As our company grew, we began to struggle with developing a centralized solution for managing our customers’ information. Most of the information was saved in files on our computers, and we were able to access it fairly quickly thanks to a hierarchic folder structure.
The challenge we faced with managing our customers’ information was that everyone on our team had a copy of our customers’ files locally. Over time we accumulated many copies of this crucial information and they were distributed on different computers.
We had also placed our customers’ files on a secured web server so we could all access the same files and update them, but the lack of an organized format made it ineffective. It was clear that we needed a centralized data managing system.
The following options were considered:
- Build a MS Access-based application for internal use.
- Build a custom cloud-based application.
- Use an existing CRM (Customer Relationship Management) solution.
Option #1 looked promising at first, mainly because of potential flexibility of the system. However, the having to determine all the needs of the organization made it a very complex project.
Option #2 is even more complex as it involved a lot of advanced programming in addition to having the same challenge as the first option.
We analyzed existing local and cloud-based CRM solutions and found that the nature of our business often requires accessing information outside of the local office.
We checked the following reputable cloud based CRM solutions: Salesforce, Autotask, FatfreeCRM, and SugarCRM.
We were very impressed by Salesforce’s professional and enterprise additions. Unfortunately, $65 per user per month seemed very expensive at that time. Meanwhile, Autotask has an advanced system specially built for IT professionals, but it had user fees as well. We discovered that Fatfree CRM is pretty challenging to set up. In the end, we decided to go with SugarCRM.
The one thing we liked very much about SugarCRM is that they have a free Community Edition, which you can install on your own hosting or server. SugarCRM’s system may not be as good as the one offered by Salesforce, but it is still very advanced, mature, and dependable. SugarCRM also has a set of applications and add-ons available online similar to those provided by Salesforce.
SugarCRM gave us the ability to:
- Access and manage all of our sales leads, contacts, accounts, tasks, projects, and cases.
- Collaborate online in one centralized place.
- Monitor all activity.
- Create our own personalized user accounts.
- Assign accounts, tasks, and monitor progress of projects and assignments.
- Set permissions for users of the system.
- Produce case reports and graphics.
Our company’s operations are more effective and our customer service is much better. Our customers’ information is organized and everyone in our company has access to the same data.