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6 Tips for Selecting Your Next CES

Selecting a new Customer Engagement System (taking a shot at coining a new term since CRM is becoming passé) can be a daunting task. Between evaluating potentially new and complex technology, and dealing with the internal pressure to “get it right”, the experience can be confusing and stressful. During my years at Dyn365Pros, I’ve witnessed the evaluation and selection process play out hundreds of times. Here are 6 Tips for Selecting Your Next CES.

Speaking to anyone beginning a search, I advise them to focus on the following areas to make easy on themselves and their potential vendors.

1. Budget

Establish your current-year and long-term budget. Knowing your budget upfront helps manage expectations and provide vendors with the proper framework within which to make the appropriate recommendation. Don’t keep the budget a secret either. Some people are reluctant to disclose their budget. I don’t see any value in this unless you’re convinced the vendor is out to suck up every last penny. If that’s the impression your getting, hang up immediately and talk to another vendor. A reputable vendor that’s interested in staying in business for the long haul will help you maximize your investment in the near and long term.

2. Breadth of Selection

Don’t feel compelled to evaluate every system available. Restrict your search to 2 or 3 vendors. There are plenty of resources to help you narrow down the list of potential solutions, according to your budget and purpose. For instance, trade associations and many web sites offer forums facilitating the free exchange of information regarding competing systems. There are even firms that specialize in helping organizations through the evaluation and selection process of new solutions, while remaining vendor-neutral.

3. Articulating Your Current and Future Requirements

Ask yourself what you need today, and how you foresee your operation evolving over the next 5 years. For example, transition from a server/client software model to cloud-based services may completely change the nature of your needs and — as a result — your choice of vendor partner. Acquisition strategies or addition of new product lines could also weigh heavily on your choice. The ability to add-on integrated solutions for marketing automation, finance, service delivery, or live chat are other things to consider.

4. Internal Consensus

People across the organization will often become part of the decision-making process. Make vendors aware of the respective concerns of all departments, e.g., sales, IT, operations, finance, marketing, and customer service. Encourage communication between your staff and prospective vendors. This helps increase the comfort level among the individuals needed to help bring your implementation plan to fruition.

5. Migrating Existing Data

Take the time to evaluate what existing data you need to bring to any new system. Customer account records and transaction history are generally a no-brainer. However, if records are obsolete or have not been maintained properly, you may consider starting fresh. This approach can also save you time and money during the implementation of the new system.

6. Training and support

Adequate training helps maximize the investment in your new system, and improves the degree of adoption, productivity and satisfaction. With all the training methods available now, you should be able to find a solution that fits your budget and need. Be sure to evaluate options for future support. A good vendor will provide the support you need to make this investment a long-term success.

If you’re shopping for a new Customer Engagement System (OK, CRM then) I hope some of the advice above proves valuable. With a reasonable degree of planning and due diligence, you should arrive at a purchasing decision that represents a tremendous benefit to your department, your staff, and your entire organization.

By Mark Abes/Vice President Sales and Marketing, Dyn365Pros, Microsoft Dynamics 365 Partner, San Diego Southern California. For help with your next system, contact us.