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The Relationship Manager Essay

Building products now have been commoditized to some extent. Thanks to easily available do-it-yourself tools, people can easily build apps with minimum programming knowledge. The differentiation, hence, lies in having a great customer relationship system that depends a lot on having the right customer relationship management (CRM) software. Baishampayan Ghose, Co-founder of mobile CRM start-up, Helpshift, that raised $23 million in June this year, puts in perspective on how to pick the CRM software meant for you.

Is there any checklist for start-ups to pick the right CRM tool?

Yes. First and most important fact is that CRM software should be an inbuilt feature of the app. Most of them are just customer ‘record’ management tools, which are not plugged-in to the application. For example, for customer support, if a link in an app redirects customers to send an email for query, that means the support is not integrated with the app. Secondly, if a start-up is building a mobile product, then the CRM should also be mobile-friendly.

Third, start-ups should be aware of their scalability requirements, that is, number of users in future. Fourth, CRM should automate responses to customers’ queries. Let’s say, if a customer wants to know the status of his/her order on an e-commerce website’s customer service section, then he/she shouldn’t be asked redundant questions, like when he/she had placed the order or the payment mode. Fifth, it should integrate with third party tools. For example, if your sales records are saved in a separate software, then your CRM should be able to extract data from there and offer an integrated view of customer’s account.

On-premise or cloud CRM, which one is more apt?

Entrepreneurs in changing market conditions have to abide by fail-fast system to figure out quickly whether they are succeeding or failing in business. In such a scenario, you don’t want to make too much capital expenditure initially.

Hence, cloud-based platforms are more apt as you don’t need to buy hardware and you can scale up your CRM requirements as your business grows. Let’s say from 500 users to five million users, your CRM’s capability should increase accordingly. On-premise CRMs will never be capable of that as they will need continuous investments to run, along with costs related to maintenance, software updates etc.

What about the vulnerability factor?

Cloud CRM is a double-edged sword because it exposes you to security issues. No CRM can guarantee you of zero vulnerability, but it is cheaper and quicker to fix. If you look at available list of vulnerabilities, you will understand which softwares are most vulnerable. Windows operating system is more vulnerable than Linux, but that doesn’t mean Linux has no vulnerabilities.

CRMs should be pay-as-you-go tools or does one-size-fits-all approach work?

I will say pay-as-you-go. CRMs should have flexible pricing system. Helpshift CRM is free if you have less than 10,000 monthly active users. An ideal CRM shouldn’t have a fixed price.

(This article first appeared in the Indian edition of Entrepreneur magazine (October 2016 Issue).

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