CRM Technology Options
In the last article, I defined what CRM is and determinedseveral reasons as to why this is a great time for you to implement a CRMsolution for your agency or practice. In this second article, I'm going to takea look at the different technology options available to you and make arecommendation as to solution I feel makes the most sense for insuranceprofessionals. Before I do that though, let's start with a question that I'msure many of you have asked yourself at some time:
Do I Need to Purchase a CRM Solution? Can'tI Just Use Outlook or Excel?
Just abouteveryone these days has Outlook and Excel loaded on their PC and have gotten comfortablesending emails and putting together spreadsheets. If that's the case, you might be askingyourself, why go to the trouble and expense of purchasing a whole new type oftechnology when these programs have worked OK over the years?
Well, there'sno question that email and spreadsheet software functionality has advancedconsiderably over the last 5-10 years and each type of application has beenenhanced to carry out a number of additional tasks. For example, use Outlookand not only can you send and receive emails, you can also store contactinformation, keep a task list and manage your time. Similarly, if you're familiar with Excel, youknow that not only does it offer advanced spreadsheet functionality, it alsoallows you to build databases, analyze financial data and create reports.However, even though each of these applications gives you tools that can helpyou manage some aspect of your client relationships, neither of them gives youa complete, 360° view of your clients and prospects. What do we mean by 360°view? The best way to explain this concept is to demonstrate it graphically.Consider how data flows in the following diagrams:
Non-CRM Customer DataFlow
CRM Customer Data Flow
The firstdiagram shows how data flows between your practice and your clients when there'sno CRM system or technology in place. There is little or no informationexchange between the program you use to communicate with your clients and anyother programs you may use to measure your practice. Conversely, the second diagram shows howinformation and data flows between your practice and your clients when CRMtechnology is in place. The technology records and tracks all of the activitythat occurs between you and your client and allows you to generate meaningfulinformation you can use to more effectively manage your business.
What CRM Technology Options Are Available to You?
There are 3 fundamental CRM technology options currently available:
· PC-Based Software
· Software that resides on a network
· Web-based applications
Each type of technology has its merit, but for the majorityof practices, I feel that a web-based CRM application is the best choice. Thereasons for this are as much to do with the downside of software as they are todo with the upside of web-based systems. Specifically:
· It's difficult to share data between multipleusers
· There's no "real-time" updating of information.This means that not only is it possible that you don't have your client's mostcurrent information, you also may be slow in responding promptly to theirneeds.
· Software often requires you to purchase a copyor user license for every user. For a small practice with tight budgets, thiscan be an expensive option
· You likely will need to purchase periodicupgrades to ensure you have the latest version of the software.
· What do you do if your PC goes down?
· Networked software requires you to employtechnical personnel to install the software and maintain the network and mayalso require you to make an investment in back-end hosting equipment
· If the application resides on a network, it maybe difficult (if not impossible) to access client data if you or your staff arefrequently on the move
· You likely will need to purchase periodicupgrades to ensure you have the latest version
· Offer a lower cost of entry and lower total costof ownership – Systems are often available via a monthly subscription.
· Are quick to implement and allow for rapidtransmission of information across your entire organization regardless oflocation.
· Are easily accessible so you and your staff canuse your CRM solution anywhere, anytime - provided you have a computer andInternet access.
· Web-based applications don't require you topurchase costly hardware.
· Web-based applications are automaticallyupgraded and/or debugged
In conclusion, I would encourage you to focus your attentionon CRM solutions that are web-based, rather than solutions that aresoftware-based. As we've seen, web-based applications offer a number oftremendous benefits over more traditional solutions – they're morecost-effective, they offer 24 x 7 accessibility, they don't require you to hireadditional staff and ultimately and they give offer access to the most currentclient information whether you're in the office or on the road. All of these benefitswill help you better serve the needs of your clients so you can improve clientretention, create additional opportunities to earn commissions and grow yourpractice.