Second and more importantly, there is NO easy way to go when it comes to evaluating CRM applications. First off, do you have clear customer-focused strategy? Do you know what processes are going to be affected by your strategy and how it will impact your company culture? The software or services that you use simply support strategies and programs that you've developed and devised. One of the biggest mistakes -- and most costly both in dollars and potential loss of job -- is to, "make the easiest choice because you're busy." Ultimately, you're deciding the fate of your customers in how you treat them and work with them. In turn, your customers are deciding your fate in how well they respond to your decisions. So I would be very careful about making decisions, "the easy way" when there is so much more to consider than which software you're going to use.
Assuming you've made strategic decisions and are comfortable with the processes associated with your plans, I would think through what features matter most to support those plans. Comfort with the interfaces and programs is certainly a factor, but only one of many. What about the technologies associated with the applications – do you want them to be Web-based or just Web-enabled? Do the programs have the ability to scale up if more users become necessary? Will they integrate with other programs you use? Will they provide additional features and functions as they become more important to how you conduct your business?
Ultimately, what I'm saying is that you need to be more serious about making these decisions. They can be, "make or break" decisions for your company's future because this involves how you are going to work with your customers. So take your time, invest in planning and thinking first and bring in professionals to help you figure out what's most important. That way, they can take some of the effort off your shoulders.
This was first published in August 2006