When I think about where we are with CRM today, I can’t help but think of my cable company. Like every other cable company in America, my (not-to-be-named) cable provider is competing with streaming services like Netflix, Amazon Prime, YouTube and Hulu. That means they’re vying for my attention and loyalty every chance they get, and one of the ways they do it is by adding more channels, more features and more types of entertainment to my plan, often times at nominal or even no additional costs.
Despite their best efforts – and despite a host of new channels – the simple act of finding something to watch on cable is still a pain, especially when compared with the streaming services. And because my provider has failed to provide an intuitive, easy-to-use directory that categorizes all types of content (movies, sports, music, etc.), I typically get frustrated while looking for something to watch and jump to one of the streaming services instead. Meanwhile, I’m paying for hundreds of channels I’ll never watch.
What does all of this have to do with CRM, you ask? In many ways, we have taken the same approach with CRM. To address poor adoption rates, we have added more and more “channels” without addressing the underlying usability issue for mobile professionals.
Spoiler alert: this strategy isn’t working for enterprises either.
A Closer Look at Common CRM Complaints
For decades, we have been throwing more and more data elements into our customer 360 hoping that sales people will finally “tune in,” and, for decades, we have been scratching our heads wondering why they are not using the systems as they should. In reality, it doesn’t matter how much effort we put into aggregating information if users don’t access and update the information in the first place.
Here’s a small sampling of common requests from sales people like me that, if addressed (we claim), would make us believers (and real users) of the multimillion dollar CRM systems:
- “If I could access previous order histories of my customers in CRM…”
- “If I could integrate my customers’ social activity with their CRM profiles…”
- “If I could be notified (in CRM) when a customer hits our website or opens one of my emails…”
- “If I could access CRM customer data on my smartphone while out visiting my customers…”
Guess what? Everything mentioned above is already achievable and, in fact, has been done in thousands of CRM implementations over the years. And the results? According to CSO Insights, less than 37% of sales people are using their company’s CRM.
So what else can we throw at CRM that would actually improve user adoption? Personally, I can’t think of anything that hasn’t already been tried. Additional training, change management consulting, professional services, new and improved mobile versions of CRM, custom programming to change system screens – all of these efforts are commendable but have mostly been ineffective when it comes to moving the needle.
And, no, the answer isn’t the cloud. As far as end users are concerned, it doesn’t matter if CRM is being served up from a dusty old server in an abandoned conference room or from a proven and robust vendor-provided cloud like Microsoft’s Dynamics 365 Online, Salesforce, Oracle or any other public cloud-based provider. To the end user, it’s all noise and details for IT to figure out. Just give us reliable access however you see fit.
Addressing the Real Problem With CRM
Here’s something to consider: maybe we’ve been taking the same approach as my cable company and attacking the wrong problem. Maybe we should stop adding bells and whistles to CRM and start addressing the usability challenges associated with it.
As it stands today, the current method for interacting with CRM is just too difficult, especially for sales professionals in the field. Navigation can be downright frustrating. It takes inordinate amounts of time to find what you need, stealing precious time away from meeting with customers or searching for new opportunities or doing whatever you deem to be more important than clicking around on a keyboard.
For most users, the juice is not worth the squeeze, so they give up and move onto something else. Kind of like me moving on to Rocky 3 on Prime.
To be clear, it’s not a shortage of content and information we suffer from – it’s the obstacles, barriers and friction that prevent us from accessing and updating the information quickly and easily. Therefore, the answer lies in rethinking how we access, engage and interact with CRM itself.
At Yesflow, we believe that AI technology on top of CRM technology promises to be transformational for enterprises, and we’re using technologies like Natural Language Understanding, Machine Learning and Conversational User Interfaces to address the usability problem – and help users conquer it.
One More Thing
Before we abandon the cable TV and CRM comparison altogether, it’s worth noting that some smart TV manufacturers are now allowing users to control basic functions (power, volume, etc.) and search for programs by voice – features that are gaining traction quickly. Likewise, CRM systems are starting to explore the same sort of interface approach by leveraging newly available technologies, most of which fall under the broad category of AI.
If you’re interested in conversational intelligence and how it can be used to improve the user experience, here’s a great article published by Forbes Insights called 6 Key Considerations When Deploying Conversational AI. It’s an excellent and comprehensive overview of best practices to consider when pursuing a Conversational UI experience for CRM users. Happy reading!