Customers are the lifeblood of any company, and how you find, acquire, and support them can determine the fate of yours. That is why Forbes estimates that companies spent $120 billion on Customer Relationship Management(CRM) systems. They spend this kind of money because CRMs work, to the tune of a $2.50 to $5.60 return on investment (ROI) for every dollar spent. However, not all CRM systems are perfect and there is no one-size-fits-all commercial solution.

That is why many companies decide to build their own custom CRM. Every product or service is unique, every company has its own unique processes, and integration into other business systems is difficult or non-existent. While custom CRM development may initially seem like a costly and unnecessary investment, the development costs are typically justified from a long-term perspective when compared to paying for an SaaS customer relationship management system.

If having a custom CRM is the right solution for you there are a few simple steps you can take to build the solution you need the right way. The following is a guide to the basics that can start you on your journey to more revenue, happier salespeople, and satisfied customers.

Understand what is important

Before any code is written or specifications are documented, you must get a firm understanding of what is vital to your customer relationships. Most CRM tools focus on five needs:

● Management and synchronization of customer information
● Management of customer support
● Sales and marketing process automation
● Simplicity and ease of use
● Convenience and accessibility

These are the basics. Once you capture the importance of each of these to your company, look at what other capabilities are essential. Maybe it is access to your price list or your ERP system. A critical area for many is the ability to summarize actionable insights about your customers and your sales and marketing efforts. Make a list and assign grades to each feature.

Define what is needed

Any significant software development effort needs proper requirements. They are what you develop to. This is especially true if you are using an outside team for part or all of your project. Requirements are how you communicate. CRM systems are a little different than most projects because they combine so many different needs. Here is a list of a few basic things to tick off when starting your blueprint:

● Map out the sales processes you would like each sales team to have.
● Identify how information will flow in and out of your CRM system and where it            comes from or goes to.
● Decide what you want typical CRM system features to look like. How will your sales pipeline, lead management, custom reports, or customer interactions appear to sales reps, help desk workers, and sales managers? What will you do with new leads, information from marketing campaigns, and customer satisfaction information?
● Identify each user type (sales reps, marketing, customer support, sales managers, senior managers, order processing, invoicing, etc) and document their user journeys.
● Specify which tasks you need to automate, and which business processes are best left manual.
● Determine who has what level of access to each area of the tool.
● Decide how each user type will access the tools and data, including mobile vs. desktop and if it will be via modes like a form, a list, or reports.

Keep adding to your requirements—going back to what you considered essential and making sure they are addressed. Remember that one of the goals is to streamline your current processes, so capture them for the development team.

Build a team

From the very beginning you should be engaged in the most critical step of the whole journey of developing your own CRM solution: putting together your team. The critical members of that group are the development team. If you are using outside resources, you have a lot of choices and you should take time to pick the right group. Choosing a proven development team like Zibtek is an efficient way to gain access to people who already know how to write a CRM application, including mobile CRM solutions, for other people. Even with an inside resource, be just as rigorous in deciding which developers you put on this critical project.

Besides the development team you should also add team members that are stakeholders to the table so that their needs are heard and addressed. This can include representatives from the following groups

● Sales reps
● Customer support
● Marketing
● Sales operations
● Sales management
● IT
● HR
● Training
● Accounting
● Suppliers (if you need to interface with their systems)

This can create a large team with very different priorities. But if you try to stay small and assume you know they will want and need, you will probably get it wrong. Let them be part of the process to capture their needs and benefit from their being advocates for your new CRM system when you roll it out.

Create, combine, and reuse

After understanding the “why” and capturing the “what,” it is time to start creating software. If there was ever a development project well suited for the Agile method, it would be developing a CRM. The advantages of Agile make it a perfect fit. A CRM is all about creating small modules that manage a process, handle data, and interface with other tools for a wide variety of users. Leverage the Agile process to create modules and teams.

With the Agile method, each module in your CRM can be developed and tested independently—so use that for parallel development. Then combine the modules to create your minimum viable product (MVP). The MVP should be tested by the stakeholders on your team, and their feedback used to modify and improve the solution.

The good news about creating a CRM is that most of what you need has been created already. What makes a custom solution unique is how existing tools and processes are combined and presented to users. Leverage proven modules for integration with other products and existing tools for common tasks like reporting, data analysis, and email management. If your system calls for more sophisticated features like artificial intelligence, chat bots, or social media integration, use established third party solutions.

Roll your custom CRM out

No matter how good your process was or how well you defined and met your requirements, a new CRM will fail if it is not used. Development does not end with your first launch. Rolling out your home-grown system is just another step in creating an excellent tool. And getting your employees to use the tool is critical to getting good feedback. To help, offers these 13 recommendations to get your employees to use your CRM:

  1. Involve heavy users in the rollout process.
  2. Internally market the new CRM.
  3. Provide sufficient training.
  4. Find superusers and encourage them to help others.
  5. Keep the form as simple as possible.
  6. Start simple; don’t bombard users with features.
  7. Establish an internal customer support team.
  8. Make sure senior managers are using the CRM.
  9. Turn the rollout into a game, making it fun and competitive with rewards for early adopters.
  10. Encourage cooperation between different groups of users.
  11. Make sure your CRM is mobile friendly.
  12. Test and improve connections with other systems.
  13. Don’t let salespeople use other tools.

As users dive in, take advantage of having your own CRM by capturing feedback from the rollout to improve the tool and processes it enables. Follow up with customers after a full engagement to see how your CRM system impacted them. Since you have control over all aspects of the tool you can change and add features as needed to create an even more effective solution.

Build the tool your team deserves

In the midst of such a significant undertaking, it is easy to lose sight of why you are creating a custom CRM—to do a better job of managing your relationship with your customers. Your sales, support, and marketing team are dedicated to making your company successful by finding, keeping, and growing customers. They deserve a set of tools that allows them to do their jobs better and more efficiently.

One way to make sure they have the tool they deserve is to work with a development partner that understands CRM. At Zibtek, we follow result-oriented development strategies for quality solutions.

A well-written and implemented CRM can be a key competitive advantage in today’s digital world. By creating your own tool you can optimize the processes and integration that will give your team the tools they need to manage your company’s relationship with your customers.