Guest Post by Mike Muhney

A case for simpler CRM: 7 tweaks to make CRM more useable

Relationships are universally important to success. Given the prevalence of CRM (Customer Relationship Management) software, professionals are able to cultivate more relationships, more effectively than ever before. While CRM solutions are both crucial to success and readily available, unfortunately, most people will never be able to benefit from them. Why? In a world of nearly two billion mobile device users are there only 25 million users of CRM. How is there such a huge, untapped market?

More than ever before, the lines separating business and personal are not only blurred, but in some cases nonexistent. To those who grasp the importance of relationship management, the need for a useful CRM solution becomes urgent. Whichever application you choose, it only works to the extent that you actually use it. Enter the real challenge: most CRM solutions are not feasible to implement. Whether cost-prohibitive, technically complex or clumsy to use, CRM applications are abandoned just as quickly as last year’s New Year’s resolutions.

Here are seven elements that once addressed could revolutionize the entire CRM industry:

#1 Allow for Customization

Classic CRM is fundamentally designed for quota-carrying, territory-managing salespeople whose companies want to track the prospect/customer process. However, most people in business don’t need a quota-management system with funnels and sales forecasts. Everyone does need more organization, follow through, and follow up triggers for the activities involving people in their networks. Thus, streamline the functionality and remove the unnecessary “sales-y” stuff.

Tweak: Allow customization to fit it to our unique needs.

#2 Make It Affordable

CRM users shouldn’t have to pay for features they don’t need and will likely never use. Without alternatives, many CRM users have little choice but to use an ill-fitted solution in an effort to stay organized and effective with regard to relationship management. Paying $50-$200 per user, per month is simply out of reach for many people.

Tweak: Make it affordable and more will adopt it.

#3 Remove Hidden Costs

Many of the CRM solutions currently available require specialized implementation. This makes the adoption costs so high that even when the solution isn’t a good fit, organizations are stuck. If you can’t customize it to meet your specific needs without outside expertise, then you’re over-investing in an already expensive system.

Tweak: Make set-up simple enough to eliminate the need for a professional, third party implementation.

#4 Overly Complicated Design

Navigating through ill-designed and over-functional CRM solutions results in less productivity, not more. CRM doesn’t have to be complicated to be powerful. When a solution is streamlined to include the most used features with user-defined options, that flexibility offers its users options that yield efficiency. More isn’t always better.

Tweak: Focus on the features most professionals need and will actually use.

#5 Internet-Dependent

Although a CRM system’s internet-dependence is not necessarily negative for every professional, it can be debilitating to today’s mobile enabled landscape. If a user can only access their relationship data via the Internet, they are at a disadvantage to their competition whose information is accessible at all times.

Tweak: Use the Internet to synchronize data across multiple devices; otherwise, allow full access of all data directly on every device, regardless of connectivity.

#6 Company-Owned Information Only

CRM has traditionally only managed company owned data—typically prospect and customer relationships, activity, and progress management. But what about the relationships with people who don’t fall into one of those two categories? Aren’t they important, too? What about the people in personal and professional networks who aren’t customers of the company? With traditional CRM there is and never will be a place for those people.

Tweak: Manage all types of relationships; make CRM inclusive rather than exclusive.

#7 Rigidity

This is a huge benefit that has been overlooked by most CRM systems. Supporting the argument of a real need for relationship inclusiveness stated above, agility allows for each relationship to have many “identifications” or classifications. This agility allows users to organize individuals across varying cross-sections of their database. The lines between personal and professional are blurry at best, non-existent in some cases. A flexible CRM solution allows users to classify the status of a relationship in more than one way. For example, a prospect may also be a golfing buddy. Also, a fellow college alum might also be a vendor providing services or products for your company.

Tweak: Give users the flexibility and agility to deal with people in dynamic, not static ways. Recognize that yesterday’s fraternity brother may be tomorrow’s next big account.

As the co-inventor of the contact manager ACT!, the solution credited as the catalyst for the entire CRM industry, I have not been a proponent of traditional CRM. With these simple tweaks, I believe it can revolutionize not only the industry but also the business world at large. After all, true CRM should serve to help everyone who deals with people. And who doesn’t deal with people?

Apple’s slogan, “There’s an app for that!” conveys the prevalence of apps and applications. However, finding the right CRM solution can be a daunting task. Traditional CRM often falls in one of two categories: for some it’s out-of-reach with regards to price or not a good fit of features for others. In your own search for a CRM solution, look for one that offers customization, personal as well as professional options along with flexibility, all at an affordable price. Enhanced productivity and efficiency provide CRM users with the tools to build more—and more valuable—relationships.

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1 thought on “A case for simpler CRM: 7 tweaks to make CRM more useable”

  1. Hi Mike. It’s a very nice article and you have nailed some very good points. However, I would like to add a point 8.

    What CRMs need today is automatically enriching the customer’s record with relevant information. One of the reasons salespeople don’t like using a CRM is because of the manual data entry involved to keep the system up-to-date. They see it as a mundane unimportant activity and would rather spend time calling leads and making the sale.

    Tweak: Pull in as much data about the lead and contact from social sites like Twitter and LinkedIn.

    Hope that’s a valid point to add to the list.

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