Customer relationship management or CRM plays an active role in bridging two key areas; sales and marketing, enabling uninterrupted communication for a close collaboration. Needless to say, this makes CRM a widely-popular and used software solution within a business setting. In fact, as per Gartner, the global spend on buying CRM software totaled to $23.2 billion during 2014.
While the employees are the real consumers of CRM, the authority to research and purchase a CRM solution often lies with just a handful of business executives. The point here is to take the real consumers (employees) into consideration before making any purchase, since they are the one who will use the software and possibly may even form opinions about it.
Getting the sales and marketing teams to adopt new CRM software, takes extra efforts. Many attribute this to a resistance tendency. However, this popular belief was contradicted in a recent survey. It showed that it is not always the resistance tendency that works against effective implementation of CRM.
The results were quite surprising:
- 78% CRM users who participated in the survey told that they strongly feel that a CRM vendor should be good corporate citizens. For them good corporate citizenship quotient is one of the major criteria to choose a CRM, apart from functionalities and technical capabilities.
- 73% of the CRM users were not afraid to speak up, and were comfortable suggesting to their employer that they only purchase from vendors with good CSR.
- Several CRM users expect their employers to purchase software only from good corporate citizens. A few of them believed that doing so is the first and foremost responsibility of an organization, while few said it must be followed at any cost.
Till now; several decision-makers in the company, often overlooked corporate citizenship quotient, while zeroing down on the CRM software. They believe that a vendor/organization delivering CRM solutions, if is good at corporate social responsibility, is high on Emotional Quotient as well and understands their employees better. This is an indicator that they as vendors will understand the employees of their client, who ultimately are the end users of the CRM solution that they will deliver.
But given the fact, how strongly CRM users feel about corporate citizenship, several potential buyers are, nowadays, focusing heavily on vendors who are good corporate citizens, too! There is a strong possibility that failing to evaluate the “good citizenship” of vendors may leave the company with a considerable amount of discontented employees.
A very prevalent opinion among CRM buyers is that it is not easy to define “what is good corporate citizenship.” Consequently, they find themselves struggling hard to asses vendors on this particular criterion. Some buyers even say that they never really thought about a software vendor’s CSR, thus often of them even avoid looking into vendors’ CSR.
Unfortunately, this inaction is noticed by the CRM consumers and it does not go well with them. Many respondents in the survey felt that their employers never shared anything about CRM vendor’s practices, or regarding the factors that influence their purchase decisions. And this communication gap, eventually results into dissatisfaction among the actual users.
3 Simple Ways to solve this CSR Conundrum
- Clear the communication channel – Start with conversation for it will help the CRM users to voice their opinions which might vary from company to company, this and even get information about CRM software that are on the buying list. Consider enlisting users for the research purpose. This enables channelized communication and even makes the purchase process transparent, further preventing any unpleasant surprises or any sort of resistance from the employees.
- Mutually agreeable tradeoffs are important. Some employees usually want to know whether the software is from an ethical vendor, than knowing about the features and functionality it offer. According to the survey data, some CRM users are ready to accept a CRM with not very attractive user interface (around 38 %), few options for customization (19 %), and even a few intuitive interfaces (18 %) in exchange for knowledge about the corporate citizenship of the vendor. When, executive CRM buyers were asked about what they willingly would sacrifice, they proposed acceptable tradeoffs. While it may differ from company to company, this did suggest that some CRM users have some freedom when they make any purchase decisions.
- Ask for CSR activities from the vendors– It can be hard to assess the CSR of a company. However, it is reasonable to ask vendors, directly about their practices. You can draft a RFP, with additional questions concerning their social and environmental activities. If asking vendor directly doesn’t turn out, consider reading the list of “The World’s Most Ethical Companies”.
- Prepare to support your decision with proper logical explanations – Not every company might have stellar CSR records, hence; you may have to decide a company with a mediocre CSR due to budget constraints or pressing business needs. If the “good corporate citizenship” gets outdone by other purchase criteria, be prepared to provide substantial reasons for the decision to the ethics-driven employees.
Employees are the ones who actual use your CRM. And these days, a lot of them care about the corporate citizenship and consider it as a major criterion. Hence, while you are in the process to seal the deal with a certain vendor, make sure you have complete idea about their track record and corporate citizenship.