. CRM also ensures that customers will have a personalised, consistent, and satisfying experience in every contact they have your organisation - whether they are dealing with representatives from sales, customer care or support; and whether they choose to interact with you face-to-face, by phone, or online through the Web or email.
Hosted or onsite CRM – how should I choose?
Another key benefit is that customer information can be easily accessed by a mobile workforce, with 24-hour secured access from any location in the world. No matter where your employees are, they have complete access to the information they need. With wireless device support, information can even be viewed on a handheld PDA.
Every company has its own "legacy" systems; the databases, applications, and web tools that it has relied on for some time. In-house deployment is unquestionably the best way to ensure these can be integrated into a coherent system.
Onsite CRM represents no lessening of remote accessibility. It is still accessible over the Web from wherever you need to be, operated and accessed through a secure Virtual Private Network (VPN).
Best of both worlds: Hybrid Services
Many companies are being forced unnecessarily to make a choice between the two systems, when in actual fact the option is now available to select a combination of the two.
IT systems at their best are organic entities that grow and transform with your company, and the ability to switch seamlessly between a hosted and onsite solution offers significant benefits. For most companies in the initial stages of CRM implementation, hosted works. For many more, they never need leave it. However, for others, to deliver real ROI there are elements to add that make CRM the central nervous system of their company and for this, hosted won't deliver. In this instance the ability to switch within the same product family; to transfer the same data seamlessly; to maintain the same functions and interface with which users have become familiar represents a massive saving in training and re-implementation.
Thus, it is worth finding a company that offers a hybrid solution, and specifically one that offers the same architecture for hosted and in-house deployment of its CRM solutions.
About Gerry Carr:
Published: Wednesday, September 22, 2004
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