NO, just as there is no such thing as a CRM. Is there even “the best” CRM software? Gartner likes to be the first to say that everyone in the Magic Quadrant is great. Unfortunately, this representation is not useful for a decision for or against CRM software. This position should not be a decision criterion.
Rather, the question is: What are the requirement criteria for customer management, from which the selection criteria for a CRM system or CRM solution are derived? And your criteria for… read in detail below.
….Gartner doesn’t know a CRM system, of course. And even Forrester or IDC and other analysts do not know them. These analysts know an average of the needs. But who wants an average CRM system?
Without a detailed analysis and comparison, we too cannot make any reliable recommendations. The requirements for a CRM system are too special for that. To get a recommendation after 5 minutes of conversation. Some managers would like to have that. But we refuse such requests. It is simply not possible to make an investment decision from two or three sentences of description or a 1-page briefing. A comparison of the software is the much better basis for decision making.
Especially if this investment in a CRM system is of strategic importance for your company. Not to mention the cost of the CRM software. These costs usually make up a large part of a company’s annual budget for the coming years.
A CRM system is a tool for you and your employees that you can use at any time. Some employees use the CRM software all day, 5 days a week. It takes more than a few sentences of information. The special features of a CRM solution should be well described and the catalogue of requirements should be formulated in detail. A well-done comparison will show you the differences transparently. We also comment on important details that make the difference afterwards. Even with a small consultation, at least the sticking points for marketing and sales are very important information for us.
A decision – especially for small businesses – “à la John Wayne” (meaning “shot from the hip”) is not reasonable. The usual suspect manufacturers of CRM software such as Salesforce, Microsoft Dynamics CRM, SugarCRM, Adobe, Hubspot are not always the best CRM software. The long-term consequences of such a decision are far too serious for that. Our customer always gets the comparison of 3 or 4 matching products or the comparison of whole CRM systems. The Long List is often 6 to 8 manufacturers long.
Or to put it another way: It’s much more fun when the CRM software provides optimal support for your work. The tools or “The knife must be sharp”. This can be turned into a work of art. To satisfy the customer is an art. That’s the goal. And nothing else. To use blunt tools for this – ergo an unsuitable CRM software – is just torture.
Therefore, the general analyses that analysts provide are of no value to the individual. For us, these comparisons are worth a look at how others see certain developments. But for the investment decision for a CRM solution, this is not. The customer of Gartner is not the user of an enterprise, but the provider. There’s a subtle difference.
In most cases, good at first – the providers of CRM software naturally only focus on the advantages of their CRM system. They promise the searching user a simple and successful change of the customer approach.
But we now know the good and the not so good sides of CRM software. Therefore, we can ask or select the right questions depending on which challenge is important. We know how to check CRM functions. Which use cases play a role for you? And thus uncover the strengths and weaknesses using your examples.
Do you, as a medium-sized company, need a CRM solution provider who has sound expertise for your specific industry? Or does an industry-neutral product better cover your CRM requirements?
In other words: Which CRM software best addresses both the individual conditions and the processes of your company or your employees? And: How is it also ensured that the CRM software can be implemented without major problems and that it harmonizes both with the technical possibilities and with the other systems? How does the support look like during implementation, the introduction phase and during operation? How can existing tools be docked to the CRM?
What tools are available for marketing? Is there an e-mail integration? Which ones are offered for sales or service? What does the customer get out of it? What customer experience does the customer feel?
Regardless of whether you are a small business, midsize company or large enterprise, a successful CRM implementation is an important step for better processes, growth, cost efficiency, business management.
It is already important whether the company purchases an “all-in-one” or “best-of-breed” CRM software.
We facilitate the selection and help you to get a first, neutral overview of the topic CRM software selection. Also based on the first German CRM Landscape! The first overview for CRM software and CRM systems – only for German-speaking countries.
We have carried out over 100 projects on software selection, software implementation and software usage and application in the last few years. The goal was always to define and create a CRM system or even an IT infrastructure that would be valid for several years in the future. It was also important that a solution gets building blocks that do not become blocked by changes in requirements or business model adjustments. For years and nowadays we have had to make sure in our consulting that the solution fits your business. And can adapt to your requirements. Even in 2-3 years.
It is not only about CRM, it is also about analytical CRM, CRM programs, campaign management or customer loyalty programs.
Even for small start-ups, a CRM software selection includes some test steps that we perform within our CRM consulting. Each project is individually designed. You benefit from our experience in the selection of IT systems. We have also already successfully introduced an ERP system. Whether, requirements for marketing or sales, the core question is always: What must the software be able to do? What does the IT infrastructure look like? Are there concrete, clear goals? What are the company’s goals? What does the Big Picture look like? What must the software be capable of?
Success in Customer Relationship Management (CRM) is not only the purchase of software. It is also a question of strategy. Success criteria are also address and data quality. The training of the employees as well as the continuous training are sure to be successful.
A frequently requested topic is e-mail integration. To this we have to distinguish, are we talking about the topic Outlook or about the topic e-mail marketing? The Outlook integration is a very important integration for the daily work. Incoming e-mails are assigned to the CRM account via the sender’s e-mail address. This can be done automatically or manually. We prefer to recommend the automatic assignment.
The integration of an email provider is important for email campaigns and transactional emails. From which server is the e-mail sent? From the Exchange server or a dedicated email marketing server. Because if you send mass mailings from the Exchange server, you run the risk of being branded as a spam sender.
Are e-mail templates offered by the CRM provider or by the e-mail tool provider, which can be easily adapted to the needs (structure, layout, etc.)
Products such as Hubspot CRM or Zoho CRM offer such integrations right in the starter package.
CRM applications must be neatly interlocked or integrated with the ERP system. Only then do both systems develop their full effect. The processes are optimally supported. We have dedicated a separate Landscape to this topic. Because especially for smaller companies, the question arises: To buy and wire CRM separately from ERP? Or better to buy an all-in-one solution and have to accept average for some modules?
Both tools are usually used throughout the company. The one more in the commercial and administrative area. the other more in marketing, service and sales. Only when both work together can the entire company benefit.
A comparison here reveals the possibilities and weaknesses. In the long run, the perfect mix is always better and cheaper.
Is Social CRM important? How can a social media integration into a CRM system look like? Are tools like SnapAddy a help? Nimble, Salesforce and SugarCRM also focused on this topic early on. What is compatible with the DSGVO or the GDPR? Not all social networks can be integrated with pleasure. Unfortunately, XING, for example, has rejected all direct integrations (as of June 5, 2020). LinkedIn is a little more permissive.
Can online shop providers be connected directly to the CRM? Plan a bi-directional interface for this. It’s worth it. Transferring current information in the web shop from the CRM as well as registrations or reactions from the web shop directly into the CRM is very important for users in customer management (campaigns, reports, etc.).
Business Intelligence (BI), configurators (CPQ), archive and document management system, office integration of GSuite or Microsoft Office 365, Excel or other plug-ins
Not every area should have its own software. Because that leads to the grey hair of an IT manager. The CIO and his team must then manage at least three systems. And in the end, the duplicates in the systems are a horror to everyone. According to the specifications of the address model, these department- or area-specific selection criteria can be used to find a common CRM solution.
This is why we also speak of IT landscapes, IT infrastructure or IT landscapes in the context of customer relationship management. Nowadays it is possible to map very different address and data models in one system. But only flexible tools can do this. The CRM market is already large. However, not all manufacturers are suitable for this.
Mapping the sales pipeline is usually the heart of the customer relationship presentation. To process potential customers in a meaningful way and then win them over is still an important goal in customer management.
Can the mobile solution also be used online and offline? Offline is important in areas without network coverage. Will the important functions then also be available offline? What needs to be synchronized in advance so that the most important data is available offline? Is there an app or does the access of the mobile solution take place via the browser. For which browser is the solution optimized?
For the technical field service, contract management is an elementary working tool. Who has which products, what is still under warranty or what is a service contract for?
Functions that support a customer loyalty program are very rarely found in a CRM solution. These elements are often only rudimentary or not present at all. Neither the big ones like Microsoft or Salesforce have this on board. Comarch is one of the few companies that specialize in this. However, Comarch is not a cheap solution. This is a pity, especially for small and medium-sized enterprises.
In the IT and software industry, terms such as brownfield and greenfield are commonly used. Greenfield corresponds to the German phrase “Auf der grünen Wiese” starten. This is only possible in the rarest of cases. A start-up can do that, but an older company has ERP, cloud or non-cloud, own or third-party data center as a framework. Thus, the CRM selection always requires coordination with the circumstances.
What kind of support does the manufacturer or service provider offer you? Which service level agreements (SLA) are standard? Are these SLAs enough for you? Where should you renegotiate?
Does the CRM provider provide e-mail support, for example? How are connected third-party providers supported? Are these integrated via the general SLAs? Can or may the user himself make service requests to the support? Does it make more sense that only key users can do this. Is there a ticket system for this? How quickly will tickets be answered? Who controls and reports this?
Unfortunately, we experience again and again that in the end the topic hosting is a huge cost driver. For the answer to the question of which cloud solution is suitable, there is a good answer here, among others.
Is an on-premise solution, i.e. the installation on your own server the better solution?
This is a question that the user almost never asks himself. The vast majority of vendors now follow the example of salesforce.com. As today’s largest vendor (global market leader), Salesforce established this offering model. The topic of cloud computing or cloud-based models is now so strong that hardly anyone offers software for sale. For the providers this is the more lucrative option anyway.
The know-how must not be lost. Rather through the documentation this should gradually grow. Therefore, documentation integrated online in the CRM system is also important. The user should be able to access the help documentation at any time from the CRM functions just called up.
With open source software, pay special attention to the documentation. Who makes these and in which language is it available?
A distinction must be made between permanently free CRM solutions, in other words CRM freeware. Or free entry-level solutions (Startup Edition), which start with a small range of functions (in order not to lure you). And in the process the user realizes that the range of functions is not sufficient after all. And then the license price becomes expensive very quickly.
The prices are usually quoted in US dollars or euros. Whereby the good price representations are always in Euro daily exchange rate.
The license costs are not applicable. That’s right. But the support and adjustment programming naturally costs money. Further development, if done by the community, is also free of charge. But in principle not every OS product is free.
One or the other provider releases his source code publicly. Then further development is allowed, but license costs (rent or purchase) may still apply. For special programming that is not done by a manufacturer, but is created by an individual. Here it is important that you have the source code deposited in a safe at the notary in the current version.
That’s a hard one to answer. Here too, the principle applies: it depends on what the company expects. There are definitely open source vendors that offer a good CRM system that can stand up to a CRM comparison with others. In the end, it must fit your company.
Microsoft Dynamics, SAP, SugarCRM, Salesforce, Oracle, Adobe, Marketo, Hubspot or Hubspot CRM, open source CRM such as VTiger CRM, Zoho CRM or small full-service providers such as TecArt CRM, Julitec, Sunrise. You can find all German-speaking providers in our CRM provider landscape and the table “CRM Software Comparison”.
A CRM comparison over several criteria is not easy. Time and again, market participants try to do so. We reject this because there are simply too many peculiarities and specialities of a company that play a role. We always tailor a CRM software comparison individually to our customers. The often heard sentence “We adapt to the specifications of the software. They have already developed this for our competitors,” unfortunately leads to disaster. The customer relationship is too different in practice. Each company should develop its own special features and reflect them in its customer relationship management system. This is the only way to achieve a unique selling proposition for the customer.
In the many CRM projects we have learned what to pay attention to. We also call this “looking under the carpet” or “behind the scenes”. We also get insider information from customers, from users of a software or the provider itself. We’re not advertising that. Trust is always a valuable commodity. But we can certainly give tips or warnings to the management of our customers that the average mortal will not think of.
For many years, Schwetz Consulting, in cooperation with Trovarit AG, published the CRM market mirror. Within the IT-Matchmaker portal, the interested party can get tips on providers before selecting and implementing software.
Every consultant has a slightly different approach to customer relationship management and CRM software selection. We have refined our method more and more over the past years through user feedback. We are 100% neutral, i.e. we do not receive any commission from the manufacturer or service provider.
In the Google keyword optimization for the German language, the term CRM software (deliberately written with an “s” at the end) is also used. Then we will just write this term in the text. Even if it doesn’t make sense. Our customer certainly does not use this word. But if it helps perfect the text. Here you go, Google. 🙂