Some years ago, I worked for a company whose main motto was Customer Satisfaction is Our Success. I guess that is a perfect choice of any company’s philosophy as customer relations matter a lot for success of any business, regardless of its type, size, presence market etc. But making your clients satisfied requires heavy efforts, the most important of which is effective client management. Many of us still remember those days when all customer management activities were done either on paper or in electronic spreadsheets such as Microsoft Excel. In fact, many small and even medium companies still maintain that practice. However, if you want developing your business, increasing your buyers headcount, and meeting your obligations before them, you need to step aside from such primitive approach – you need an offbeat customer relationship management (CRM) software.
Our below post is focused exactly on explaining the reasons that can justify making your own CRM system. You will know how the cost of building a CRM system compares against buying a generic CRM solution and customizing it to your needs. We will also share a brief description of custom CRM platform types and their benefits.
Developing Custom CRM Advantages
When a company luckily flows into its customers increase and no longer can effectively take care of the whole pipeline, it’s the right time to plan for integrating a CRM solution into its business processes.
The company may choose between two alternatives: buy CRM software or develop custom CRM solution. They both have their strong and weak sides.
Let us leave aside advantages of buying a ready CRM solution and focus on those you get after making up to build your own CRM system.
1.Exquisite compliance with company needs
Even if you are very lucky to find a CRM solution which is not very expensive and as close to meeting your requirements as possible, your company will have to pay a CRM customization cost in order to adapt the purchased software to the company’s needs and requirements. It is so because nobody in the world is able to forecast which capabilities or features are pivotal for your business and include them into a CRM solution they sell. Opposite to that, if you make up your mind to create your own CRM software, you will have a system that fulfills all your requirements and satisfies all your needs you may have to effectively manage your customers.
2.Business process improvement
Custom CRMs leverage business process automation and personification. A CRM system built to match your business needs is capable to automatically categorize all your incoming correspondence, track your leads, control all comments, supervise and manage all other activities. Your CRM system automatically can assign statuses to any component of a business process or task thus ensuring proper logging of all details for future needs. You can personalize all types of actions in the CRM without affecting its efficient and targeted operation. This is how you can accelerate customer-specific operations, remove the human factor risk, and, thanks to automated status tracking and information recording you will be able to establish an individual approach to each of your customers. You will be also able to significantly raise business forecasts accuracy – your custom CRM system collects all needed data and analyze it, providing you with preliminary but accurate forecasts you may further polish to perfection.
Off-the-shelf CRM systems can work well for small companies running more or less standard business activities. But as soon as there is an increase in client numbers or when your business activity is not of a standard type, you may have to spend extra costs to scale up the CRM software or adapt it to meet the increased needs. This is where custom CRMs are far ahead of the COTS ones: when you develop your own system you automatically anticipate future growth of your business, and create a stepping stone to it. As a result, you won’t need later to pay big money to get a needed level of scalability.
Types of CRM Software
When you elect to build your own CRM system and have even done some calculations to know the cost to develop custom CRM solution, you need to figure out the type of the CRM system you need.
Customer Relations Management systems of this category help businesses collect all information on each customer into a single file from multiple sources. It is focused on direct interactions between your company and your customers and, basically, helps you better care about your consumers. Good examples of Operational CRMs are “front office” software solutions that ensure marketing automation, sales force automation, and service automation.
Focal mission of this CRM type is data analysis with a view to enable more efficient decision-making and campaign marketing. The system gathers information from multiple channel and then analyzes is a structured way with its further submission to sales and customer service departments in order to strengthen and improve relations with the company’s customers. Unlike Operational CRMs, Analytical ones are mainly organizational back-office operations and analysis support systems providing for efficient customer/marketing/sales/service/channel analysis.
These solutions focus on providing various business units (such as departments or directorates) of one company with a single platform for exchanging the customer information to raise performance, customer loyalty and satisfaction. Their main aim is to improve the customer service, retention, and freedom. If you see that a CRM system focuses on interaction management (setting up a dedicated medium within an organization to deal with customer-specific interactions and to increase the scale and intensity of communications between both parties) and channel management (improving channel interaction via the use of the latest communications and not only technologies), then this software is definitely an Analytical CRM.
Core CRM Features
All types of CRM software, whether it be a COTS system or an MTO solution, has its own pack of features. In fact, these packs can include like dozens of add-ons and modules, and the more features the software has, the more it will cost. But there are certain features which are core for the CRMs.
DIGIS has asked our clients and friends this question, and here is what we’ve got back from them.
- Ease of Use
One of the most essential features of a suitable CRM solution should be its ease of use. It should be as much simple in use as possible. You may develop tons of visual presentations to prove your CRM product is a killer and provide heaps of statistics supporting it, but it won’t matter if people who are to use the system find it awfully tough for efficient and accurate use.
- Marketing Automation
As clear from the name, it is about automating a company’s marketing processes. Your company may not need this feature as long as you maintain dedicated communication with your customers in the course of the marketing campaigns. But as soon as your environment turns to be multichannel, you will find that it’s rather difficult to implement marketing strategies and keep direct communication. That’s where the MA feature steps in: the system will present communications and offers to customers based on preset event schedule and program, in a fully automated manner. Such approach ensures that customers receive the best matching offers and helps retain the customers.
- Contact Management
Contact Management allows user to sort contacts by groups in order to better care about them. It helps collect meaningful customer information and use it to enhance marketing campaigns and strategies. Contact Management also provides for a high level of contacts personification letting your customers feel and perceive individual approach. Actually, according to our clients, their customers named this aspect — personalized approach — as the one that has the biggest influence on their satisfaction.
- Salesforce Automation
In addition to providing tools and methods for dealing with existing customers, CRM systems also help get new customers. They initiate and run a long routine starting with customer identification and logging all relevant information on this customer in the CRM system. Then lead generation phase starts, which is followed by lead qualification as prospects. After that salespeople follow up with the prospects and try to convert them into buyers. The whole sales pipeline is efficiently managed and controlled by Salesforce Automation feature, ensuring all stages are properly completed.
- Mobile CRM
Since almost everyone has a smartphone or tablet today, it would be a crime not using them for benefiting the company’s business. Mobile CRM apps let you do all the customer relationship management on the go from any place. Your personnel gets the opportunity to view crucial customer- and product-specific data and receive all important alerts and notifications on their mobile devices.
- Customer Analytics
This feature is needed to analyze your customer behavior and model and assess your customer indicators in order to let you further understand your customers better and develop better strategies on their treatment. Using this feature you will get multiple charts, diagrams and other visual and numerical aids full of important statistics you may use to forecast your customers’ needs and your company’s operations. This will also help you find points requiring improvement, and plan your CRM budgets more precisely.
- Sales Analytics
Dedicated Sales Analytics module in your CRM system serves as a perfect tool to plan, model, and forecast volumes of your sales and amounts of your profits by means of a reliable and ongoing analysis of sales data. It collects sales data from multiple sources, such as social networks, website traffic, Internet polls, and analyzes it thus helping you streamline your sales pipeline by removing unneeded links, adding new strategies, refocusing on other products and so on.
- Interaction Management
This feature is responsible for managing all interactions between your company and your customers. Some customers prefer to get communications from their vendors through such paperless channels as email, phone, or chatting in social networks; others may want to have in-person messages or receive paper post letters. No matter which channel the customers may choose, for your company it is crucial to contact them through a channel of their choice only. That’s how interaction management feature works: it deals with and manages all such communications with your customers across a wide variety of available channels.
Reporting feature in most cases is combined with Dashboard. It helps you monitor your marketing performance, track sales and customer support indicators. This combination lets you get better understanding of your customers. It enables aggregation of data from multiple sources and multiple teams in order to submit it to management for further analysis and decision-making. Using Reporting and Dashboards tools, you will be able to sort your customers by location, industry, company size, revenue or any other attribute. It also allows you perform back-analysis of your customers and your sales, i.e. how those have been changing over time.
- Tasks and Reminders
With Tasks feature you can automatically create and assign tasks to virtually all items on your sales pipeline. You may create tasks and set reminders for appointments, meetings, calls, deliveries etc. You are able to manage tasks for certain contacts and on certain occasions or events. You can categorize your tasks and further customize the categorize by adding relevant tags or assigning color codes of your choice. Full integration with the calendar provides for a complete overview of all upcoming tasks.
Custom CRM Features
In addition to the core features attached to a CRM system, there can be a variety of additional features which custom-built to meet specific customer needs and requirements. The below list let you see which else features can be implemented in a robust CRM software.
- Sales Forecasting
Forecasting feature allows creating a set of metrics which you can use to figure out how your sales results correlates with the efforts taken by you. The same data can be used to identify target areas for your efforts in future.
- Email Marketing Integration
Most CRM solutions available on the market are supplied with Email Marketing Integration feature that lets you send emails and newsletter and then follow up with the customers they are addressed to. All responses are stored in the CRM, so you can easily use them later and track efficiency of your email marketing campaigns by individual customers.
- Workflow and Approvals
CRM software helps your company raise its efficiency by workflow optimization. It can be achieved via automating such processes as data collection and analysis, marketing campaigns etc., i.e. those jobs, which were manual before. The user may also utilize reporting and analytics tools to determine issues to be fixed.
- Sales Data
The most beneficial functionality of a CRM system is that you may use it to organize sales and customer data into easily manageable arrays. Users, after collecting raw data, may use it to visualize such things as KPIs and to determine problem areas and make data-driven decisions.
- CRM Data/File Storage
CRM software ensures proper storage of data that allows for its easy fetching by users in case of need and for its secure protection and backup in order to avoid data losses or unauthorized data disclosure.
- Files Sync and Share
CRM systems can serve as a platform to sync multiple external applications. CRMs allow importing your Outlook or Gmail emails, establishing sync link with Microsoft OneDrive or Google Drive, importing documents etc. This further helps you avoid using dozens of outside programs – you need just one CRM that enables all file sharing and synching.
- Inside Sales Console
This feature is like an improved User Interface that helps your enhance your sales performance. It encompasses a certain degree of data analytics to optimize and improve customer experience.
- Sales Performance Management
It’s a feature intended more for sales teams: managers are able to track how well the company’s salesperson perform and identify items where improvements are needed. The CRM platform provides you with the tools to manage your sales partners for ensuring the best possible performance. It also helps you plot issues using reliable data and, as a result, address those issues in a more efficient way.
- Marketing Automation Integration
This feature of the CRM solutions helps you target those audiences, which seem to have interest in purchasing your products or services, more efficiently. It also provides you with the possibility to selectively control how you ensure automation of your company’s marketing program in general or any of its part.
- Chat Integration
An absolutely irreplaceable feature today, when voice communications seem to be left behind efficient texting via various messengers. This feature allows integrating any suitable chat program into your primary CRM system and maintain an uninterrupted communication link with the personnel, partners, vendors, and even customers, without leaving your customary CRM interface.
- Call Center Automation and Integration
Being among the most important features of any CRM system, this one helps you have control over your company’s call center or help desk from within the CRM. It also allows integrating any external application – e.g. Zendesk – into your CRM. Reduction in the number of applications and software you use prevents information losses and allows avoiding unneeded confusions.
- Web Analytics Integration
With this feature, you will be able not only to collect data about your site visitors but also analyze this data, determine areas needing improvement and identify how exactly they need to be improved. You can also better understand how visitors interact with your website.
- Support Automation
A dedicated component of your CRM platform aimed to automate FAQs, chatbots and email mailings to the customers.
- Cloud-Based or On-Premise CRM
With so many SaaS migrating to the network or even into the cloud, it would be strange not to have network- and cloud-based capabilities implemented in highly demanded CRM products. Both Cloud-based and On-premise CRMs are network-based solutions, with that difference that On-premise CRM is deployed in the network based on onsite hardware and software, while Cloud-based CRM runs completely on remote servers where such operations as software updates, security activities, equipment upgrade, data backups are the responsibility of CRM software provider.
- Product Level Quotes
Cross-platform feature that allows you to keep inventory of your products. It helps you see which products sells well to customers and which sales could be improved.
- Role-Based Views
Additional protection feature providing different CRM software users with different access and usage rights. Each role gets its piece of pie, and this approach protects your company from customer- and business-critical information leaks and associated security breaches.
- Testing Environment
This feature is also known as “sandbox”” and serves as a place where users can test new capabilities of the system before releasing them to production. This feature allows your users inject new changes; your customers try these changes and provide their feedback so needed to enhance the CRM system performance. And the sandboxes allow your customers avoid disappointment with the service and help your company increase conversion rate and take justified decisions.
- 3rd-Party Integrations
The more third-party software solutions are integrated into your CRM system, the more functional and efficient it is. So, this feature lets you connect various external applications such as ERP, BI, and HR, and do not spend time on jumping between apps.
- Customization Options
The more customizable your CRM software is, the more flexible you can be in using it. If a CRM system is customizable, it will grow together with your company, allowing for sufficient scalability and adaptation of your business processes.
- Social Media Management Integration
It is always good to have SMM tools, which are not running in external systems but are implemented inside your CRM application. SMM integration capability allows you to connect your favorite SMM platforms to your well-known CRM and happily use them together from a single interface.
How Much Does It Cost To Build Your Own CRM System
It looks absolutely clear that average cost of CRM development varies significantly depending on the set of features you want your custom CRM system to have. It would be safe to say that the starting price tag for building a made-to-order (in other words – custom) CRM system for SMBs is somewhere near USD 50,000 – 70,000. The upper limits are not so clearly defined, as the final cost to develop custom CRM system will depend on the project scope, client requirements, choice of technologies, and multiple other factors.
We attempted to compile a list of factors affecting the cost of CRM software creating.
- Purpose: What type of CRM solution you need: Operational, Analytical, or Collaborative?
- Capacity: How many active users your CRM system needs to handle?
- Security: How many tiers of your customer information protection your CRM application needs to have?
- UX: Shall your CRM system be easy and convenient to use, or do you need a heavily sophisticated all-in-one enterprise-level software platform?
- Scalability: Do you anticipate that your company will grow and thus need your CRM to be easily scalable if required?
- Delivery: Do you need your CRM aid ASAP or is it a long-term project?
- Developers’ labor cost: It is last but not least factor that has a huge effect on the price
Now, let’s see breakdown of a custom CRM software development cost:
|Item||Job||Time and Cost|
|1||Sales Management, Analysis, Planning, and Forecasting Features||1300 – 2000 man-hours, depending on the depth of features|
|2||Marketing Automation, Marketing Campaign Management, Marketing Analytics Features||600 – 1000 man-hours|
|3||Customer Service and Support Features||900 – 1700 man-hours|
|TOTAL, time||2800 to 4700 man-hours|
|TOTAL, cost||From USD 84,000 to USD 141,000 (if we take USD 30/h rate of software development)|
It should be noted that these are figures for generally average and small CRM system for a small to medium company. In case you need a complicated and comprehensive CRM platform, you will need to add at least 10 more features to the list of your requirements, and the final cost to build a CRM solution fit for your needs can go a long way up.
Having almost 10 years of CRM development experience, DIGIS recommends being very and even more scrupulous and attentive to going with a decision to build your own CRM system. First: leave this job to a specialized software development company, as the cost to develop custom CRM solution by your company in-house could be totally unbearable.
Second: choose a reliable and reputable contractor to outsource your CRM development project; use all available sources of the information about potential contractor – Upwork, Clutch, profile software development communities, friends’ recommendations etc.
Third: after finding the matching contractor to create custom CRM system, discuss with them all possible requirements, opinions, needs, concerns, and issues you have. The fewer white spots are left, the fewer misunderstandings and uncertainties there will be during the development.
Fourth: choose the proper type of CRM system you are going to order; make sure it will address all your business needs; beware that choosing a wrong type may cause huge financial and time losses for your company.
Fifth: set up a list of features you need to have in your custom CRM software, but do not try to choose all and every possible feature – it will result in a sky-high increase in the system cost and its excessive complexity, which, in its turn, will disappoint the system users and worsen their experience.
One of our good friends and partners, CRMTronic Inc., came to us several years ago just to get some consultation on building a fully custom subscription-based CRM platform. We told them the same 5 principles as mentioned above, and CRMTronic left our office knowing what to do. A month, later they came back and signed a contract for CRM software development. You may visit our website to read our case study on implementing the CRMTronic project and to see which challenges we both were then facing and which decisions we took to overcome those and build a CRM product that helped our client satisfy its business needs and increase its business performance.
In conclusion, we will be happy to consult any company on the issues of custom CRM development. If your company needs any such advice, feel free to contact us.