How CRM Helped to Keep Dale's Sales Pipeline Flowing

Dale was a veteran sales person with over 15 years experience in making sales pitches and closing deals. He was currently employed by a large financial services conglomerate, where he was initially among the best performers, but, in the past few years was barely ever able to meet his targets. Very often, Dale's meetings with customers that were meant to end in ten minutes extended to several hours - phone calls and emails would be exchanged with his office to ensure he had all the information required for a particular interaction. He would attempt to cross sell, but, offer inappropriate products based on his gut feeling and prior experiences. This created a negative perception in customers' minds and lowered the chances of building rapport. Things were even more muddled when he traveled across territories without mobile CRM!

The key reason for Dale's inefficiencies was his self belief that using his organization's CRM solution would be complicated and his lack of technical know how would be a hindrance in accessing customer related information.

The company Dale worked for had implemented a CRM solution some years back to curb customer churn and enhance product innovation. Competitors and hordes of new products had swamped the market leading to unstable growth and low productivity from marketing strategies. In order to stay competitive and make data mining more effective, the organization had carefully evaluated CRM solutions for financial services offered by multiple leading vendors. They pinpointed the most suitable and future proof CRM solution, but, due to poor top management participation and limited flexibility, the CRM implementation was not entirely successful and user adoption was moderate.

Dale was skeptical of the CRM solution his company had implemented and apart from his limited knowledge of new software, he avoided logging-in because he considered it the senior management's policing tool for watching every lead he attempted to convert. Also, to him, adding leads to the CRM software meant everyone would have access to their details, which could mean he lost those leads or someone else stole the credit for generating and converting them.

The details of all Dale's potential new customers were scribbled on pieces of paper and added to excel sheets when the management demanded accountability for the time he spent in his current role or wanted a better level of transparency for the leads pipeline. On days like this, he would spend several hours after working hours to collate information from his business planner, note pads and visiting cards to create neat rows of information on his laptop. He also rarely interacted with the marketing team and relied on his networking skills with existing customers and old school friends to create new opportunities to sell this organization's financial products.

When the economy became unstable and dark clouds loomed, the organization's top management called for a meeting with the sales team to share their latest strategy on staying abreast and beating the competition. An independent meeting was initiaed for Dale later. He was called to the territory manager's office and informed that the top management would only view reports and analytics generated through the CRM solution. This meant, if leads that his team were working on, were not added to the CRM solution, as far as the top management was concerned, these leads did not exist. Also, detailed information regarding each potential customer needed to be added regularly to their related records - activities, preferences, documents, etc. These measures would ensure transparency for the sales pipeline and allow accurate analysis of performance based on expected revenues. Also, under the current economic conditions, the organization did not want to lose there customers or any related information when their employees joined a competitor.

Luckily, Dale had attended a couple of hours of CRM user training a few years ago from a seat at the back of the conference room, he remembered some of the instructions and details. The following Monday he requested the CRM administrator for login credentials and access to mobile CRM. Next, he collated three quarters' leads onto an excel sheet and added column labels and their relevant status codes used in the CRM solution to each record. Following this, he quickly imported these leads to the CRM software and studied a report to ensure they were all there.

The next few weeks were hectic, Dale had never met so many potential customers in such a short span since he had joined this organization. He realized his win ratio was improving but still might not match the meticulously calculated quotas assigned to each salesperson. After an hour long study of leads assigned by the marketing team to other members of his team, he realized that several that were interested in products he specialized in were untouched by his colleagues. Using a mass update option, in a couple of minutes, he had reassigned these leads to himself.

Dale's strength was his networking and rapport building skills with customers. He'd attended some of the best army schools across the country and a renowned university. Most of his friends had reached senior profiles in their organizations or had started their own business ventures with amazing results. LinkedIn was the ideal place to  interact with these batch mates and their connections. Strong referrals and formal introductions would improve his chances of setting up meetings with c-level executives and decision makers.

After probing, he discovered users could track their leads and contact's latest social profiles and conversations through the CRM solution's social connect tools or in other words 'social CRM'. Dale also wanted to connect with people who were talking about his bouquet of products on social networks. With the help of the CRM software administrator, all tweets mentioning a particular competitor, brand name or financial service were listed  on a daily basis for him to sort and contact. He could feel the excitement of receiving large sales incentives and building a stronger foundation for new business relationships while he studied his contact's social profiles and added important notes to their records a few days later.

CRM mobility and real-time updates
Today, Dale is among the top performers across territories, though, it is for a specific set of products. Also, mobile CRM enables him to stay on top of things regardless of how many customer interactions he has in a day, without worrying about tons of paperwork when he's back in the office - he updates details about leads, customers and opportunities on the go.


How CRM Solutions Can Curb Silent Customer Attrition

Every business, every industry faces attrition. Customers leave for a variety of reasons which are easily recognizable. For example, customers stop purchasing disposable diapers when their children no longer require a diaper, automobile owners may no longer patronize the car dealership when the warranty is no longer in effect. A competitor's new products might cause unforeseen churn. While there are many logical, rational and understood reasons that a customer leaves a company it is the silent attrition which can be the most devastating in this economy.

What is silent attrition?
Silent attrition is a situation in which a customer or client base discontinues patronizing a business without any explanation. According to Andrea J. Ayers, president of customer management at Convergys, “Silent attrition varies by industry, but in general, companies are losing about 12% of their customers this way, with the defectors poisoning the well among potential new customers. Silent attrition, particularly in this economy, can spell the difference between a company’s success and its failure.”

Typical attrition models
Typically, attrition models use historical behaviour of customer to segment them based on their propensity to attrite. In other words, they are a statistical model designed to predict attrition within certain segments. A predictive model can be built using the observable customer attributes derived from CRM data which defines both loyal and attritors and then applies those attributes to other customers.

Using this predictive model the customers can then be segmented in to high risk – likely to attrite and low risk – likely to remain loyal groups. Retention campaigns can then be applied to the high risk groups. While a tried and true methodology, predictive models do little to stem the tide of silent attrition.

Advancing to stem silent attrition
What is missing from the typical attrition models is what is known as customer intelligence or how the customer’s interactions with the company and the company’s support of those interactions are perceived. This type of unstructured data can be amalgamated into the CRM solution and then classified or segmented for structure.

When the data is collected, either through outgoing sales solicitation or incoming call center activity the dialogue is classified into a tabular format. The categorization of the dialogue is through text mining for significant or strategic words. By combining structured data with the unstructured data this table represents a predictive model that can be constructed which can assist in stemming silent attrition.

Using the amalgamated data customers can be scored on their propensity to attrite. Scoring would be based on the model developed using both the CRM structured data and the customer interaction or unstructured data. The combination of the two data sources in the scoring model provides improved predictive qualities.

When scored, retention programs can then be targeted toward those customers most likely to attrite who have the potential to be profitable.

It is an established axiom that there are greater costs associated with the acquisition of a new customer than with the retention of an existing customer. With the current state of the economy, retention becomes an even more important aspect of every company’s business plan. By using a predictive model which integrates structured CRM software data and unstructured tabulated data, the company is more likely to have success with retention programming than a company which relies solely on historically predictive data.

Dashboard for Competitor Analysis
3 Cost-effective customer loyalty strategies for companies of all sizes
CRM solutions are available as cloud and enterprise models for organizations of all sizes and specializations. Ensuring you retain customers and convert leads is essential to stay afloat and grow in the long term.
  • Social CRM which is continually gaining in popularity is an effective way for everyone in your organization to track competitors and their offerings while simultaneously devising counter strategies. With conversation tracking tools which capture social conversations based on specific keywords, there are unlimited possibilities to gain a stronger foothold and understand customer mindsets.
  • CRM solutions also facilitate capturing each competitor and mapping their products to yours to enable accurate analysis of lost/ won deals. 
  • Real-time analytics will facilitate devising instant steps to turnaround opportunities that are almost lost to competitors. 
In addition, ensuring a consistent customer experience will also lead to low customer attrition and more word-of-mouth advocacy.


6 Reasons Why Organizational Growth is Stunted by Legacy CRM Solutions

Robin joined his current organization in the early nineties and was among the first batch of twenty five employees. Back then, the top management decided they needed to focus on customer relationship management more and therefore needed a software to store basic customer information and contact details. They quickly employed a handful of IT professionals to accomplish this task and get a head start on their competitors. The software they developed generated a unique customer ID for every new customer created and had sets of fields for capturing or displaying pertinent details.

Short term ROI from legacy CRM
In a few months, the application was available to their employees across the city, they happily added all the required information in the hope it would help improve customer relationship management. Orders were captured and fresh information was added to the software. Sometimes, when new fields were required, a formal request was sent to the IT team and a few days later it was available for users.

In the first few years, Robin's company only sold a handful of products in his city and surrounding large towns. Using their in-house CRM solution, their teams avoided sending letters to the wrong address or misspelling names. To analyze information, an excel sheet was generated using the information from the CRM and filtered to display the week's Birthdays or the month's top performer.

In the following years, the top management's initial forward thinking strategies led to considerable growth and their product line and employee count increased. By the end of the decade, offices had been set-up in three countries and the staff count had multiplied.

CRM solutions should be future proof
As the organization's customer base grew constantly, their headaches with their legacy CRM software increased too. Often customer details were difficult to find because information was updated once a week. In addition, to access any additional information related to a customer's complaints, requests, purchases, preferences, etc. alternate systems needed to be accessed. Often, when interacting with a customer to make a sale or share a solution, the employee would navigate between multiple excel sheets and their email inbox. Identifying a customer ID to check their records became an uphill task, with the mounting data, the system had become slow and the user interface was difficult to navigate for the young new staff which was used to more user friendly applications.

Robin soon realized that the in-house CRM was steadily becoming a 'white elephant', it had begun to impede customer relationship management  rather than enhance it. Some of the blatant issues the organization was facing in customer relationship management were -

  • Unnecessary overtime - His team regularly spent several additional hours in the office to update multiple excel sheets and record important emails. 
  • Employee Attrition - The top management started to worry about not only losing leads, but their internal customers - members of their hand-picked staff! The war for talent and instability within their organization would lead to high attrition rates.
  • Inefficient use of time - Instead of making sales or quickly resolving customer complaints, their employees were spending a large part of their day on non-core activities and routine tasks. 
  • Poor tracking for campaigns - The marketing team was very unhappy too, running campaigns and tracking their success was very complicated without an effective CRM software. 
  • Low lead conversions - The sales team would often miss out on leads created from campaigns due to poor pipeline visibility and inefficient inter-department collaborations. 
  • Inconsistent marketing communications - Creating templates with their company branding took hours and each personalized email to a customer was carefully proof read and approved by relevant senior members of the staff. 

The winds of change with cloud CRM
Luckily for Robin's organization, when the Chief Technology Officer retired, a young and dynamic new person replaced him. She had several solutions to prevent the once flourishing company from closing down - the most critical change was to implement a cloud CRM in the first few months. With the company's diminishing profits but strong focus on product innovation and customer experience, the cloud CRM would help establish their position once again without denting their budget or employing additional IT personnel.

After evaluating multiple solutions, their team eventually identified a cloud CRM software which would be relatively quick to implement and inexpensive compared to the costs of running their existing IT infrastructure.   The CRM solution would enable multi-system integration including CTI (computer telephony integration) and a centralized solutions database. It automated sales, marketing and services and ensured effective activity management along with transparent collaborations across territories. Most importantly, the CRM solution was available across devices - desktop PC, laptops, tablets and smartphones, with real-time information around the clock.

CRM success
The cloud CRM's subscription model and cloud database kept costs low and encouraged teams to experiment more with new product lines and customer strategies without directly impacting long term bottom line revenues. Ad hoc layouts and reports with slice and dice information from the new fields added to these layouts helped identify possible future bottlenecks and better strategies. Though, initially, some users were worried about security and possible downtime, selecting a practice-led CRM solution ensured optimal workflows and customer strategies were incorporated during the CRM implementation.

With a new financial year around the corner, Robin's organization is switching from the cloud CRM model to an enterprise CRM with the same vendor to meet their expanding customer base and need for effective data mining strategies to optimize customer experience. The transition will be smooth and new CRM tools will be incorporated to enable sentiment analysis and social performance management. The organization learnt from its experiences and ensures CRM software is flexible and easy to customize.


8 Tips for Improving CRM User Interfaces to Ensure Higher Adoption

A CRM software's optimized summary page
A CRM software’s user interface (UI) can make or break user adoption, it is also essential for ensuring employees can quickly respond to important customer or partner queries. A user friendly interface with clear content and easy workflows greatly simplify business processes, as well as overall customer relationships.

One of the key factors when evaluating a CRM solution's interface from the perspective of your organization's users is how compatible is it with multiple popular gadgets used by your teams. What looks good on a desktop may translate poorly to a smartphone or iPad. For example, your sales team might never login to their mobile CRM, if it's easier to view or update customer related information from an alternate application.

8 key tips for improving a CRM solution's user interface

Easy navigation and access to data - The UI of any CRM solution must offer ease in navigation. Customer information should be easy and fast to dig out even from large information repositories, without omitting any important details for every single lead and/or customer which could be of good use in future.

Simplified workflows - As mentioned above, user adoption is of prime importance, without which a CRM solution is just another dead application. The UI must be uncluttered, clean and pleasing to the eye. Workflow logic must be presented in simple formats. Further, daily and recurring tasks like reports, appointment reminders, alerts, etc. should be automated in order to reduce time spent on non-core and routine activities. The user should be able to quickly access useful mashups like maps, weather, news feeds, currency converter and so on. Data should also be secure and only available to relevant roles. The number of clicks to access regularly accessed details should also be minimal.

Customization and flexibility – The CRM application must be such that it can be customized and adapted as per specific business needs and corporate identity. It most also be a viable CRM solution for corporate expansions to other countries with multiple languages and cultures. For this to be achieved, the UI must have the flexibility to roll back to the default CRM setup, and there must be provisions to sculpt the CRM system as per particular business needs and processes whenever required. Too much customization and unnecessary features will confuse users. Fresh customizations should be gradually introduced along with required training for relevant users.

Integration – The CRM application interface should be designed in a way that integration with other systems is not very complicated. Well defined integration architecture must be provided, accessing cross application business processes should be enabled, and the total time taken for overall custom integration should be reduced. Multi-system information should be easily accessible and updated at regular intervals, users should be able to view all updates related to a specific record through a single holistic interface.

Business Card View option – As CRM UIs are updated and upgraded, an important development seen in recent times is the ‘Business Card View’. The benefit here is that when a contact is clicked, all the important basic information is displayed at the top of the page itself. In case of a call/ meeting with a client, all relevant information (for example - full name, designation, department, reports to, DOB, etc.)  can be viewed in a few fields before the interaction.

Enhancing sales force productivity – The goal of a good CRM solution must be to elevate the productivity levels of the sales personnel, so that they spend less time ‘CRMing’ and more time concentrating on real selling. For example, it is observed that everyone prefers an option of adding notes to prospects and existing contacts. The UI should allow that. Further, salespersons have to constantly keep track of appointments, tasks, phone calls, etc. with clients. Therefore, if the UI offers the option for scheduling and keeping a record for follow-up calls with a prospect right from the contact screen, the salesperson's efficiency is increased.

‘Following’ – Modern CRM interfaces offer an interesting option where just like people can be followed on Twitter; a particular lead, deal or contact can also be followed directly through the CRM interface. With this option, the person is updated every time a record's specific fields are edited.

Fusing Social Media with the CRM UI - The option to link a CRM contact to their LinkedIn profile is another significant requirement from social CRM. This helps in easily viewing the contact’s professional information and other such important details. The fusing of LinkedIn with the CRM solution enables staying abreast of the contact’s professional activities and identifying other influencers or connections.

Conclusion
In a nutshell, an effective CRM software should showcase an optimized UI with features such as workflow management, user friendly customizations, dashboards, reports, web forms, role based security and so on.
The main objective of the CRM software’s user interface must be to strike a balance between productivity, automation and ease-of-use. If ‘usability’ in the true sense is given the attention that it deserves, the outcome will be a win-win situation for a CRM implementation. High user adoption will translate to data accuracy, enhanced customer experience and higher ROI.


9 Easy Ways to Ensure Customer Feedback is Effectively Incorporated for Product Innovation

The very foundation of a CRM solution is to move the ownership of your customer away from an individual department and amalgamate the ownership at the corporate level. While individual departments remain accountable for customer interactions, the corporation, as a whole, is responsible for the customer. This amalgamation revolves around each customer “touch-point” which combined feed the data which is the backbone of your CRM solution.

Using customer information to enhance customer relationship management
There are four basic types of data which a company must collect for their CRM solution to be most effective in the management of their customer relationships, these include:
  1. Descriptive Data - Data which focuses on the customer as an individual, a household or a business entity.  It can include demographic and lifestyle data or any other type of data which attempts to describe the customer. Descriptive data is often generic in nature and not company specific.
  2. Relationship Data - Data which details a customer's transactions and interactions with the company and proprietary to the company and its subsidiaries.
  3. Contextual Data - Data which provides an understanding of the environment of a company’s relationship with its customers. 
  4. Customer Feedback Data - This is a fourth emerging data source that the most successful CRM users are mining. This data is provided directly by the customer via the utilization of a feedback form – either electronic or manual. Alternately, they may post their feedback on social networks, which forward looking organizations capture and follow-up through social CRM. This type of data which is collected from multiple customer interactions and amalgamated over time is critical for providing a measurable satisfaction level.

The best customer data is 'feedback'
Customer feedback can enter your CRM solution from as many channels as your customers themselves. For example, your marketing department may conduct on-going customer satisfaction surveys, while the warranty department is collecting demographic information on the same customer through manual warranty cards, simultaneously your call center or sales force are taking customer calls with anecdotal information on the same customer. The challenge then becomes the consolidation of this information into a usable and effective tool.

How to effectively manage feedback for matching customer expectations
Customer feedback is the key to understanding your customers, by collecting and integrating this valuable information into your CRM solution, you can begin to manage your customers’ expectations through product innovation and service improvements. Some basics for this consolidation include:

1. Define the goals and objectives for collecting this data.
  • What decisions will your company make based on this information?
  • What reporting methods will you use to make this data an effective tool?
2. Define the support your will require for data collection.
  • Secure buy-in from the top executives down to the call center coordinator in the importance of customer feedback.
3. Develop a formal program for the collection of the data.
  • Establish your feedback channels.
  • Implement the required technologies to support the collection and collation of the data.
4. Manage the data that you collect
  • Investigate and invest in a formal “voice of the customer” or VOC program so that you are not dealing with multiple channel feeds into your CRM solution.
5. Advocate for your customers
  • Respond rapidly to the feedback your customers are providing.
  • Be prepared to change if your customer relationship requires it.
  • Act on critical or constant complaint quickly and efficiently.
  • Let your customers know what you are doing.
6. Communicate
  • Don’t keep customer information in the “silo”, be sure that management from top to bottom understand what is being said.
7. Information should be real time and on-going
  • Gather information in real time and respond to your customer in the same.
  • Make it easy for your customers to talk to you.
8. Integration with business strategy
  • Make your customer feedback part of your business, be sure that it is integrated into your corporate objectives and strategic goals.
9. Make it real to your company and employees
  • Integrate your customer related measurements into your business outcomes.
  • Set realistic goals and measurements for customer satisfaction, retention and product purchase which can then be tied to the metrics of customer feedback.
Conclusion
Gathering customer feedback is more than just finding out about your customers' concerns and desires, it’s about developing a solid understanding of your customer. Once you have this understanding, you can then begin to address your customers’ needs or desires for new and innovative products.

By integrating customer feedback into CRM solutions, you make the data available to all levels of the company. Across the company, you can begin to develop the products your customers require. You can begin to more aggressively design and execute cross-sell and up-sell programs. Most importantly, by listening to and understanding your customer, you can insure your company’s long term success in any chosen market.


How Making Performance Management "Social" Can Motivate Sales Teams

“I have eleven leads to follow-up, I can’t spare three hours for the next few days to attend this training! Why do we need a Cloud CRM software? I’m doing fine working with my planner and excel sheets!” I said adamantly to my colleague.

“Don’t think short term, a few hours this week will make things smoother and ensure you can work with larger volumes of leads to achieve better conversions by the year end….and…a couple of things- the Cloud CRM software will enable you spend more time on your core responsibilities like converting leads and cross-selling. Also, we need to put all our customer information on the Cloud CRM solution to improve pipeline visibility and identify bottlenecks. The top management is only going to look at reports generated through the CRM software to ensure they have a clear picture of the sales forecast and everyone’s performance,”she replied. "They're also giving the sales and marketing teams social CRM with the latest features and  tools."

My colleagues and I attended three days of training across the following week, the initial session was informative and we were introduced to the CRM solution's customized interface. In the final session, the trainer said in an amused tone, "The sales teams are often the least likely to adopt a CRM solution, therefore, our CRM implementation team has added a few key features to make it especially worthwhile for you to login and regularly use the CRM software. Firstly, you will all have access to mobile CRM around the globe. Secondly, the CRM solution's features will not only simplify your sales process allowing you to spend more quality time with larger volumes of leads, but, also make selling fun!"

We looked at each other inquiringly and suppressed any immediate responses. Most of us were often stuck in office till the early hours of the morning trying to keep up with the leads numerous campaigns were generating.


"The CRM solution will greatly enhanced your pipeline visibility for all sales related records and ensure seamless collaborations with internal teams and partners. You can now view the profile details of all your leads and accounts' contacts on popular social networks like LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. We've also added a feature to allow individual users to set keyword searches for Tweets which can be converted to leads on the CRM software. Besides all this, homepages will display mash-ups or RSS Feeds and graphs to quickly bring you up to speed with stock prices, exchange rates, breaking news and almost anything else you might need," he pitched.

"Oh! It almost slipped my mind! We've also added a social performance management tool which will allow users in your organization to transparently set team goals and company objectives and allow employees to decide how they would like to contribute towards its successful completion within prescribed timeline. From now on, a social CRM profile page for each user will display their achievements, feedback and goals.." the trainer added. "It's a great way to ensure transparency within your organization and collaboratively work towards optimizing internal and external strategies."

We returned to office the following Monday expecting to spend the first half of the day adding all our lead and customer information into the CRM solution. But, we were wrong, not only had all our leads been automatically imported, there were numerous new warm leads from multiple sources like our company's website, call center and branch offices around the country. I also realized all the records assigned to me were looking for the products that were my expertise.

That afternoon, the cafeteria was echoing with conversations about how things had changed for the better. Our fears, based on the experience of friends in other organizations which had spent several months to implement CRM solutions and failed miserably in achieving even half of what they had visualized, seemed unfounded. 

The bonding between colleagues improved in a few weeks too - we could now work collaboratively without someone stealing the credit or missing critical details for customer information. New sales executives who were apprehensive to share their new leads started inquiring through the social CRM chat tools for referrals and introductions.

My favourite social CRM tool is performance management, it enables complete transparency among users with common interests or goals to track each other's progress while working towards achieving key company objectives. Requesting or sharing feedback is easier and recognizing team members across the world for exemplary achievements can be done with a few clicks. It also provides a very friendly interface for knowing more about colleagues and employees across the organization at a more personalized level.

Carefully evaluating our business requirements and selecting the optimal future proof CRM has made our organization slowly and steadily grow beyond everyone's expectations. At my level, I'm now home before sunset on most days and look forward to getting back to work the next day. Over the last few quarters, I've been awarded several badges by peers and C-level executives for my efforts and now continually use historical customer information that is of relevance and carefully incorporated into the CRM software from multiple systems to better understand customer expectations and needs. I'm now working towards being awarded the  'Customer Focus' badge, which will include an all expenses paid trip to New Zealand!

To know more about Cloud CRM Software, visit: www.crmnext.com

6 Easy Ways to Increase CRM User Adoption

After months of contemplating and planning, a Customer Relationship Management software is finally selected. After days of hard work it is configured, customized and installed across the organisation. There just remains one basic problem – no one knows how exactly to use it! And the solution is so complex that probably nobody ever will. The end result? The entire CRM package yields zero results.

In the world of CRM solutions, user acceptance is a major issue that absolutely cannot be overlooked. Though the end users are not always the same people who select the solution to begin with, they can be amazingly resourceful as far as working around new CRM implementations and products is concerned. CRM software should be simple, a pleasure to use and include a high degree of efficiency.

The most significant part of any CRM solution is its usability. To understand better, it may be helpful to first understand the traditional ways of ‘measuring’ usability of any system or solution. The following criteria highlight the factors that the concept of usability should ideally include:

Efficiency: Speed, productivity, and ease in the completion of any given task are what translate to efficiency. In this respect, it is wise to ensure that common and repetitive tasks are efficiently automated. When any given task (especially one that needs to be regularly repeated) takes lesser time, productivity automatically increases.

When it comes to CRM implementations, often hundreds of users get involved, thereby making even small efficiency improvements lead to remarkable enhancements in productivity. So, if similar tasks are repeated numerous times each day in an organisation, saving even a few seconds for each task can help in saving appreciable amounts of time, effort and money.

Effectiveness: The ability to complete jobs and tasks is another important point, it sounds very obvious, but, the implications are manifold. Though products may work well from a ‘functional’ point of view, there may still be users who find it difficult to actually ‘learn’ tasks – so much so that many important product features will never be used.

Since, extensive functionality and complex processes are usually enclosed within CRM applications, an interface that is helpful, intuitive and interactive will assist users to find all the features and functions as and when they want. This means that they can extract the best out of the CRM solution. Also training time is saved to a considerable extent. Here, training includes formal training and also the time that is spent on helping others figure out tough applications.

User experience and satisfaction: If users of the CRM software are unable to gain value from it and navigate effortlessly, the big risk of rejection lies ahead. This is particularly important for CRMs, where several implementations face outright rejection due to employees’ resistance to change and their unwillingness to accept new work practices.

CRM products that are easy and enjoyable to use are always welcomed and quickly adopted. On the contrary, complicated, counter-intuitive and unfriendly products are completely sidelined by users, forcing them to return to earlier work practices.

Having understood the importance of a CRM solution's usability there are certain techniques that ensure the CRM software offers ease-of-use to targeted employees. Following are some usability monitoring techniques which can assure the CRM solution’s success -

Understanding and collating user requirements: The primary aim of a CRM package is to simplify workflows and automate specific repetitive core/ non-core tasks. It is essential to clearly identify CRM challenges for business and technology.

In the beginning of the CRM design phase itself, sufficient time should be taken to completely understand user needs and requirements. The final product should be such that it does not demand profound changes from users, but on the contrary fits in perfectly into the way they already prefer working. This exercise should be done across the hiearchy and not simply using top management inputs. Also, terminologies and names used within the system should be common knowledge to avoid confusion when navigating or adding information to the CRM solution..

Interaction design: The final structuring of the product should reflect an optimized interaction design..
This means that the functional specifications must be guided by the processes, information and workflow that are required by users. Once these aspects have been assembled in the interaction design process, implementation follows. Thus, technology can be used to generate ‘user-centric’ solutions.

Final user testing: Testing must be done as often as possible, involving real users who are performing real tasks. This is by far the best way to pinpoint any issues that may exist in a CRM software’s functionality and/or interface. Those products which are launched without proper user testing are prone to requirement of substantial re-developments in order to meet unmet user requirements.

Studies have indicated that almost 65% of product development lifecycle costs happen because of such revisions.

Another significant point to bear in mind is that CRM systems are often configured during deployment and most often experienced and skilled employees use the systems. For this reason, post-implementation user testing programs must be conducted so that long-term product acceptance can be gauged. This will ensure that the CRM product will find an optimal fit with any given workforce, at any point in time. Also, making changes after the CRM solution has gone live can affect customer experience and cause havoc for customer facing logged-in users when they are unable to access critical information.

To avoid making gains in the short term and regretting implementing a CRM solution in the long term because information is available in numerous silos with low user adoption, evaluate CRM software carefully. Ensure the CRM solutions is flexible, cost-effective and can be easily upgraded to match new requirements or business strategies.