In our last article we touched on the features and functions of a CRM that were particularly important to small businesses. In this second instalment, we look at the less technical CRM needs of these organizations, such as:
- Ease of use
- Inexpensive software or service
- Limited user training requirements, and availability of low cost online training
- Ease of implementation and successful adoption of the system
- Open software source code to enable easy and affordable customization and support services from a wide variety of suppliers
1. Ease of Use:
Clearly no CRM user or vendor wants their CRM to be hard to use! But what makes a CRM easy to use? And do most users agree about what makes a CRM easy to use, or do they differ?
For a web-based CRM (and being able to access your CRM from anywhere, using a web browser, is a mandatory capability these days) the speed of operation is one key factor. If users find the system slow, they will tend to use it less, and the value of the system to the business will decrease.
- A clearly organized menu system which helps users discover all the features of the system is another key to ease of use. It is also important that a CRM have clean looking screens for data lookup and data entry.
- White space, well organized field layouts, and not a lot of busy and complex fields to discourage users. Each screen should be as simple as is possible for the task it performs.
- Good use of colour and graphical details can make the system pleasing to work with as well. And the use of drag and drop type functions, and dynamic pop-ups, sliding controls, etc .. can help make the user experience more like running an application directly on their computer rather than within the web browser.
- Lastly, a pleasant and attractive online help system with text and images will be an important part of your CRM, especially for more complex tasks like email campaigns and designing new reports.
Make sure you evaluate any CRM you are considering adopting for the factors mentioned above. They are a big influence on how well the system might be adopted, and on how productive it will be once your business starts using it.
2. Inexpensive software or service:
One thing is true of most small business owners. They want (and usually need) to limit spending on internal company infrastructure, from desks and chairs to computers and CRM systems. They also need to limit both one-time capital costs, as well as monthly recurring expenses. So whatever CRM solution you adopt, it needs to be affordable – both in terms of initial costs, as well as ongoing costs.
Look at the total picture: the cost of software licenses and support, or the cost of a monthly service for all your users. Then add in the costs of hosting your CRM software, of getting your data into the system, of potential customizations you may need, of training your staff, and of ongoing support and upgrades. Watch out for the cost of hidden options, and of annual renewals for Software as a Service (SaaS) solutions such as salesforce.com, NetSuite and SugarCRM.
3. Limited user training requirements, and availability of low cost online training:
Look for systems that are easy to learn and use, as described above. And look for low cost or free training options. Well executed online training videos can be a great way to go, and are often free or very inexpensive. Web-based live training sessions that 4-6 users can share at a time are perhaps the next most cost-effective option.
4. Ease of implementation and successful adoption of the system:
While a SaaS Cloud-Hosted solution can look like you’ll be ready to go tomorrow, in truth it really just saves you the time of installing the CRM software on a hosting server. You still need to get your data cleaned up and into the system, get your users (and a system admin) trained up, and devise policies for the ongoing use and maintenance of the system. SaaS or On Premise, you must be responsible for your own data.
So think about these issues when considering your CRM choices. And make sure your users like the system, or in the long term they are just not going to use it. Passive resistance to a new system can be deadly.
5. Open software source code to enable easy and affordable customization and support services from a wide variety of suppliers:
Open source software code, like 1CRM and SugarCRM (and unlike salesforce.com, MS Dynamics CRM and NetSuite) ensures that you will always be in control when hiring someone to make any customizations you need for your CRM system. Some CRM options limit source code access to expensive approved customization partners costing 2-3 times the going rate on the open market. And some systems need those customizations to be examined and altered every time the CRM gets an update.
If you have implemented a CRM in the past, or are looking to do so now, we’d be very interested to hear about your experiences, and how they have affected the importance to you of the above aspects of implementing a CRM in a small business. Share it in the comments below!