Switching to a different customer relationship management (CRM) platform can be quite a challenge for small businesses. You have to gain your team's buy-in, transfer customer data and implement new workflows. Here are several ways to approach this process and make it a less daunting transition.
How to ensure your CRM switch is a smooth process
Before making a switch, you need to determine whether the software itself is the problem. Businesses switch CRMs for various reasons, but the decision often comes down to poor user adoption. If it's not clear to your staff members how – or even why – they should use the CRM, then don't expect them to be eager participants. When CRM installations take a nosedive, they not only fail to deliver profitable growth but can also damage long-standing customer relationships.
There are many reasons to switch your CRM, but you need to pick a program that promotes your customer relationships and connections instead of severing them. Get your staff on board and ensure they understand how a CRM program can be helpful.
Should you switch CRMs?
The main job of a CRM is to organize leads and keep communication flowing. If leads are slipping through the cracks and miscommunication is constant, you're not getting your money's worth out of the software.
- Before trashing your existing CRM, investigate the source of the issue. Audit the CRM software and setup. Then, before you switch, take the time to understand your old one's problems and what it lacks so you can find one that helps your business's customer relationships. Sometimes there is room to make changes to your old CRM before switching to a new one, but if you can't, it may be time to find something more user-friendly and affordable.
- Is the issue user adoption or lack of standards for data entry? Perhaps the system is missing key features your company needs, which is a common reason companies switch CRMs.
- After identifying the problem, you can decide whether you need to retrain your team, tweak the system's setup or look for a new platform. For example, if you've already tried every onboarding technique you can think of, and your staff members are still struggling to use the CRM, it's probably time to start over.
- Involve your end users in the CRM selection and implementation process to help you find something user-friendly. Salesforce found that 72% of CRM users say they would trade complex functionality for usability.
- If you can't afford your current system or are paying for features that you don't need, it might be a good idea to cut your losses and find a system more suitable for your team and budget. Leaving your current CRM provider can be expensive, but the switch is worth it if you're paying more for a system you don't use.
Andrei Vasilescu, digital marketing expert and CEO of coupon website DontPayFull, suggests finding these things out from your potential CRM provider to ensure you're getting the program you need for your business:
- Can the new CRM fulfill all your needs for this type of program?
- Is it efficient and easy to customize according to your requirements?
- Will the new CRM be easy for your team to use?
- Can the new CRM be updated?
- Does your budget allow the investment for this new CRM?
Editor's note: Looking for the right CRM for your business? Fill out the below questionnaire to have our vendor partners contact you about your needs.
Tips on how to successfully switch CRM systems
If you decide to upgrade your CRM software, the main costs you'll face are time and internal effort. You'll need to research and choose a new CRM, import all your data, add in your customizations and integrations, and train your whole team to use it.
You can simplify the process if you have a clear idea of what you want, your data is easily accessible, and you follow these four steps:
1. Get your team on board from the beginning.
Your goal is to find a CRM system that meets management's needs and makes your team members' jobs easier. Ideally, everyone should be enthusiastic about switching, and the best way to drum up excitement is to involve your employees in the process from the beginning.
Designate a few CRM evangelists to spearhead efforts in each department. Start with higher-ups. If executives and managers lead the charge, the change will feel more official. Then, in each department, explain how the switch will benefit your business and each team member.
Consider setting up a practice account first. Let your team members get creative with a demo or free trial before you initiate the switch; this way, they can see how it will impact them directly.
2. Keep the data accurate by transferring it with minimal loss.
Once your new CRM platform is ready to go, it's time to transfer the data from your old system to the new one. The goal should be to transfer it all efficiently and lose as little information as possible, all while training your staff on the new system. The more accurate the data is, the sooner they can get up to speed.
Create a game plan that allows ample time for both data transfer and training. Have your CRM's support team take the lead on exporting and importing the data, preferably before training begins. You'll also need this team's help setting up customizations and integrations and training your employees to use them.
If the system is ready to go with your data intact, you've eliminated many barriers before you even start. As a result, you can focus on inputting new contacts, reporting new sales, and following new rules and policies during training.
3. Don't just encourage the system's use – ensure it.
Making sure your team uses the new CRM system is crucial to the implementation process. Once everyone is on board, set a changeover date. Make it clear from the beginning how employees will be evaluated on their use of the new system. For example, if leads aren't entered correctly or follow-ups aren't recorded, managers won't recognize the work, and your small business could lose sales.
Schedule regular meetings to review CRM reports, and make sure everyone is developing good data-entry habits. Ask your team how they feel about the new system now that they're using it every day, and brainstorm ways to use the CRM to make their lives even easier. Most importantly, make sure users in each department have a designated expert they can go to if they have questions or need help navigating the system.
4. Trade up for a system with features you'll actually use.
Avoid getting a program with too many tools, because that can make it harder to navigate. When you're looking at new CRMs, remember quantity is not quality. Extensive options can be overkill. Make sure your CRM has just the right features to fulfill your business needs.
"When choosing a new CRM, you can go into this one knowing what you actually need or don't need based on your use so far," said Eric Sachs, CEO of Sachs Marketing Group. "Don't feel pressured to get one that does the absolute most. You just need the one that does everything you currently need. Switching to an overkill tool will just make your transition more difficult."
If your current CRM system isn't performing the way you expected, you must first determine why. If retraining and more customizations don't do the trick, switching to a better system may be the best way forward. This will be challenging, but with a renewed focus and by following these tips for getting everyone on board, it can be a smooth transition that's well worth the effort.
Costs of switching CRMs
The costs associated with switching CRMs can depend on a variety of factors, such as the size of your company, the pricing structure of your new CRM versus your current one, and the length of time you will need to complete the onboarding process.
Although there are free CRM options, growing businesses should think twice about using them. A little money saved today can cost a lot down the road when you need to switch to a paid CRM with advanced features and adequate data storage.
Small businesses can expect to pay an average of $35 per user, per month for a starter CRM system. Midrange systems average nearly $100 per user, and advanced enterprise packages average $145 per user.
*Pricing is based on a per-person, per-month pricing structure. Additional charges may apply for add-ons, integrations, etc.
What are the top 5 CRM systems?
To find the right CRM system for your business, you should know some of the key players in the market. These are some of the best CRM systems out there:
- Keap CRM is an all-in-one solution that provides sales and marketing automations. It keeps your business organized while minimizing everyday repetitive tasks. You can also take advantage of complex sales pipelines and contact your leads and customers by email or text message through Keap. Learn more in our review of Keap.
- Salesforce is a strong choice for growing businesses, offering features to help you process customer information no matter what stage your business is in. Its third-party integrations and add-on options help you expand the software's capabilities as your business grows. Salesforce is highly customizable, with tools you can adjust to your business's needs. Learn more in our review of Salesforce.
- Monday.com provides an aesthetically pleasing view of project management tasks. The software is easy to use for multiple departments. It includes a large variety of apps and integrations, allowing you to customize the software fully for your business needs. Boards are visible to members and guests, with personalized permissions for each individual. Learn more in our Monday.com review.
- Zoho CRM offers customizable tools that allow you and your team members to craft an operations system you're comfortable with, which minimizes the learning curve. Its real-time reports give you an accurate read on your customer data, so you'll know when to adjust practices before issues worsen. Learn more in our Zoho CRM review.
- Freshworks CRM is cloud-based, customer-centric software designed to engage through excellent customer support. The streamlined experience is perfect for consistently onboarding employees and minimizing customer issues. You can scale the CRM when you're ready with over 1,100 custom apps. Learn more in our review of Freshworks CRM.
Julie Thompson and Simone Johnson contributed to the writing and reporting in this article. Some source interviews were conducted for previous versions of this article.