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Five Questions to Ask When Switching CRMs

Thinking about a technology switch can seem overwhelming. Here are five questions to ask to help you find the perfect match!

Five Questions to Ask When Switching CRMs

Maybe your vendor is adding capabilities by acquiring competitors. Maybe the lack of support leaves you wanting to tear your hair out, or maybe the system has just gotten too hard to use. You know it’s time…time to switch to a new nonprofit CRM.

And that can be stressful!overwhelmed womanAt CharityEngine, we talk to clients daily who are fed up with their software and want to explore their options. We counsel them to do their shopping and to ask vendors five key questions to see if they’re a good fit.

Erik Hartwig, our Senior Sales Director, recently offered a webinar on the smart questions you need to ask when switching CRMs. He may be a sales guy, but he’s not selling anything. Rather, he’s just educating nonprofits so they (you!) can make an informed decision.

Signs it’s Time for a New CRM

If you’re on the fence about whether your current system is just good enough or whether you really need an overhaul, we find there are five signs that spell impending doom:

  1. Data is siloed. If your data isn’t talking, you are missing insights that can lead to increased fundraising. Having a holistic view of your donors and their engagement is critical to nonprofit success.
  2. It’s hard to extract reports. You should be able to pull custom reports and see your data through any lens you want…otherwise, you risk measuring the wrong metrics. Without accurate analytics, it’s hard to make progress.
  3. Costs are increasing. It’s not true that software costs should rise every year! What should cost more money? Adding modules or functionality or requesting a higher level of service. Your base cost shouldn’t change, putting your finances right back in your control.
  4. It’s become common for companies to add to their services by acquiring other companies. The problem? The software is different, so you’re cobbling solutions together, and it’s a sure thing that some of those systems will be sunset, and you’ll be forced to find a new provider. 
  5. And finally, whether you’re talking about functionality recently offered through an acquisition or just a company that isn’t paying attention, support can be nonexistent. In today’s customer-focused world, this isn’t acceptable. You have other choices!

If you were just checking off every one of those points, it’s time for you to look for a new CRM.

What You Worry About vs. What Will Happen

Okay, we’ll say it. It’s not the smoothest process in the world. But neither is switching from an Android to an iPhone, and we got through that, right?keyboard heart

Here’s what nonprofits worry will happen:

  • No one, from the Board to your volunteers, will agree with a switch. Or with what system you recommend.
  • The cost will be prohibitive because you’ve had the same system for ten years, and you know prices have gone up. You just don’t know by how much.
  • It’s going to be impossible to learn new software.
  • Data migration will be a disaster and you’ll lose the organized mess you’ve got.
  • The smarmy sales guys will ditch you while the ink is still wet on the contract, and you’ll never be able to get training or support.

(That stuff doesn’t actually happen very often.)

But. Some hiccups do happen. No matter which software vendor you choose.

  • Your email deliverability takes a dip. You can read about why and what you can do about it, or you can read an in-depth guide on email deliverability in general, but just know that it will happen, and your vendor can work with you to minimize the impact.
  • Similarly, payment processing can hit a few bumps as your reputation is rebuilt. The same article linked above also talks about how to mitigate this disruption, and of course we’ve got a comprehensive article on payment processing if you’re interested.
  • And there is a learning curve. But much like learning about your new iPhone, it will come quickly if you’ve got a vendor that offers robust training.

The Five Questions to Ask CRM Vendors

Here are the five questions that will quickly let you know if you’re moving in the right direction. Use this list as a litmus test; if a vendor answers to your satisfaction, it’s time to move a step forward. 

  • How do you handle data migration?

It’s important to ask what the vendor expects from you and what you can expect from the vendor.

hands change managementIn general, most vendors expect clean data from you. No duplicates, no people you’re still emailing even though they asked you to stop, no old, dead email addresses. What can you expect from the vendor? Automation. If your data is good, they can run scripts and move it over accurately and easily, so make sure that’s the case.

And ask how long it will take. If the answer is “months,” then run. 

  • If I switch email providers, will my deliverability tank?

It’ll dip, which we’ve already talked about. There are things you can do, like list hygiene and establishing feedback loops for people who want to unsubscribe, and there are things your vendor can do, like IP warming.

Consider your domain: a shared pool leverages safety in numbers, so if you’re really worried, that’s an option.hands on computer keyboard with floating envelopes

And what’s good email deliverability once the bumpiness of a transition has passed? North of 90% for sure. We have a 99% deliverability rate, and the higher into the 90s a vendor pledges, the better.

  • How thorough are your implementation and training? 

If you really want to see if they squirm, ask if you ever get to talk to a human being. Videos and online resources are okay to get you started, but at some point you need a person to answer questions and pick up the phone when you call. 

woman teachingConsider that, during implementation, the vendor customizes the instance to meet your specific needs. Ask how much discovery they do. Ask how much back and forth is possible during the implementation. 

  • How do you support asset development, like forms?

Everyone gets a pit in their stomach when they realize they’ll have to recreate their forms in their new CRM. It’s unavoidable, because the snazzy new CRM is going to collect all the data submitted and synthesize it with other data and basically spit rainbows and butterflies at you.

So what’s a good answer? A good answer is this: “Don’t worry, we have templates you can use that make form building easier.” And another good one is this: “We’ll help you and provide lots of guidance and support, so it’s a fast, easy process.”

A bad answer? “Here’s a video to watch.”

  • What does ongoing support look like?

Support. Ah, support. Again, videos or people? How can you get in touch? Phone, email, support ticket, chat, carrier pigeon? When you have a question about technology, it can be the most frustrating feeling on the planet. How long do you have to wait for help? As a reference, tickets should always be acknowledged within 24 hours. If they tell you it will be three days, you can do better.iStock-1420982683

Ask if there’s an added cost for support. Ask if your requests are limited in number or scope. Ask if there are different levels of support. Ask if you can inform product updates with your good ideas, and ask if they offer updates for free....forever.

Ask if they’re going to have your back when you need help.

And Then One Big Red Flag

iStock-895031266When we promoted our webinar, we teased that there was one big red flag we’d uncover. We asked participants to guess what it was. Some said reputation, some said the client list, some said the size of the company.

But they all got it wrong.

The question you must ask, the question that will panic the salesperson, the question you really need to know the answer to, is this:

What hidden fees will I be required to pay?

Note the wording….”required to pay.” There will always be options you can choose to pay for. Premium support, for example, or adding modules. But when you are given a monthly cost for the software, and you are clear on what it includes, that should be the cost.

You know how you fork over an arm and a leg for a plane ticket, then they charge for your carry-on and those delicious Biscoff cookies? It takes the deliciousness out of the cookies when they cost five bucks!

Fees to customize the technology, fees for basic training, fees for basic support, and fees for product upgrades are big warning signs that you’ve got a sneaky salesperson trying to make a sale.

Don’t let the vendor nickel and dime you to death. Know what the cost is, and ensure that’s where it will stay unless you choose to increase it.

Congratulations on Your New CRM!

If you’ve found a vendor that passes this list with flying colors, then that’s terrific. You’ve found a partner that cares about the success of your nonprofit, and together you’re going to change the world.

If you haven’t found a match made in heaven, keep looking. They’re out there.

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The Ultimate Guide To Selecting A Nonprofit CRM

We've compiled this guide to objectively evaluate and help you select the right CRM for your organization.