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Bring Your CRM Costs Down: 3 Things That Work

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CRM implementation is often perceived as a costly affair by businesses of all sizes. The total cost of CRM implementation starts with subscription fees of a CRM vendor and is later complemented by the costs of implementation services, such as consulting, data migration, customization, integration, user training, after-launch support and system evolution. Let’s take, for instance, the cost of implementation of a feature-rich CRM, like Salesforce. In total it may reach an impressive number of around $252,200 for a midsized company. An obvious need for such a substantial investment may cause concerns among the businesses of all scales. What may discourage them even more, is the info about the tendency of CRM implementation projects to a 37.5% budget overrun. If these figures have taken you aback, consider our 3 tips on CRM cost optimization. They’ll help you to avoid budget overrun and help to achieve a high ROI to your implementation.

#1: Opt for a suitable CRM edition

Unless you have an extensive experience in CRM usage, and you’re aware of benefits and possible pitfalls ahead, choosing a suitable product and its edition can be quite challenging. The main problem is that plenty of CRM vendors will be trying to sell a more feature-rich CRM edition by all means (and such edition, naturally, will be pricier). Buying into the vendors’ promises doesn’t mean getting your business problems solved in one go. On the contrary, it may result into a huge money waste due to paying for the features you’ll never use. To avoid the cost creeps at the stage of CRM choice, you should carefully consider your business needs, the ways to address them with CRM and decide on the required functionality from the very start. The reason is that it will be hard to switch to a more advanced CRM edition, if you consider the one you’ve chosen insufficient after a few months of usage. To better see to your business needs with CRM, you’ll have to customize the solution again, which entails additional costs. That’s why making a right choice at the first try will help you to avoid paying over the roof further. If you lack extensive CRM experience or dedicated employees (like a CRM manager), you may also resort to reliable CRM consultants that will help you to make an informed choice.

#2: Avoid excessive CRM customization

CRM customization done right is something you can’t do without to give your business a competitive advantage. The lack of adjusting your CRM solution to your sales, customer service and marketing needs leads to inefficient business processes, low productivity and hampered efforts of the employees from all the 3 departments. Insufficient customization also results in poor user adoption of a new CRM, which puts the ROI of your CRM implementation at risk. On the other hand, the costs of customization are prone to growth that may be hard to control. Be it for an unreliable CRM services provider, trying to impose excessive customization, or your own belief that deep CRM customization helps your business advance, you may tailor it to the utmost (not noticing the costs going over the roof). To avert such undesired outcomes, we suggest

  • Prioritizing custom features in terms of value

Solving your business challenges in one go with massive CRM customization seems like a good idea, until you start calculating how much it may cost you. If the all-at-once customization is too heavy on your pocket, you may describe the scope of needed custom features and further break them into a few categories like:

  • “Essential” (enhancements that are absolutely crucial for high operational efficiency);
  • “Useful” (features without which system efficiency would decrease);
  • “Desirable” or “Nice-to-have” (features making the CRM more attractive and easy-to-use, but not absolutely indispensable).

Such prioritization allows breaking the delivery of custom functionality into pieces, and roll them out in order of their importance, keeping your expenses under control at the same time.

  • Splitting CRM implementation into phases

Delivering a baseline of simple and the most needed functionality first allows you to gain some practical experience with a new CRM. After using it for a few months, you’ll see, which features are paying off, and which ones aren’t. As soon as the need in more complex CRM features evolves, you may plan the second phase of implementation. During it you’ll roll out another piece of custom functionality to get the burning needs addressed with a cost-effective approach in mind.

#3: Reconsider opportunities for user training

Another implementation service, which can generate excessive costs, is user training. Although teaching end users to work with new CRM is crucially important for CRM adoption and its efficient use, a good training is not once-in-a- lifetime event. It should be done in iterations after every piece of functionality is rolled out, or as part of new employees’ onboarding. If you’ll be paying for full-cycle instructor-led training each time these events take place, you’ll exceed the limit of reasonable spending pretty soon. To provide your employees with iterative training, which is both valuable and cost-effective, we suggest

  • Training a few “super users”

If you’re actively hiring or frequently adding new features to your CRM, you may train a few “super users”. As soon as they master the new functionality, they will be engaged in the knowledge transfer to other employees.

  • Training a CRM admin

If you want to provide iterative training without engaging third-party instructors, you may consider training a CRM admin. Although it may cost a lot more than a single end-user training, having an in-house specialist, responsible for further employee training allows you to save on it later on.

  • Leveraging online training resources and self-learning materials

Another opportunity to save on instructor-led training is to make use of online training resources, provided by CRM vendors. You may also ask your dedicated in-house team to create self-learning materials that describe specific customizations made to the CRM and the best ways of using these new features.

What’s in it for you?

Now you know how to keep your CRM implementation costs under control with a reasonable approach to CRM edition’s choice, enhancements prioritization and new ways of user-training delivery. But don’t think that’s enough for your CRM’s success. To get a true value from your CRM implementation, you need to go the extra mile and focus on a reliable risk management plan, which implies foreseeing possible pitfalls of implementation and finding the ways to mitigate them.

by Denis Zhinko, ScienceSoft, www.scnsoft.com

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