ATLANTA -- Don't settle for simple customer references or a list of implementation best practices when choosing a CRM vendor. Instead, listen to Paul Greenberg.
Greenberg, author of several enterprise software self-help books and president of consultancy The 56 Group, told attendees at TechTarget's CRM Technology Decisions conference that, to find just the right applications provider, companies must go the extra mile.
"From vendor to vendor, functionality is becoming increasingly similar," Greenberg said. "The major issue today is: can you live with a certain vendor's culture?"
According to Greenberg, traditional points of reference provided by software makers cannot alone be trusted to give CRM users an accurate idea about whether a specific vendor's culture is right for them. Rather, he advocates an aggressive strategy whereby users try to poke holes in CRM vendors' deployment methodologies and cull detailed research about their inner workings from employees and customers.
"If CRM vendors were completely truthful about everything they've been through, no one would buy their software," Greenberg said.
Among the suggestions Greenberg made for any company considering a CRM provider were:
- Find customers not listed as references and question them about their experiences with the vendor.
- Talk to vendor partners who have relationships with the vendor's competitors and build comparative data.
- Track management moves and attempt to gauge why executives have come and gone.
- Study financial performance to determine long-term stability.
- Gather information on employee turnover to get an idea of support staff continuity.
One of the most important steps a company investigating CRM can take is forcing a vendor to explain in detail how it defines success, Greenberg said.
"It sounds obvious, but many times the vendor thinks an implementation has been successful when the customer is still waiting for more," he said.
CRM Technology Decisions attendees agreed it's worth extra time and money spent on vendor scrutiny to achieve greater levels of success.
Rick Hamilton, project manager at software and consulting company Online Insight Inc. in Atlanta, said he's seen high turnover hurt other companies he's worked with in implementing CRM.
"I actually think companies are going this far now," he said. "You need to go through this level of up-front research, even if it costs you more or puts off your buying decision."
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