Are CRM users stuck in the past?

15th Feb 2018

The CRM market continues to show robust growth, and the latest forecasts from IT Intelligence Markets predict that the global CRM market will grow by 36% through 2022.

Despite this, the reputation of CRM within organisations themselves continues to be fairly poor. And some complaints may be justified. Take a 2017 HubSpot study that found the average CRM user still spending over 5.5 hours a week updating activities and contacts, at an estimated cost to their company of $13,200 a year.

Salespeople have their particular gripes about the technology – specifically that they feel it’s a monitoring tool. As Chris Bourne, head of marketing, sales-i states: “Salespeople on multiple occasions say that CRM was only implemented so that their manager could keep a track of their performance and activity. Sales is already one of the most measured departments within a business, so many feel as though they’re being victimised.”

But of course CRM isn’t exclusively the concern of salespeople. CRM solutions can be used across the organisation. With the upshot that sales isn’t the only department to take issue with the tools.

In a recent ZDNet article, Brian Gardner, lead evangelist for SalesProcess360 was frank about the issues this persistent view presents.    

“Why after the past 18 years of working with companies on CRM does it still feel like CRM is considered a four-letter word? It is often viewed as a curse throughout a company:

  • Outside sales ("Big Brother is going to micro-manage me.")
  • Inside sales ("I don't have time to log information into this other system.")
  • Management ("I know I need this but I am tired of fighting the team to get them to use it.")
  • Marketing ("If only I could be tied to the sales team with the system...")
  • IT ("It's just another system to manage.")

“When I give talks on CRM and sales process, I usually start off with two simple questions. The first: 'Who is using a CRM system?' On average 70 to 80% of the hands go up. I then say: 'Now leave your hand up if you feel like you or your company is getting ROI from CRM.' Every time, just 10 to 15% of the hands stay raised.”

Not just a sales tool

So why are so many CRM users so unhappy, while their leaders remain happy to invest in the tools?

Despite nearly 15 years having passed since Paul Greenberg’s seminal book CRM at the speed of light, which examined the role CRM could play as an engagement tool across an entire organisation, there are still organisations that remain stubbornly committed to the idea that CRM is merely a point solution for automating a department. 

Perhaps this is because some organisations are unwilling or unable to adopt a joined-up view of the customer outside of the traditional departmental silos. Perhaps it is because SaaS tools have enabled departments to bypass IT, allowing them to quickly and easily implement solutions, but forfeiting the centralised view that could foster a more integrated approach.

Whatever the reason, there is the possibility that many of the gripes about CRM could be resolved if organisations – and their respective departments - embraced the concept of CRM as a tool that consolidates data and aids information sharing across the business. To illustrate the importance of this, Gardner highlights just some of the different communication channels that exist within today’s organisations that could be supported by CRM:

  • Outside sales to inside sales (both ways).
  • Inside sales to accounting (both ways).
  • Marketing to outside sales (both ways).
  • Inside sales to marketing.
  • Operations to everyone.
  • Management to everyone.

“CRM can be the hub for this sharing and leveraging information,” he notes. “You have inside sales logging all their key touchpoints with external customers. The outside salesperson walks into the customer's office and has this information at their fingertips in CRM. 'Mr. Customer I see you talked to our inside salesperson yesterday about XYZ. I brought a solution that might help.'

“Imagine the service department logs an interaction with a customer via field service report or service phone call into CRM. They document a summary of the issue and action items to resolve. The outside salesperson looks up the touchpoints with the customer and sees the service log. As a result, he walks in armed with the right information; he's not blindsided not knowing this service call happened.”

End-to-end engagement

Jeremy Cox, principal analyst for Ovum, believes that a schism is now emerging in CRM, with some organisations using it to foster a joined-up, omnichannel customer experience, and a second group using it to serve single functions, such as more traditional sales force automation. 

And he adds: “This is also leading to a major chasm between CRM vendors that are evolving their CRM systems into customer engagement hubs as the foundation of omnichannel, and CRM vendors that offer only the traditional triad of sales force automation, basic marketing automation, and a limited service capability.

“The latter are more typically to be found focused on small businesses, whereas the more advanced are targeting midmarket and large enterprises.”

There is a major chasm between CRM vendors that are evolving their CRM systems into customer engagement hubs as the foundation of omnichannel, and CRM vendors that offer only the traditional triad of sales force automation, basic marketing automation, and a limited service capability.

Kate Leggett, vice president, principal analyst at Forrester, also sees a splintering of CRM. She envisages a ‘componentised version’, that acts as a tactical point solution allowing a company to solve a singular business problem, first and foremost; a ‘verticalised version’ of CRM – industry specific offering “end-to-end industry-specific process flows, data models, and regulations”; and a strategic joined-up version of CRM.

Leggett explains: "Silos of data and processes within enterprises become more apparent as CRM fragments into discrete sales, marketing and service applications.

“Platforms that unify data, processes, and security within the various enterprise CRM deployments rise in importance.”

But the strategic, joined-up view is one that Leggett believes is growing in appeal. “Companies still rely on CRM, but require it to do more than provide operational efficiencies. They expect CRM today to support customers through their end-to-end engagement journey to garner their satisfaction and long-term loyalty — an “outside-in” or “customer-first” perspective. It helps companies deliver differentiated experiences.”

Frontline frustrations

And a significant shift towards a more strategic, company-wide use of CRM may be happening sooner than expected.

In a 2017 Benchmark Study by Maximizer, organisations reported the top wishlist item for CRM as being a ‘centralisation of customer data’ (80%). The third item on the wishlist, reported by 60% of respondents, was ‘improved visibility of communications and activities across the business’.

Mike Richardson, managing director at Maximizer Software, notes: “A trend we see is towards greater integration with other systems, moving data from disparate sources into the central ‘hub’ of a CRM solution. This data centralisation delivers business intelligence across all aspects of a business – not just the sales and marketing elements.”

Leggett believes this to be a necessity, if organisations are truly to move away from the traditional, almost outmoded view of what CRM’s role in a business should be. She also believes the traditional approach is affecting the effectiveness and morale of frontline staff.              

“CRM users on the frontlines can’t serve modern customers using only core CRM. They struggle with duplicate work or manual call wrap-up procedures, which decrease their productivity and limit their effectiveness. Thus, over the past five years, an ecosystem of point solutions like configure-price-quote, customer life-cycle management, data management, and content management, to name a few, has emerged to extend core CRM and enable better customer engagement.

“In 2018, companies will rethink CRM experiences: They’ll guide users through end-to-end processes like contract negotiation that cross organisational lines; incorporate efficiency and effectiveness tools like automated data capture, dialers, and schedulers into CRM; and give users better customer understanding via market intelligence and customer success solutions.”

If more businesses are able to achieve this unification of approach, Brian Gardner may yet start to see more than 10% of his audiences keeping their hands up, when asked if they get a return on investment from their CRM.     

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