One of the oldest pieces of customer-focused technology seems to be getting hot again. CRM, or customer relationship management software, is seeing a tremendous rebirth both within the multifamily industry and without.
As multifamily operators continue to look to find ways to gain greater efficiencies, improve the data they use to manage their organizations and drive overall improvements through their leasing teams, a review of the CRM you’re using and how you’re using it is a smart initiative (if you’d like some help with that, let us know).
If through your review you determine that change is in order (or if you’ve already decided that an improvement to your CRM makes sense), you’ll quickly learn that a review of what’s out there gets really complex and confusing, really fast. While the inherent purpose of CRM - managing the customer relationship - is a relatively simple idea, the implications are vast.
Here are seven important questions to consider when analyzing CRM:
Who (and What) Is the CRM Designed for?
When you look at the CRM available on the market, we find you can break them up into two categories:
- Generic CRM. These are built for multiple industries. Salesforce.com is the most well known in this category. The primary advantage of these is that they’re readily available, often inexpensive (though some, most notably Salesforce.com can also be quite expensive) and can be quite powerful. The downside is that they require significant customization work to be truly effective for multifamily operators, and can require quite an investment to maintain.
- Multifamily CRM. These systems have been built specifically for the multifamily industry to support the unique issues surrounding our industry. These CRMs can bring quite an array of opportunities to enhance performance, streamline operations and provide powerful insights to your operation.
Obviously we recommend the third category, but the right answer for you depends on how you answer the next question.
What Results Are You Looking to Get From Your Investment and Effort?
Whenever you invest in technology we recommend taking Clayton Christiansen's philosophy. Instead of “buying” technology, you’re really “hiring” it to get a job done. Well, what is that job?
Give your CRM a job performance review. After having the system in place for one year what would you be looking at to determine if it’s done a “good job?” What about after three years?
When you’re clear about the results you want, assessing CRM becomes a much simpler task.
What Features/Capabilities Are Needed to Achieve Your Objectives?
Before you even start talking to CRM vendors, take a moment to outline the type, frequency and triggering events you want to have with your prospective and existing customers. Evaluate what tools you and your team are currently using and what your processes are.
It may be tempting to shell out for the most comprehensive system you can find. But convoluted, complicated systems won’t help if people don’t adopt the system. Don’t pay more for extraneous stuff. Taking the time to examine your team’s existing process will help you make a smart, cost-effective purchase.
How Will Your Leasing Team Use It?
You don’t work in a vacuum. Consider how your leasing associates will use the technology and in what situations they will use it. This typically means that your CRM will need to be built for mobile, but your managers and admins will most likely be creating reports and checking things out on a desktop.
We recommend creating 5 - 7 scenarios (based upon the results you desire) in which you see the CRM serving an important role, and use that to assess your options.
Status Quo or Upping Your Game?
The change management is hard when adding or replacing a CRM. Are you looking to maintain the status quo or is this an opportunity to help advance your client engagement? What’s out there that you aren’t doing now?
Will It Grow with You?
As you narrow down your choices, be sure you talk with your vendor to understand the roadmap they foresee for the future. Technology changes rapidly, as does our operational environment. You’re going to want to be sure that your CRM is going to grow with you.
Who’s Building It and Why?
This last question isn’t so obvious. One reason that the CRM battle is heating up is that many technology vendors have come to realize that CRM can be a great entry way into an organization's “technology stack.” While there is certainly nothing wrong with that, as the customer you want to understand the real motivation behind the investments your vendor will be making.
The reason that this is important is that it will inform you about the logic and incentives the vendor has to invest in the CRM going forward. By ensuring your interests are aligned, you can be more confident with the decision you make.
Remember, there’s no such thing as the perfect system. There are pros and cons to every decision you make. The key to success is to ensure you go into the process with you eyes open, and with a vendor that is aligned with your objectives.