Customer Support – CRM vs. a Point Solution

CRM Customer Support or Best of BreedIf your company provides customer service or technical support directly to end customers, is the customer support functionality that’s available within most leading CRM systems sufficient for your organization’s needs?

Or should you consider a best of breed, online customer support system (a “point solution”), that’s separate from your main CRM system?

The answer depends on the nature of your business, how you interact with your customers and how easily accessible data needs to be across departments. Below is some general guidance as to what might be the best direction for your company. However, there are few hard and fast rules.

Do most of your customer support requests come in via phone?

If the answer is yes, then the customer support functionality built into most of the leading CRM systems will likely be sufficient for your needs.

Does your company offer an online subscription service and almost all of your support requests are via email, Web form or social media?

If yes, you’ll want to consider a point solution that’s optimized for rapid, team resolution of email and Web originated service requests.

Is each of your customers assigned a dedicated representative?

If each of your customers has a designated account manager or success manager with whom you want your customers to communicate directly, then a CRM system’s functionality may be a better option. When emails go to the dedicated rep’s inbox, email integration with CRM can be used to create support requests within CRM, which the dedicated rep can, in turn, directly manage.

Are you a manufacturer that’s supporting serialized equipment?

If your company is an equipment manufacturer and it’s important that support requests have a link to a serialized equipment record, your company may be better served by implementing customer support functionality within a CRM system. The relational nature of a CRM system is best suited for linking support requests to other types of records such as equipment and contract records.

Do you have a large number of named support representatives relative to your company size?

Customer service point solutions tend to be significantly less expensive per user than CRM licenses. Companies with a large number of support reps, relative to their scale, sometimes involving “follow the sun” teams across different time zones, find that a point solution is much more economical.

Do you want your customers to have access to a self service portal that includes a knowledge base, a forum and other features that can reduce the need for direct support representative involvment?

Point solutions generally offer a greater variety of self-service options than CRM systems. Because vendors of these systems are focused solely on customer service needs, they tend to be more innovative in other areas of customer support, particularly the ones that help customers find solutions without having to engage a representative. These systems also generally offer customers easier access their service request history.

Do a lot of your customers Tweet their customer service issues at your company?

If you need to manage a lot of customer services issues that are posted on Twitter and other social media platforms, the newer point solutions have better workflow for managing this type of complaint or service request.

Is a unified view of your customers, across departments within your organization, one of the most important requirements for your business’s success?

If one of your key criteria is to allow for easily accessible data for reporting and business intelligence, a CRM system will provide the most comprehensive access to customer interaction. A single system will provide better options for viewing, querying and reporting on data from a customer-centric perspective.

Are you a customer support manager who needs to have a support system up and running today and your department simply can’t wait for a long term CRM buying cycle?

CRM buying cycles can be months or even years in duration, but the ability to better support your customers may require immediate changes. If this is the case, swiping a credit card with a point solution provider and getting started right away with a more efficient way of running your department’s operations might be your best course of action. Hint: this happens a lot.

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