Having been involved in commercial real estate for almost 10 years and CRM technology for longer than that, I feel I have a fairly unique experience level on the subject. I have used or have experience with most of the CRM solutions out there. This includes the small desktop solutions such as ACT to larger solutions such as Microsoft Dynamics CRM to cloud based systems such as Salesforce.
The challenge we as commercpractitionersners face, is that the data we need usually resides in multiple places and systems. We have property data in either our regional exchange, LoopNet, or other database, or all of them. Then we need to track our customer data which usually means another sysaltogetherther.
Now this would not be a problem if all the systems communicated with one another and allowed data exchanges to take place. But they don't. The solution some have taken is to create entirely new data warehouses where all the data can reside together, such as what RealHound has attempted. This works good to a point, but you must re-enter all your property data and the only view of property you have is only the property in the RealHound system.
The other approach, taken by folks like LoopNet is to purchase a small CRM player and add that functionality to their offering. In the past, I would be in favor of this solution as it brings everything together in one nice neat package. But like RealHound, these solutions are proprietary and "one off" solutions that typically not built to industry standards. And times have changed in the past few years, making it even more important than ever to take advantage of larger CRM solutions built on industry standards with far more extensibility, customizability, and 3rd party solutions to extend to things like mobile devices and integrated marketing systems.
What is needepractitionersactiioners like us to demand that anyone leveraging our data (properties) adhere to a data exchange standard, such as an XML feed that can easily be incorporated into any of the leading CRM solutions today. As a test, I used a Commercial Open Source CRM system called SugarCRM and developed an import function for a property aggregator called ListHub. ListHub is primarily a residential property solution, but they do provide an XML feed that when mapped to feeds nicely into a CRM system, without the need to re-enter or duplicate the database. You can simply import what fields you would need and then code could be created that would send request to the exchange database when more information was needed. I even posted a video on Youtube showing how the system worked.practitioners practioners need to drive this standard. I would urge the powers that be in our Commercial Realtor Associations to take up this challenge and form a committee to establish data and data exchange standards for our industry. If we don't do it, someone else like Costar/LoopNet will do it for you.
My suggestion regarding CRM...choose the one that fits best in you or your firms process. I would look at Microsoft, Salesforce, SugarCRM, and any of the other major CRM vendors. Each of these can and has been customized for commercial real estate and each of them have excellent import/export features and can be further customized with the thousands of add-on applications or partner developers.
Aug 9, 2011