If your organization is currently using Outlook or Excel to manage your customer relationships, implementing a Centralized Relationship Management (CRM) system will be a huge step up. A CRM platform will help you consolidate your relationship data, saving time and money while providing greater structure and visibility.
But with so many options out there, how do you decide which CRM solution is right for you? At LookOut Software, we believe that there’s no need to re-invent the wheel. Your organization already has an excellent information management system in SharePoint, so why not use a CRM that builds on top of that foundation?
Using a SharePoint-based CRM solution has a number of important benefits:
1. Reduce Costs by Leveraging SharePoint Functionality
As an all-purpose information management system, SharePoint already has a number of features that are useful for CRM. These include file sharing, collaboration tools, and data visualization capabilities.
By leveraging these core features, a SharePoint-based CRM can significantly reduce implementation and operational costs. Unlike a standalone CRM, there is no need to set up separate infrastructure to host the software. Ongoing IT management and maintenance functions can also be centralized.
While cloud-based solutions can offer some of these benefits, they also come with monthly subscription fees that have these costs baked in. In contrast, a solution like SharePoint Flex offers you a one-time purchase option, or a 3-year subscription plan that ends with you owning the system. In the long run, the savings can be substantial.
2. Minimize Roll-Out Time by Fitting Into Existing Workflows
Most standalone CRM systems are complex to set up, and demand a lot of customization before they can be used. This greatly increases the time and budget required for a successful roll-out.
Meanwhile, a SharePoint-based CRM like Flex can be installed and used right out of the box. As your organization’s relationship management needs evolve, these solutions can be extended with approved third-party web parts and plugins.
In addition, users will also require much less training, since they are already familiar with the SharePoint interface and ecosystem. This will allow them to start using your new CRM much faster.
3. Utilize Existing Data & Intelligence by Integrating with Business Systems
Many organizations will already have a wealth of customer data, marketing collateral, and sales best practices to draw from. Unfortunately, a standalone CRM implementation is unlikely to include ready access to this institutional knowledge.
This is a serious missed opportunity. Customer relationships do not exist in a vacuum, but are closely connected to the rest of your business. It simply makes no sense to seal customer and general business intelligence in separate silos.
Often, most of this business knowledge is available through SharePoint. This means that a SharePoint-based CRM will facilitate much better information sharing between your sales team and the rest of the organization.
4. Increase Visibility of Relationship Data
Spreadsheets and e-mails provide very poor visibility into customer relationships, because they are not always accessible to the right people. In addition, historical data is often lost, because it is hard to keep track of so many separate bits of information.
SharePoint offers an ideal solution for this problem, because it has been designed specifically for effective information sharing and storage. With a SharePoint-based CRM, all customer data and communications are unified on one platform, and stored in an organized, fully searchable database.
This greatly increases the visibility and accuracy of your relationship data.
5. Improve the Structure of CRM Processes
A common reason for upgrading to a fully-fledged CRM is the need for more structure in the relationship management process.
There is good reason for this, as a well-structured process can lead to significant improvements in sales revenue and customer satisfaction. However, it is important to realize that too much structure can also be dangerous.
Customer relationships are multi-dimensional things, and are built up through both formal and informal interactions. An excess of structure can be stifling for your salespeople, and might even cause them to stop using your CRM altogether. Many enterprise CRM systems run into this obstacle, because they impose too many restrictions on the user.
SharePoint was conceived as a flexible platform that allows you to decide how much structure you actually need. SharePoint-based CRMs take advantage of this flexibility, allowing you to introduce just the right amount of structure into your relationship management process.
Simply put, using SharePoint for CRM can often be a very smart decision. If your organization is already using SharePoint, and is thinking of upgrading from Excel and Outlook, you might want to take a serious look at a SharePoint-based solution like Flex.