It will not come as a shock if I say that CRM stands for the customer relationship management. However, I have been wondering lately what it really means to have a tool that can facilitate customer relationships management.
First, let me clarify why the question came up at all. I am a Dynamics CRM consultant, and I have always thought that the best way to keep up with Dynamics CRM is to use it as much as possible. Then, of course, there is “eat your own dog food” approach that dictates that you should be using what you are recommending to your clients. Long story short, I started to wonder if I could use CRM for my own “consulting practice”.
Apparently, there are things I could do with Dynamics CRM, so the next question was how do I get it set up. This is where you have to keep in mind that I am an independent consultant, so I am not, really, too keen on the idea of spending extra 400-500 dollars per month just to get those 5 professional licenses and, possibly, a few extra features for CRM online. Well, I have to say Microsoft does not make it easy for the independent consultants to actually use Dynamics CRM.
Therefore, once I hit that roadblock, I figured that there are, probably, other systems I could use instead. SalesForce was not a consideration – it would be just as expensive. But, then, there are other systems like Zoho CRM, Insightly, YouDontNeedaCRM.. you name it.
That’s where I had to answer the question of what it would mean to have a CRM system that would be relevant to my work. The findings were quite frustrating, and, also, quite interesting. On the one hand, I found that none of those smaller CRM systems come close to Dynamics. On the other hand, I also found that those smaller systems are not, necessarily, that cheap. Not unless you want to stick to the basic versions.
Here is a very simple example. As a CRM consultant, I may have to create an invoice for my client in the end of the month. I could do it directly in Dynamics CRM or I could use 2-3 different systems if I went with Zoho, for example. So.. Does it mean Zoho is not a CRM system? Or does it mean Dynamics CRM is, actually, more than CRM?
Personally, I think Dynamics is taking it to the extreme, but, as it’s happening, that extreme is becoming the new norm. Yes, invoicing might not be part of the classic CRM. However, invoicing is still part of maintaining our relationships with the customers. Just like field service management might not be part of CRM, yet, again, it’s not something isolated from the customer relationships management. Therefore, the answer to the original question seems to be that Dynamics CRM is what CRM should look like. Including the fact that Dynamics CRM is always evolving into something more advanced.
PS. Unfortunately, in terms of choosing a CRM for my own work this kind of answer is not making it any easier since I have to choose between a great system which is relatively expensive and a much more basic system which is much less expensive. That is a tricky situation – I have a feeling it is going to be all or nothing in my case.