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Maybe we need a Negotiator...
December 19, 2012 7:37 AM   Subscribe

We want to move to a new CRM provider, but our old CRM provider is holding our data hostage. Is there any recourse?

We are unhappy with our current CRM provider, but we have many active leads in their system. We would like to move to a new provider and would like to move our existing leads to the new system; however, we have discovered that our current CRM provider doesn't have any tools in their system that would allow us to export the data.

I wasn't around when this provider was chosen. We took over this account along with a company that we acquired. There's nothing in our contract about it.

We've talked to the current provider about the data and they said they can provide us with an export of the customer data, for $500. But, this would not include any information about the source or status of the lead, just the customer information. If we want that extra data, that's an additional $200. And it would be two separate database files which we would have to figure out how to merge and make usable on our own.

This seems... inappropriate. Almost vindictive that we are cancelling. I've worked with several of these types of providers and most either have a function for exporting directly from their system or would just hand over the data in this situation.

There is no question that the data belong to us, but it is stored with them and we can't get it unless we pay up. It feels like extortion.

Obviously, we won't use this provider in the future and will not be able to recommend them to others in our industry. But is there any other sort of recourse anyone can think of? The company is based in Iowa (we are not), do not maintain a location in our state, and suing them would seem cost prohibitive.
posted by doomtop to Work & Money (15 answers total)
 
$700 to get your customer data?

I assume that having access to this data will allow you to generate revenue in excess of $700, so it seems like a reasonable expense to me.

And any lawsuit you would initiate would cost many multiples of that price. That this CRM provider is in Iowa and you are not is not really relevant to any lawsuit, but lawsuits are much more expensive than the $700 price to get your data and walk away.
posted by dfriedman at 7:40 AM on December 19, 2012 [4 favorites]


Never attribute to malice that which can be ascribed to incompetence.

You're leaving so you don't have much leverage. You're obviously not going to be a reference for them. It's certainly possible that it will take some staff time for them to get the data out. The CRM isn't very good, right? So it could take some staff time and they want to get paid for that.

It does seem like a lot of money, but I agree with dfriedman that the best course is just to pay them, get your data, and don't look back.

Alternatively, if it's not very much data, you could have someone on your staff reenter the data by hand in the new CRM.
posted by alms at 7:50 AM on December 19, 2012 [4 favorites]


If it were $70K, I could see balking. $700 is basically $0 in the B2B IT world. Pay it and move on.
posted by seanmpuckett at 7:51 AM on December 19, 2012 [10 favorites]


It sucks that you don't have full access to your own data but $700 is a small sum to pay in this context.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 8:03 AM on December 19, 2012


If it were $70K, I could see balking. $700 is basically $0 in the B2B IT world. Pay it and move on.

I have to agree. That really is nothing in the big picture. If they have to do a dump of your data into a file, it could take that much manpower cost for the process.

It sucks, but that price is not all that bad. I would grab it before they decide their feelings are really hurt.
posted by lampshade at 8:07 AM on December 19, 2012


Nothing in the contract about you owning it...but also nothing in the contract about them owning it? If that's the case, then it would seem that it's your property and your could again ask them to release it or ask an attorney to do so. But of course they might "accidentally" lose or delete it, and that's not going to help you.
posted by Dansaman at 8:15 AM on December 19, 2012


If you do pay, get a written agreement of what you're paying for, formatting, payment terms...in case they "accidentally" do a slapdash job and then can't be bothered to help further, or string you along for further money.
posted by werkzeuger at 8:20 AM on December 19, 2012


Someone handy with a scraper can probably scrape it. People in my house do that sort of thing routinely, so I'm assuming people near your house could also. Pro: if it works it would be cheaper. Con: if it doesn't, you're on the hook for that cost plus the $700.
posted by DarlingBri at 8:21 AM on December 19, 2012


Do you have reporting capabilities? Can you do your own extract by creating a report and then converting it to CSV format?

It sounds like you have a provider there that's in the dark ages. Who is your current/future CRM provider? What do they have to say about how they need the information.

Also, as far as your leads are concerned. They must have come from somewhere, perhaps you can just have the original source re-send them to you for uploading into the new CRM.

At any rate, I'm with most here, $700 seems pretty reasonable to get what you need and get gone from this provider.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:33 AM on December 19, 2012


Have you talked to your new CRM provider? This probably isn't the first time they've dealt with people moving from this company and might have some options for you.
posted by empath at 8:38 AM on December 19, 2012


And it would be two separate database files which we would have to figure out how to merge and make usable on our own.

As far as this issue goes, just make sure there is some common. unique identifier for each record that matches both dbs. With that in place, merging is no big deal.

Nothing in the contract about you owning it...but also nothing in the contract about them owning it?

Agreed, but I would add here that if you get the raw data dump, it could be a lot of work to straighten it out. From my experience, what they are paying for (or should be) is an orderly output of the data. I have had clients ask me for data back in somewhat similar circumstances. If the choose to pull out without warning, they get at best, the easiest, fasted dump with no embellishment.

If they want a pretty columns and rows, that costs. Time is money.
posted by lampshade at 9:30 AM on December 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


How many active leads? How far will screenshots get you? (find a program that'll save straight to a file) Is the CRM system web based? Do you know how to use wget, or curl? Sounds like maybe a $700 Mefi Project.
posted by at at 9:37 AM on December 19, 2012


Business-world perspective:

CRM company does not get rich from this $700, just not scalable.

Your company does not get poorer by paying $700 one time.

If their "money grab" does not make them rich, don't view this as a scam.
posted by Kruger5 at 11:10 AM on December 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'd say empath has the best answer here. Your new provider should hopefully be able to tell you if the data that they're giving you for $700 will even be in a format that is useful to the new system.

The other alternative is to hire an intern for a few weeks to go through the system line by line and pull your data out, but that's a tedious and error-prone system especially if you have a lot of data.
posted by JDHarper at 12:35 PM on December 19, 2012


As empath says, talk to your new provider before you decide.

Know that they will probably tell you that the best they can do, though, is import the two files and relate them within their product if they already have a common unique key.

More likely is that you'll use (a) template/s to plug the data from the two files into in order to populate your new system, perhaps with a little bit of relationship-building between the files on your company's side of the effort.

Depending upon the complexity of your data, completeness of entries, and whether or not you require further clean-up or research before loading into the new product, a reliably conservative time metric for a conversion like this is 5min per row. Add 3-5min if there will be clean-up or research. What you have now is the amount of time in minutes that it will take someone to translate the two files into the formats necessary to load into a database and allow your org to hit the ground running after transition.

If that's not time that you can afford to have spent by any current members of the team (for example: if your lowest salary averages out to $18 p/hr and that person could be doing something that will actively advance the business goals more effectively if they were not collating data files into templates), then put out an ad for a data entry contractor or bring on a low-level database temp. They generally have the skills to do this sort of thing efficiently. Sure, you can get an intern, but if they aren't efficient or do it wrong, it won't be worth it. Especially if they do it wrong. Or if you need your new system populated within a crisp timeframe.

Your new provider may also have a for-fee service for loading these kinds of files into a new system, generally with no clean-up or research available, so knowing beforehand what it will cost to assign a head to it will make that decision easier, if available.

I know that all sounds really nitpicky, but I've done a lot of database migrations and this is one of the earliest stumbling blocks for an org reliant upon outside solution providers. Getting this piece sorted by giving due consideration to how much this data is worth compared to how much it will cost - their export charges plus the labour required to translate the files into the new format and load it into the new system - is an important element to be prepared for, resource-wise.

Good luck!
posted by batmonkey at 1:58 PM on December 19, 2012


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