A CRM system stands for “customer relationship management” and it’s supposed to allow businesses to manage their customer relationships in all stages (prospecting through support). Lots of Print MIS systems have added CRM modules to their offering. This makes sense, the Print MIS should be your system of record for all the interactions you have with current customers, adding a layer on top of your Print MIS would give you access to all the business the customer transacts with you.

There are two stages / interactions that Print MIS systems need to add in order to be a true CRM system (one that manages customer relationships in all stages). The first and heavily used stage is the prospecting stage (the stage between initial contact and the first paying order otherwise known as the sales process). This is a critical component of CRM systems because tracking your sales activity helps you measure and monitor sales effectiveness and plan for growth.

As more and more print is sold online, the other customer interaction I would like to see added to Print MIS systems is the ability to track “support calls” or calls when customers need help with web-to-print systems or job status, or pre-press questions. Today I don’t see much tracking of these issues – generally there is a phone number/e-mail to reach out for help but nobody tracks who is asking what and when. This is another critical customer relationship contact that should be tracked so you can look at the data and figure out what parts of your business are generating the most calls for help. What is the labor being expended simply helping your customers do business with you?

CRM systems are bought a lot without thinking through what it would actually take to implement them. What I’ve seen, they get purchased as part of deal (a module of a larger Print MIS purchase). There is basic training given to the sales team and they are told – go for it. The results are not surprising, the CRM module becomes another victim of shelfware, two months after the training nobody is using it and everyone forgot why it was purchased in the first place. Implementing a CRM means you have to have a desired sales process in mind. You have to have a strategy as to how you want your sales team to operate, what you are going to evaluate them on, and the metrics that you’ll be tracking. I think CRM is a very powerful tool but it takes a real strategy and implementation plan to execute on it. Don’t buy it unless you are ready to invest the time and effort to truly implement it.