When Choosing a CRM, Beware of Hidden Costs

When it comes to buying a new automobile, smart shoppers do more analysis than simply looking at the sticker on the windshield. While some cars may seem like a deal at the time of purchase, factors like maintenance and repair costs, resale value, insurance rates, and even fuel costs determine the true value of the vehicle.

Selecting a new CRM system requires at least the same level of analysis.

Today, a majority of enterprise software is delivered as SaaS (software-as-a-service) and sold via some form of a subscription model, meaning users pay an annual fee to access the software (like leasing a vehicle). However, when it comes to customer relationship management (CRM) initiatives, the “sticker price” subscription fees can be misleading. Many vendors charge one price to get customers locked in behind the wheel, but customers soon find they are forced to pay more to fully realize the value of the CRM software.

These additional fees can include costs associated with accessing the CRM via a mobile device, making customizations to the platform, and integrating with other technology partners and systems inside and outside the organization.  If you’re not fully aware of these upcharges, you could be in for an unpleasant surprise.

An Example of Spiraling CRM Costs

We took a look at the largest CRM SaaS vendor in North America – Salesforce.com.

Salesforce customers often pay significantly more than the quoted monthly subscription fee due to hidden fees and other limitations that can increase the total cost of ownership.

Salesforce pricing includes upcharges for system usage, which is often hard to calculate and budget. Upcharges include API calls, which equate to connections to other data sources. Storage-based fees can balloon when large files like PDFs or PPT slide decks are kept within the system. In addition, complete mobile access for some versions can cost as much as $50 additional per user, per month.

Also, building custom mobile applications on the Salesforce platform can cost up to an additional $300 per application per month. Base subscription fees also do not include access and consumption fees for Salesforce’s Data.com offering.

These upcharges can more than double total system costs. Let’s look more closely at the upcharge for API calls. When connecting to external data sources, such as accounting or social media streams, Salesforce sets a limit on the number of times users can send and receive information between systems. Each time a user checks the accounting records of a customer, or augments the prospect information with Dun & Bradsteet data, for example, the system underneath executes an application programming interface (API) call. If Salesforce users go over the maximum allowed number of calls, they are forced to either add more user licenses, or upgrade ALL users to its most expensive Performance edition.

What About SugarCRM?

Sugar is offered under a subscription model similar to Salesforce, but with some important differences. SugarCRM’s PurePrice pricing model means the subscription fee is inclusive of maintenance, and includes mobile access, a Microsoft Outlook Plug-in, reporting, customization and integration capabilities.

SugarCRM aims to limit the “hidden fees” that some CRM providers do not include in their base license costs. SugarCRM is the only CRM solution that offers functionality for marketing, sales and support for one low price. Organizations can customize and build on the Sugar platform without hidden fees or forced upgrades to more costly editions. Additionally, users can make any number of integrations without additional charges or fees.

Finally, Sugar can be deployed either as an on-demand or SaaS deployment, or on the user’s own servers. In addition, Sugar can also be deployed on a number of public clouds, including Amazon EC2, Windows Azure, Rackspace and IBM GTS cloud. Sugar partners also deploy customer instances in their private clouds. In contrast with other CRM vendors who offer a choice in deployment, Sugar is priced the same, regardless of deployment option.

This short analysis provides some basic insight into the costs of buying and maintaining a CRM system. Several pricing and deployment models exist—and it is important to understand which model best addresses the pressing business issues. Before making any decision, be sure to plot out the value to be generated from the deployment, including, but not limited to, the hard dollar costs.

By understanding up-front what additional costs or fees may be incurred, organizations can make an educated, and more cost-effective choice when choosing a CRM provider.

4 thoughts on “When Choosing a CRM, Beware of Hidden Costs

  1. Let’s not forget unexpected costs, like when sugarcrm announce they are removing workflow functionality from their existing professional product and forcing users to upgrade to the enterprise produce at almost double the price. In our case moving from a $12k a year cost to a $20k a year cost.

  2. When selling a software, it is important to keep the client well informed of what is offered, to avoid unpleasant moments to ensure their permanence and recommendations to potential new customers, especially with the competition that exists in this market.

    Excellent article !!

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