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As technology continues to control back office operations, more and more companies are considering customer relationship management (CRM) software to help keep systems organized.

Reliable Property Services, located in St. Paul, Minnesota, and #49 on our Top 100 list, implemented CRM software three years ago. Dorie Roth, branch manager for the company’s Racine branch, recommended CRM software to the company when she was hired to organize and grow her branch.

Previously, the company had used a proprietary access database with some customer information, but Roth admits it missed many components of what the company really needed.

“So, we brainstormed all the criteria or fields you might need in order to have all your contact information in there,” she says. The brainstorming turned into a list, which became of flow chart of items underneath different categories and that resulted in the full database.

This criteria included fields such as the ability to track activities, track opportunities and create history with future abilities of being able to speak to the company’s accounting software.

Caretaker Landscape and Tree Management, ranked #71 on our Top 100 list, also recently implemented CRM software. The Gilbert, Arizona-based company decided it was time to have a database because client information was being saved on individual computers.

“If I was working on one group and someone else wanted to see it, they had to come over to my computer,” says CEO Matt White. “It was saved in Excel; everything was all over the place.”

There also was no communication data, so any contact with a client had to be saved in an ongoing Outlook email trail for sales to figure out when they’d last spoken to a specific client.

Implementation.

White says the system does a good job once implemented, but he says it’s important to shop around and take the time to research what you’re getting.

“When we started making the decision to switch, the cost seemed favorable,” he says. But, as the company began implementing it, White discovered the program was too vast for the small company, and the only way to fit it was to bring in a third-party company to do it for them.

That customization ended up costing them twice as much, resulting in Caretaker going over budget and taking an extra three or four weeks to setup.

In hindsight, White says he wished the company had a better understanding of the implementation process.

“We didn’t ask the right questions,” he says. (See sidebar for a list of questions to ask.)

Despite problems implementing the software, White still recommends using CRM software, and advises asking other contractors about their experience with it.

“I don’t think this is a differentiator for our company,” he says. “It makes us a better sales team, but not a better company, so I’d have no problem talking to a friendly competitor.”