Evaluate: figure out what it is you need as a business
Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tools have become commonplace in a variety of different businesses over the years, not the least of which is the restaurant channel. Indeed, restaurants are proving to be among the biggest winners when it comes to reaping the benefits that an intuitive, powerful and targeted CRM platform can afford. From tracking customers and prospects, to gathering consistent insights and data, to accurately pinpointing opportunities, CRM tools enable businesses to automate repetitive processes for enhanced efficiency and customer satisfaction and, in turn, increase sales. But just as no two businesses are alike, so too are CRM tools - which is why it's important to do a little research beforehand, in order to select the CRM software that will best allow you to propel your business forward. Let's explore.
Do your research: understand the different types of CRMs and what they offer
There are different CRM systems that serve different purposes based on a variety of criteria such as the size of your business, the industry or the sales cycle. There are also CRM tools that cater especially well to restaurants.
For starters, there are Operational CRM tools that help centralize customer information - from all departments - in one place. This includes basic details such as name, contact information, likes and dislikes, as well as specifics from their last visit, so customer-facing employees can offer rapid and targeted service the second a customer walk into your venue.
Analytical CRM systems synthesize customer data from an analytical angle, then design better, more targeted sales and marketing strategies. Sales Intelligence CRM tools also work along these same lines but focus primarily on trends and sales performance.
Collaborative CRM systems integrate a wide range of external contacts such as vendors and distributors to create a larger intranet and benefit from even more customer insights and data.
Finally, Campaign management software aims to store, analyze and track marketing and sales initiatives to provide a more holistic view of the business. It goes without saying that each CRM system can also be adapted according to individual needs - features can also be incorporated on a case-by case basis as the business grows.
Clearly define your priorities
No matter the market you're in, managing your customers effectively is essential if you want your business to succeed. This is why it's important to select the right CRM software for your particular needs. So, before selecting a CRM tool for your restaurant, it's essential to clarify your vision and business goals. Some key questions to ask yourself are:
- What am I hoping to get out of this new technology?
- Is improved customer service the core of my concerns?
- Am I looking for stronger lead management?
- Do I want to streamline workflow and improve day-to-day efficiency?
- Does my CRM need to integrate social media? Send emails?
This exercise obviously requires employee involvement at every stage, from the selection process, all the way through to execution in order to yield the desired results once deployed.
Narrow your choices: what fits your budget/timeline/requirements?
CRM software tools and vendors abound - which can make it particularly challenging to know which to select for your business. While many tools may be a viable fit for your restaurant, it's best to make a list based on, first and foremost, your needs, but also on your budget, your timeline and your most basic current requirements. This will help narrow your options. It may be tempting to go all out and invest in the large-scale options, but keep in mind that growing your bottom line is steady but consistent work. It's usually best to cover your most pressing needs right away, and since CRM systems are fully scalable, to simply add functionalities as your business grows. This is why it's important to discuss options at length with potential vendors, to determine what's doable and what isn't as far as scalability goes, and to find out about all associated costs down the road.
Demo the software
An absolutely essential part of the CRM selection process is scheduling demos with your short list of potential vendors. If a vendor's software doesn't wind up meeting your restaurant's needs, is not fully optimized, or simply isn't user-friendly, it can end up being an expensive mistake. So, before you get started, make sure your potential vendors are fluent in your specific market, so you can be certain the software can adequately support your business needs. In this same mind frame, find out who their customers are - this will give you a good idea of their expertise. You'll also want to make sure to play around with the interface and navigation during the demo, and to ask a lot of questions on scalability, in order to get a real feel for how the CRM system can tangibly support your business. Find out about customizable options and customer field add-ons as well, and request to see some out-of-the box features, to get as broad a view as possible of what you'd be getting for your money.
CRM software is an incredibly valuable technology that can help you manage and grow your business. With the sheer number of CRM tools available however, it's important to do your research in order to select a robust and customizable platform adapted to your restaurant's specific needs and budget, to propel your business forward.