How to Compare CRM Services: A Senior Living Executive’s Guide to Customer Relationship Management

Compare CRMAre you a senior living executive in search of a customer relationship management (CRM) solution? Do you know what kind of impact CRM can have on your business?

According to a 2011 study by Nucleus Research, the average ROI of CRM applications is $5.60 for every $1 spent. In real terms, that means if you spend $100,000 on a CRM solution, you could realize returns of $560,000. Not a bad deal.

It gets even better. Nucleus found that unlike other software solutions, which tend to show large benefits at the beginning that then taper off, CRM software has “significant staying power,” continuing “to deliver significant ROI throughout its lifecycle, [which is] often enhanced by further investment.”

The key to realizing this kind of return is selecting the right CRM solution for your company.

In an article in Forbes, Gene Marks compared choosing a CRM system to buying a garden hose. Buying a hose sounds so simple, but when you get to the store, you realize there are many different types of hoses—different lengths, different materials, different features, different prices. The same is true of CRM systems—there are many options out there, all with their own feature sets and unique value propositions. How do you know which one is the best for you?

The goal of this article is to demystify the CRM selection process by providing guidance on how to compare CRM solutions. It begins by outlining seven general characteristics of CRM software and then explores the top features of senior living CRM software.

What are your business goals?

Before you start comparing CRM services, spend a few minutes thinking about your business goals. What do you need your CRM initiative to accomplish?

Do you want to:

  • Grow sales?
  • Improve the customer experience?
  • Track your ROI on marketing campaigns?

Do you need:

  • Better lead generation and management?
  • Better wait list management?
  • Customized analytics and reporting?

Start with your goals, and then find a CRM application that will help you achieve them.

Richard Boardman, founder of a UK CRM consulting company says: “The biggest mistake firms make is not having a clear idea of why they are implementing CRM and what the business objective is. There is often a fuzzy notion that CRM technology is just going to miraculously generate some business value simply by purchasing it, so the focus just tends to be on the technology the whole time, meaning there isn’t actually that much focus on what the company is trying to do with it from a business perspective.”
Knowing your business goals will ensure that you select the right product. In short you don’t necessarily need a CRM tool that does everything; you need one that does everything you need it to do.

7 Things You Should Consider When Comparing CRM Software for Your Senior Living Community

We know it’s tempting to jump straight to the features list, to look for checks in all of the checkboxes you want and then buy the software and hope for the best. But research shows that some of the most desirable CRM requirements aren’t easily put into checkboxes, and in fact aren’t on the features list at all. Below are seven things you should consider when comparing CRM software for your senior living community.

1. Usability

A study by Inside CRM found that 55% of users think “ease of use” is the most important feature of CRM software, followed by “schedule management” and the “ability to get a clear snapshot,” which is also an aspect of usability. In fact, 72% of senior executives would give up features in favor of usability.
The lesson here is that no matter how great and powerful a software is, if it isn’t user-friendly, people won’t use it.
Look for a CRM application with an intuitive interface (i.e., things are located where people expect them to be), clearly labeled navigation, and simple interactions (e.g., drag and drop). As a test, spend 10 minutes playing around with the software. If you get frustrated, your employees will too.

2. Cloud-based versus installed

CRM software can be cloud-based (software as a service) or installed. Many companies, particularly those without large IT departments, are moving toward cloud-based software because it doesn’t require installation, maintenance, or server space. Cloud-based software is also evergreen (i.e., updates take place automatically) and highly secure,

3. Generalized versus specialized

CRM software can either be generalized or specialized for an industry. In senior living, the preference is often to use a specialized CRM tool because of the industry’s unique requirements, like compliance with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). Setting up generalized applications to meet these requirements takes extra time and investment, whereas specialized ones are ready to go when you are.

4. Scalability

How many users can the CRM software support? Does it allow you to create multiple communities? If growth is in your future (and we hope it is!), ensure that the application you select will be able to accommodate that growth.

5. Integrations

A major advantage of cloud-based CRM solutions is that they are typically able to be integrated with other software. For senior living management, the most important integrations tend to be with accounting, marketing, clinical, and referral systems.

6. Customization

Even more important than full integration, however, is the ability to customize the CRM system to meet your needs. Every senior living company and community has its own unique way of identifying contacts and moving them through the sales process. Rather than adapting your internal systems and procedures to someone else’s idea of how things should be done, look for a CRM solution that can be customized for how you already do things and that is flexible enough that it doesn’t require a sizable monetary investment every time things change.

7. Adaptability and support

You may have noticed that the title of this article is “How to Compare CRM Services,” but so far we’ve been talking about software. The vendor you select should provide you with the same quality of service you are striving to provide to your own clients through CRM.
This is especially important now as both technology and the world are changing rapidly—your top CRM priorities today might not be the same tomorrow. Will the software solution you choose be able to adapt to your needs now and going forward? How well does the CRM company respond to your inquiries and requests?

Top CRM Features for Senior Living Applications

Finally, we’ve reached the features! The seven characteristics above should narrow down the choices so that when it comes to features you are comparing only two or three CRM systems rather than 20 or 30.
Here are the top features senior living executives look for in CRM software:

  • Online directory/residence search
  • Home/rental market values
  • Lead generation and management
  • Referral management
  • Inventory/waitlist management
  • Customizable workflows and fields
  • Email and calendar integration
  • On-demand customizable reports
  • Data exports
  • Marketing campaign and task management
  • Marketing automation integration
  • Responsive design for mobile/tablet
  • Developer site/API
  • Security and compliance

Choosing a CRM application for your senior living company is an important decision, and not one you should rush into. As you evaluate your options, keep an eye on your business goals—then pick the solution that will allow you to meet those goals now and into the future.

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