Call Support!

I’ve written about this before but it’s worth repeating because I just had someone email me who is trialing two CRMs I suggested to him. He liked one better than the other but he asked me for another recommendation because the one he liked didn’t synch with Google. But it does! He was ready to give up on one he liked because it didn’t do one thing he wanted it to do. Maybe understandable but, he didn’t take the time to confirm with support that it did indeed not do it! Say that three times fast.

You need to call support!

Many agents trial CRMs much too quickly. They don’t understand that they need to spend the time necessary to truly give it a chance. That’s easier to understand if it was one that they picked out of a hat. But remember, if you spend a fair amount of time trying to find one and it is recommended by me or someone whose opinion you respect, give it a fair effort.

Make a list of the things you want it to do that you think it cannot. Then call support and find out. Don’t assume because you can’t figure it out that it can’t be done. OK? Have a positive attitude and don’t give up too quickly!

Top 10 features to look for in a CRM

While everyone has their preferences of what are the most important features to them, the following should be basic requirements for everyone. Each of the following is a topic which I have written about extensively in my book, but the following is a brief description of each.

  1. E-mail stored with the contact record – This is a major issue about which I have written an entire article in the past. Please click here to see that article.
  2. Bulk e-mail – If you don’t already do a periodic e-mailing to your sphere of influence, you should. It musthave a good perceived value if you expect it to be opened, and you can’t overdo it. You can do this with any number of third party solutions such as Constant Contact or others, but that requires maintaining two separate databases which is a waste of time. Your CRM should allow you to either send that out through their servers, or have a relationship with a third party solution that allows you to mail directly through them without maintaining two databases.
  3. Document storage – Paperless is good, but we still have to retain the documents for potential future retrieval. Your CRM should provide the capability to store your contract paperwork as well as any related documents in a manner that provides a way to associate them with a transaction or contact record.
  4. Ease of use – Not to be confused with Easy to learn or Intuitive. Easy to use means that some CRMs require too many clicks to perform simple tasks such as adding or retrieving contact or property information, starting a follow-up plan, or making an appointment with a contact. One caveat is that while some CRMs may be a little more cumbersome to use, if they also have a number of other features that are unavailable in other CRMs, the overall efficiency may be worth it.
  5. Tech support – Phone support should be available at least during business hours, with extended hours being desirable. When you are trialing a CRM, make sure to call support at different times of the day and different days of the week. If you don’t really have any questions, make some up! Seriously, you need to check their response time, willingness to resolve your issue, and familiarity with the product before you purchase.
  6. E-mail drip campaign capability – Your CRM should have the ability to create a variety of e-mails that go out to a contact at pre-determined intervals when you launch that campaign. Some CRMs have campaigns already included, whereas some enable you to create them, but do not already have the e-mail templates. Either is acceptable, but the latter requires that you either create them yourself, or purchase a set of templates/campaigns and import/install them into the CRM.
  7. Activity Plan capability – One of the primary features that set most real estate specific CRMs apart from many generic CRMs is the ability to create a set of tasks, including but not limited to to-do’s, phone calls, e-mails, and letters, that are posted to your task list automatically at a pre-determined number of days after the launch of the plan. This is the kind of plan you would use to be reminded to call a prospect, or follow-up with past clients to stay in touch, with something other than an e-mail. You would also use activity plans for listings and closings to keep you on track with the many details associated with a transaction.
  8. Calendar with appointments linked to contacts – When making an appointment, it should be linked to a contact or a transaction so that as the appointments or tasks are completed, they become a part of the history of that contact or transaction that can be referred to. Optimally that can be used to automatically create a status report for the client’s reference.
  9. Cross platform capability – Optimally, when you select a CRM, you should hope to never change to a different one. Choosing one that works on both Windows and Mac, any kind of phone, or any kind of tablet computer, prevents being limited to what kind of hardware you choose to use in the future.
  10. Phone synchronization – Having your address book and calendar information shared between your CRM and your phone should be a basic requirement. There are essentially two ways to accomplish this. One is that the information is synchronized between the CRM and the phone, which essentially compares the existing data on the devices and then merges whatever is different. While this is the most common way to share the data between the devices, there is no perfect synchronization method to date. The other is for the devices to all essentially be sharing the same database in a live real time environment. The most common method to accomplish this is with an “exchange” environment, well known to Outlook users. More recently though, some CRMs are using what is essentially a “window” into the CRM data with a link that provides access to a limited number of features such as address book, calendar, leads, and in some cases basic transaction information.

Your goal for a CRM should be for it to be the hub of your business as much as possible. Eliminating redundant data entry by having to use many different applications is key to be being efficient. Using different applications typically enables you to have the best of each kind of feature, but it also reduces overall efficiency. Accepting less than the best of each function when the CRM provides adequate alternatives is the best overall solution in my opinion. This is something I have been promoting for many years, and I am finally seeing a trend towards that end in CRM purchasing decisions. Find a CRM and commit to using it to truly run your business, and you will be amazed at how much more efficient you will be, how much better your customer service will be, and how much stress you will see eliminated from your daily life.

It takes time to learn and integrate a CRM into your business. You have to be ready to make the commitment necessary to make the best of it. It is a mindset. From my book:

“You do not have to like the time you invest into becoming proficient with a good CRMBut if you want to grow your business, while having more of a life, with less stress, with less mistakes, with better service, with less staff, with more compliments, with more referrals, then you need it.”

Contact Management Tech Support – How much should you expect?

Different vendors have different ideas of what Tech-Support means. What I call Tech-Support, as defined in my Matrix, is “If it is broke, we will help you fix it”. In other words, if their software is not working; it is not doing something it is supposed to do; or it is doing something it is not supposed to do, they will help you fix it. A different kind of support would be if you call and ask how to do a mail merge. Tech-Supportwill USUALLY refer you to a user’s manual or training videos. What I call Help-Desk is a policy whereby they will help you fix problems, but will also walk you through how to do something, as a normal part of their service.

Why the two different policies? Revenue streams. Income. Tech-Support/Help-Desk is one of, if not the biggest expense software vendors have. Web based products have an ongoing stream of income. They get paid thousands of dollars by thousands of people every month. That is many thousands of dollars every month, whether they get any new customers/users or not. That pays for a larger support staff. If they are big enough, they can answer the phone directly, much if not most of the time.

Desktop solutions on the other hand are paid only once, up front, when you purchase the product. They will then provide you with Tech-Support and with some products Help-Desk support for anywhere from 30 days to one year. After that you must pay for it, with some exceptions. What percentage of people pay for it after the 30 days or one year? Very few. which makes for a much smaller support staff, longer response times, and a narrower scope of what they will help with. If they have a large user base, and were to attempt to provide significantly more, most would simply end up going out of business. Typical response times for desktop software varies, but can be as much as 24 hours. Longer than that should be unacceptable.

Am I saying that desktop solutions are a bad idea? Absolutely not! I use one myself. The point is that I wanted to speak up for desktop solutions that are getting a bad rap about tech support. Too many people expect too much for too little.

Another tendency (not a hard and fast rule) I’ve seen with desktop solutions is that the more users there are, the more questions there are, and the more of a demand that is placed on support. As the company sells more product, it is a cart and horse thing dealing with increased sales, generating more of a demand on support, and being able to grow the support staff commensurately. Obviously, the better the product, the less of a need for support. But there are still a good percentage of users that want hand holding, so again the more users, the more demand for support.

Be aware that NO RE CRM company TRULY offers 24/7 support, by phone or by e-mail that they will commit to. Some do go the extra mile when they can, and some offer extended hours via e-mail, but virtually none work on weekends, again, that they will commit to.

So income is the primary reason for the two different policies. It makes sense, and if you are objective about it, it is also quite fair.

What I hear very often is that people do not want to pay for a Web based product, because they want to own the software, and not pay for it monthly. BUT – they then want to have Tech-Support, and many expect Help-Desk support as well. Sorry to disappoint, but an old adage come to mind. “You can’t have your cake and eat it too.” You can say “I paid for the software and I should get support for that money too”, and you do, to a point. But again, that one time fee just doesn’t last very long. If you want ongoing quickly answered phone support, more often than not, you have to pay an ongoing fee.

The questions then become; if the product is stable, and they have a good training tutorial library available, how much do you need in the way of support after the initial setup? Do they have a “per incident” fee for support? Might that be sufficient for relatively rare future needs?