Customer Relationship Management (CRM) applications have now been around for over two decades. During that time, CRM technology has evolved well beyond just being a low-functioning repository for customer contact information. The CRM evolution has seen several fits and starts as CRM companies have tried to keep up with the increasing demands of their customers. That complicated, and uneven, evolution has created a host of CRM myths that persist to this day.
Companies considering implementing a CRM solution must be able to distinguish fact from fiction. The ability to distinguish CRM myths vs realities allows a business enterprise to make informed, objective, decisions when considering a CRM adoption.
What are the most prevalent/persistent CRM myths and what are the associated realities? Consider the following….
The Myth: “CRM’s are Only for Large Enterprises”
As with any new technology, early CRM applications were cost prohibitive for most small businesses. Times have changed but the “only for large enterprises” myth has persisted.
In addition to a relative reduction in price tags, CRM’s now offer suites of capabilities that are essential to businesses of all sizes. Small enterprises now benefit from the business and process efficiencies afforded by a cost-effective CRM. CRM’s that can be quickly scaled to include new functionalities and bandwidth have quickly become essential tools in the small business arsenal.
The Myth: “A CRM is only Good for Storing Customer Information”
This is perhaps the most persistent of all CRM myths. It has a basis in fact since that was indeed the principle function of many early CRM’s. To say that “times have changed” would be a colossal understatement.
Today, a good CRM is not merely a standalone application; it is a complete ecosystem. Far from being a mere data-entry repository for customer contact information, a comprehensive CRM will provide many mission-critical capabilities. Those can include:
- Sales Management and Analytics. Opportunity tracking, KPI establishment and tracking, data visualization and reporting, and pipeline management.
- Sales Process Automation. Workflow-based automation of critical processes and decision/action points contained within a Sales Process.
- Marketing Campaign Automation. Ability to automate all activities associated with campaign creation, release, and management.
- Social Media Integration. Integration of social media channels to gain insights into customer behaviors and preferences.
- Customer Support Automation. Increased efficiencies within the Customer Support function to increase customer satisfaction.
- Document Management. Automated control and management of critical documents (contracts, price lists, SOW’s, etc.)
- And More…..
The Myth: “CRM’s are Difficult to Integrate”
In the early days of CRM this was a valid complaint. Many CRM’s were of the desktop variety while others were difficult to integrate with other systems and applications. Fortunately that complaint has been largely relegated to the myth bin.
Many feature-rich CRM’s are now available in software as a service (SaaS) packages. Many of these SaaS-based CRM’s come with open API’s that allow the CRM to be fully integrated with other cloud-based applications to create a comprehensive customer engagement ecosystem. In addition, there are many Integration Service providers that specialize in the development of API’s that can provide access to a host of CRM-enabling applications.
These CRM integrations can provide many advantages; including:
- Increased Scalability. Ability to scale the CRM application to provide additional features and enhanced functionality.
- Mobile Enablement. Delivery of an enhanced customer experience via delivery of information and services via mobile-enabled devices.
- Internal Cost Reductions: Reductions in the need for specialized resources via consolidation of integrated applications.
The Myth: “CRM’s are too Complicated”
This is another legacy myth. In the beginning, most CRM’s were in fact overly complicated and non-intuitive. This complexity—combined with limited functionality—led many early-adopters to throw up their hands in surrender. What a difference 20 years of continued development has made!
CRM technology has rapidly evolved in terms of functionality and usability…. gone with the clunky and in with the intuitive. Today, a high-quality CRM will feature many improvements that would have amazed those CRM users of yesteryear. Those improvements would include:
- Improved User Interfaces. Take a look at a current CRM user interface and compare it with one of just 10 years ago. The difference is startling. CRM user interfaces have been improved in almost every conceivable aspect.
- Drag and Drop Technology. Drag and drop technology has completely transformed CRM ease-of-use. CRM’s that include drag and drop capability provide significant advantages over those that do not.
- Quick On-boarding and Learning Curves. New users can now be quickly onboarded and can become fully operational within a short period of time. Gone are the days of weeks or months of tedious training and validation.
- Higher Levels of Adoption. Ease of use leads to higher levels of CRM adoption within the enterprise. Higher adoption leads to improved CRM ROI.
The Myth: “All CRM’s are Created Equal”
It is true that many “cookie cutter” CRM’s are still very similar in design and scope. Those CRM’s tend to shoehorn users into a fairly restricted set of options for customization. But, there are exceptions out there that are dispelling this myth.
A few CRM providers are now offering custom CRM solutions that allow users to customize a CRM environment that will address the unique needs of their business. In a previous post The Advantages of a Custom CRM Solution we detailed the many advantages of a custom CRM.
A custom CRM can provide the enterprise with tailored capabilities that drive improved internal efficiencies, maximize customer engagement, drive revenue, and create market leadership. For those businesses that have been restricted by an off-the-shelf CRM, a custom CRM may provide game-changing competitive advantages.
Today’s CRM technology bears little resemblance to its ancestors of 20 years ago. Don’t let old misconceptions cloud your vision. CRM myths vs realities….understanding the difference will help you make informed decisions regarding your CRM direction.