CRM’s Forgotten Features: Reminders

By Chris Bucholtz

(Editor’s note: this is the fifth and final entry in our series on features in CRM that can expand your ROI – but which frequently go forgotten or ignored. Parts 1, 2 and 3 can be found hereherehere and here. Now, we say final – but if you think you have another feature that often goes unused or unloved when it should be helping CRM users make money, let me know in the comments section.)

CRM has a nifty built-in capability to remind sales reps to do simple, repetitive tasks – follow-up calls, check-ups on new customers, periodic calls before a renewal date and so on. The idea is to take the management of these tasks and automate much of it; the rules for these reminders are built into the system. Instead of managing a calendar full of small tasks, sales people can focus on the selling.

“If I remind myself, or the system reminds me, to do something and I am regimented in my routine, then I will be more efficient and be able to spend more time on the phone, actually engaging with people,” said Mitch Lieberman, managing partner at SugarCRM reseller DRI US.

Reminders come in two basic flavors: one, a reminder of something that the CRM user needs to schedule and do, and two, a reminder of something that must be done as a response to something happening. “For example, I will set a reminder to call back a hot lead, or a customer who just resolved a problem,” said Lieberman. “Now, I might also want to monitor other systems and increase the priority of the reminder if the person comments in a forum, public or private. The number of places I need to watch seems to increase daily.”

So why wouldn’t all CRM users leap at the idea of technology that can make their sales staff more responsive? “For starters, there is a basic assumption that the ‘new system’ will be all encompassing and too little effort is focused on user adoption and change management,” said Lieberman. “’If we build it, they will come’” does not really work too well for technology implementations. If my wife puts a reminder on my place at the dinner table in for me to do something in the morning, I will not see it. I eat breakfast at the counter, with the kids. The key here is to know your audience, where are they most likely going ‘receive’ a message.”

Reminders thus embody an important aspect of CRM: the interface between technology and the user, something that is often neglected during CRM planning. “This is the purest form of technology as a powerful enabler, but it cannot force a process,” said Lieberman “I hate being told what to do, and if notifications feel too much like someone or something dictating my schedule, ‘it ain’t gonna happen.’”

Choosing how reminders are used is thus an important part of implementing the CRM system – and the required degree of introspection into how a business uses reminders can take a back seat during initial deployment. That’s how such a vital piece of functionality can be overlooked and forgotten.

And, just because you’re using reminders doesn’t mean you should stop thinking about better ways of using them. “Reminders should be carefully considered, but also not considered complete when a system is turned on,” Lieberman said. “For example, the notification mechanisms may change. Or I may decide I would like an SMS notification, but that was not utilized initially. Flexibility is critical, so uses can adapt and adopt.”

Once reminders are in place, the next step is to refine them, Lieberman said. How do you do that? “Filters,” he said. “A reminder is really a form of interruption. It used to be that email could interrupt, but now there are too many emails. So, SMS is a great interrupt mechanism. One day that will change. Filters will allow me to figure out and alter what interrupts me and how, allowing me to optimize my day.”

One thought on “CRM’s Forgotten Features: Reminders

  1. We’ve found that integrating reminders with a more social process keeps you accountable. Tying in a reminder with a “wall post” that’s shared with your sales team keeps them in the loop. These are reminders you set yourself, to follow up on what to do next for something. It’s more collaborative and it fosters greater adoption.

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