Choosing a CRM is made easier if you have done all the preparatory work. It can also help you to avoid making costly mistakes.

Types of CRM

Even before you read this book you probably heard the term CRM prefixed by a dozen different adjectives or nouns. The more common terms would include:

  • Cloud CRM
  • Hosted CRM
  • In-house CRM
  • Mobile CRM
  • On-Premise CRM
  • On-site CRM
  • Open Source CRM
  • SaaS CRMSocialCRM
  • Vertical CRM
  • Web-based CRM

Some of these mean the same thing, so let’s get those out of the way first. Hosted CRM, cloud CRM, web-based CRM and SaaS CRM all mean the same thing, namely that the software is on a fileserver that is not under your control. Essentially, it is an on-line computer bureau service that specializes in CRM. The software never belongs to you, nor does the server on which it runs. All you need to use it are access to the internet and an agreement to pay the host a usage fee.

In-house CRM, on-premise CRM and on-site CRM all mean the same thing, namely that the fileserver is in a building occupied by you and you are responsible for maintaining both the fileserver and access to it. Generally, this is your system and is probably shown as an asset class in your financial accounts.

Vertical CRM

Depending on your type of business, you may have industry-specific needs and limitations. If this is the case, you may want a specialized CRM product developed for your specific industry. An example of vertical markets is hospitals, clinics, and medical
practitioners. While there may not be a vertical CRM product for your specific industry, there may be something close that could be customized to suit your needs.

Mobile CRM

Mobile CRM is the ability to access a CRM system from mobile computing devices, such as laptops and smart phones, while away from the office. A number of competing technologies exist and you may even have a choice of which wireless standard you want to use.

Wi-Fi, the 3G wireless access methods we all know, was limited in speed, security and coverage. Of course, you will want to go 4G for the greater speed, but despite the hype and what the service providers tell you, 4G isn’t widely available at the time of writing. We say this because the 4G specifications call for speeds of 1 Gbps while stationary or moving at a walking pace, and 100 Mbps while on the move. Currently, you will not get close to these speeds with either WiMAX or LTE.

As for security and coverage, you are advised to consult your technical guys when you’re ready to make the move. The situation may well have changed a couple of times between my writing the book and your reading it. Big names in technology are stacked up against each other and it is too early to say which technology will ultimately be accepted. It’s a bit like the old Betamax versus VHS video tape format struggle, or the HD DVD versus Blu Ray format wars again. Unfortunately, it isn’t always the best technology that wins, but rather the best supported.

Open source CRM

Open source CRM is not a different type of CRM, it is simply a CRM product that has been developed under the free open source software umbrella. Essentially, the source code for the software is available for any party interested and they are permitted to modify the software to suit their needs. We discuss this as an alternative to proprietary software.

Social CRM

Having insight to what is being said about your products on the social networks gives you a heads-up on whether you have a problem with one of your products. It is also a way to test the acceptance levels for any new offerings you may want to put out
in the market.

Before the first of the social network sites was launched, consumers discussed service and products in Internet chat rooms, in user groups or posted comments on web sites built to allow customers to air their views. This still happens, but more and more of these conversations are being taken to sites such as Twitter and Facebook.

One example that gained international coverage is the case of Kevin Smith being asked to leave an airplane on the grounds of being too fat. An embarrassed Smith left the airplane but immediately began to send tweets of his experience. This happened in February, 2010. The airline was Southwest Airlines in the USA. Within an hour, Southwest Airlines had put Kevin Smith on another flight, with their apologies, but the incident stayed high on the news channels for three days. It was only knocked off the top news spot by the press conference in which Tiger Woods admitted to cheating on his wife.

The technically savvy businesses, aware of the impact that online conversations might have on their reputation, use web crawlers, or web robots, to search for references to specified keywords so they can monitor the conversations. However, that’s expensive and may not be a viable option for the small business. Besides, for any business sensitive to the needs of customers, or whose efforts are geared towards customer service, it shouldn’t be necessary.