I know most of CRM vendors offer CRM Trial versions for evaluation purpose. But my experience says that evaluating the CRM based on a few days of trial does not work.
Most people think that they will use the system for a few days to get acquainted and then decide on the same. But it does not work.
Here is what generally happens in the CRM Trial period.
1. Who is testing?
a. When 7-14-30 days period of CRM trials starts, Generally testing is done by a Technical person in the organisation. Or Owners do the evaluation in case of a Small Business.
b.Of course, all the functional experts and leaders are very busy and involved in their day to day work and hence cannot allocate work to some petty evaluation process.
2. What is tested?
a. Look and feel of the software
b. How cool is the animation of menus
c. Whether the Graphs and charts are colourful or not?
3. What is missed?
a. Every company has different processes. Whether the CRM can meet those processes is not evaluated. Forget above improving the same.
b. Colourful Reports and dashboards, don’t run your businesses. Their relevance to your business process will determine its success. How your teams will utilise those reports is more important.
c. The finer requirement and working style of functional teams are not considered, which is perhaps more important.
d. Possible CRM Customisation and its usage are entirely unexplored.
CRM trial versus CRM implementation
Most of the CRM buyers think that they (and their team) will use the trial software for a few days and decide which one to use. But the most important points are ignored.
When Companies bought software and spent a lot of amount on customisation and configuration. Then they also spend the amount on the training of the team. But still, they struggle very hard to get desired user adoption. In that case, do you expect that your team will fully use the CRM?
If you seriously want to do a trial run of a CRM software, you have to make almost the same effort as CRM implementation. This might not be true for the larger organisation which lots of resources, but for small organisations (less than 200 people), this is A FACT.
Why do CRM Trials fail?
1. You can only evaluate, only when you know it.
a. How do you test drive a motorcycle if you have never ridden one? The case of CRM is also like that.
b. You don’t do a trial of a Gym.
c. You have already been using all kinds of software for a long time. Don’t evaluate it as another software tool.
2. Insufficient effort.
a. How many CRM systems did you evaluate?
b. How many of your team members were involved in it?
c. Did you have a proper plan and a checklist of things to check?
d. Did you talk to any existing CRM users / Clients of that company?
Unlike Accounting; Sales and Service processes are imperfect Science.
Double-entry accounting system and major accounting principles are centuries old and a very well perfected Science. Every company has the same entry for Conveyance Expenses. But when it comes to Sales or service, the process deployed in every company is different.
It is much easier to evaluate accounting software since the processes for accounting are well defined and almost the same across all the organisations. Take the example of a Sales Entry: Every company does Same Dr and Cr. So if you do a trial of 3 accounting Softwares, you might well land up buying best accounting software.
But when it comes to CRM solution (for managing your Sales and Customer Service), the story is entirely different. Every company has a different mechanism for processing Sales Enquiries or customer complaints.
How do you evaluate a CRM software based on UI and looks?
A better way for CRM evaluation
1. Establish the purpose of implementing CRM.
a. Why exactly you are doing this. Of course, you are not doing this to tick off it from your checklist.
b. Determine what measurable results do you expect.
2. Preparing the CRM evaluation checklist.
a. What process do you want to cover?
b. Expected improvements in the process and results.
c. Who all are going to use this.
d. When creating a checklist – create a must-have and good to have listed. This will help you prioritise the entire requirement.
e. CRM can automate many of your processes. Just check the possibilities but do it in a phase-wise manner.
3. Get a guided CRM tour with functional users (second most important)
a. Instead of you navigating unknown screens of CRM and evaluating the User-friendliness, ask the CRM vendor to provide you with a guided tour of the system.
b. When seeing the Demo (Guided Tour), keep most of the stakeholders with you. It may include Seniors, Team Leaders, Directors, partners, Finance guys etc.
c. Ask the vendor to take you through the entire process life cycles and show dashboards and usage according to Role (KPI/KRA) wise. This will help you understand how exactly will your users use the system.
d. If the Vendor has clients in a similar domain as your company, ask their representative to walk you through the processes that they are using.
e. Present a business problem to the CRM vendor and let them tell you how their software solves that problem. Don’t say to the solution and request for changing the software.
4. Talk to other CRM clients (most important)
a. The success of CRM depends on successful CRM implementation.
b. Talk to Clients of vendors and discuss with them the teething problems that they faced and how did they overcome them.
c. Also, discuss with them how the CRM vendor helps them to get CRM implemented.
5. Evaluate at least three CRM vendors.
a. Repeat step no. 3 and 4 for at least three vendors.