Good Reasons to Get a New Tool

But enough negativity! There are plenty of good reasons to get a new tool. Here are six situations that should prompt you to seriously consider a change.

We Have No CRM Tool

Let's face it: you're behind the times. There are so many ways in which a CRM tool can improve the way you work with your customers while helping the bottom line. Are you afraid that it's going to take lots of time and money? This tutorial is here to guide you through the process.

We Use A Homegrown Tool

Once upon a time, there were no commercial CRM tools and companies built their own. Now that CRM vendors have had years to refine their technology and offerings, it's very rare to find a homegrown tool that combines good functionality with affordable upkeep. In my experience, most homegrown products are hopelessly old-fashioned because it costs too much to keep maintaining them properly. So if you are using a homegrown tool, and unless you are ecstatically satisfied with it, you should consider going mainstream. True, you will lose the ultimate customized look and feel of homegrown, but you will gain affordable maintenance and timely adoption of new technology since the cost is spread among thousands of clients. While going through the selection process, keep an open mind to changing the way you do business to match the capabilities of the new tool. The most common mistake people make when switching from a homegrown tool is to over-customize. It's costly, of course, but more importantly, when the next release comes, upgrading requires almost as much work again, and you're back in the mode of overspending on maintenance. So if you are switching from a homegrown tool, remember to keep customizations to a strict minimum.

We Have No Customer Portal

A telltale sign of an old, obsolete tool is a complete inward focus. If your tool offers no customer portal, or one that's so limited and painful to set up that it's not functional, it is a not-so-subtle sign that you need to move on. Good portal functionality is not merely "cool," it's that wonderful kind of technology that's truly useful. So if you cannot get a clear commitment from your vendor on when it will become available, start looking elsewhere. And even if you get an acceptable commitment, you should question your vendor's ability to keep up with new ideas. Portals are not this year's new, new thing! If your tool does include acceptable portal functionality, but you have not deployed it, go find a way to get it done right away. You can't use your inability to act as a ticket to get a new tool.

Our Tool Is Really Slow

While lack of functionality is the #1 reason why internal users shy away from using a CRM tool, slow performance is a close second. I've seen implementations where it took a full minute (that's 60 seconds) to refresh a screen. No wonder the real work took place on paper! If your tool is really slow, do not immediately conclude that it needs to be discarded. Request a performance audit from the vendor (this is better than having an independent third-party perform the audit because there are fewer directions in which to point fingers). The vendor should be able to identify hardware and configuration changes to improve performance. If no relief is possible (or none without massive additional investment) it's probably because you have exceeded the capabilities of the tool, or the underlying architecture does not scale well. Either way, it's time to go shopping.

Our Vendor Disappeared

The CRM world has seen enormous numbers of acquisitions, outright failures, and strategy changes over the past few years, to the point where my customers sometimes have trouble recalling the name of the vendor of the CRM tool they use daily. While many such changes occur without causing long-term damage to the underlying products, you may well be a victim of an orphan tool. What to do? If you find that your tool is being "end-of-lifed" or is being described by some other polite, death-suggesting understatement, don't immediately conclude that an immediate uprooting to a different tool is necessary. Take the opportunity to reassess your tool strategy rather than blindly following the path the vendor is suggesting. There's no need to rush into a decision; typically orphaned tools are supported for several months to several years, giving you enough time to make a rational choice. If the tool is orphaned because of an acquisition, you will probably be given the option to "upgrade" to the acquiring party's tool. Carefully weigh the benefits and costs of the upgrade, which is really a migration. As in any tool migration, you are facing what will almost certainly amount to a full re-implementation. It's likely that the vendor will provide special implementation assistance for the migration to retain the customer base. The vendor may provide special incentives and attention to the accounts that upgrade early, and they will need to be balanced against the additional level of experience that will be gained during the early upgrades and leveraged for later ones. The ownership of the license typically carries over but do ask about potentially higher maintenance fees based on a different license price structure. Maintenance costs should also weigh in your decision. If you are not happy with your current tool, and the features of the new one are not appealing either, you should be able to get a good deal from another vendor eager to capture some of the accounts in transition away from their suddenly larger competitor.

We Have Time And Resources To Do A Good Job

It's best to make tool changes when you are not under the gun. If your tool is working fairly well, but you anticipate issues with functionality, performance, or vendor stability to impact you within a year or two, it's a good idea to start looking now. Although quick implementations are certainly possible, giving yourself several months for the initial tool selection phase makes for a more enlightened, less stressful, and more economical choice. By now, you should have a good idea of whether you need a new tool. Let's see how to go about selecting, acquiring, and implementing one.