Customer relationship management is a critical part of any business. A Gartner study estimates the size of the CRM industry to be $36.5 billion in 2017. It is not difficult to see why. A Nucleus Research report found the ROI from CRM to be $8.71 for every one dollar spent. Not only that, another study from Trackvia found that investing in CRM could increase revenues by an impressive 41 percent for every sales person.

Given these stats, it may be foolhardy to rely on generic spreadsheet tools like MS Excel to manage customer relationship data. Your CRM must do a lot more than this. In this article, we will take a look at those specific factors that you must look at while picking a CRM tool for your business.

Map Your Objectives

The first step in identifying the right CRM tool for your business is to chart out your end-objectives and picking out the features that are critical to your goals. If you are an online business, your goals could be to track visitors to your website and build a list of leads from this data.

An offline enterprise business may want to segregate their leads based on the marketing campaign and devising a unique outreach plan for each of these groups. Mapping out your objectives will help with gaining better clarity on what you want.

Pain Points with Your Current CRM Tool

Even if you don’t own a CRM system yet, your business is likely to be managing customer data in your own way – either with the help of spreadsheet tools, or as physical records. Using this data, identify the pain points and bottlenecks that exist in your current tool. By doing this you will be to help businesses acknowledge the features that are most critical in their new tool.

Most businesses looking to change their CRM platform do so to fix operational inefficiencies, sales data inconsistency and poor marketing campaign data. Identify how your current CRM tool addresses these inefficiencies and pick a tool that does a better job.

Integration

Businesses communicate with their prospects and customers in a variety of ways. Some businesses prefer online channels like email while others prefer phone calls. Depending on your business needs, you may want to pick a CRM that integrates with the communication channels of your choice. Besides your communication needs, CRM tools may also need integration with helpdesk tools, email and SMS gateways, your eCommerce platform and even your Amazon dashboard if you are a seller there.

A sophisticated CRM tool makes such integration easier by helping you increase productivity and reduce frictions in your business operations.

Flexibility

Regardless of the features and integration that a CRM tool provides, every business has its own unique requirements that may not be completely fulfilled. An ideal CRM tool will be flexible enough to let businesses tweak the software to suit their unique needs. You may either go with an open source CRM or pick a tool that offers API access to let developers build their own applications.

Analytics

The CRM tool you pick must come with sufficient reporting and performance management tools that help you understand customer behavior. This helps businesses understand what prospective customers want, what motivates them to buy, what channels of communication work with them and what causes any customer to abandon purchase.

A sophisticated analytics dashboard can help businesses answer these questions and is vital in establishing a smart customer relationship management system.