CRM “success” and “failure:” both are built on the user experience

Do you have a visual representation of your CRM system? I think companies have this early on, but that drawing gets put away as the work of implementation begins and is never seen again. That’s a pity, because a visual representation is a great way to see how your CRM is working, who it’s touching in the organization – and the flip side of these things, namely what parts of the organization are still blind to the data in CRM and where it could extend its impact.

The other nice thing about a visual image like this is that it can identify the foundations on which the system is built. In virtually every case, the first layer of that foundation is not in the reporting function, which are often touted loudest by vendors and which tend to have inordinate influence in the sales of CRM applications. The first layer is the addition of data into the system by front-line users in sales, marketing and service. Without that basic activity everything else becomes an expensive guess.

This is why adoption is so critical. Without full adoption of CRM, your pretty reports are mere snapshots based on the activities of your most CRM-inclined sales reps. If that’s the case, it matters not how advanced your reporting is; you’ll have really great reports based on incomplete data. Can you be sure that any decision you make based on incomplete data is the right one?

This is why I wring my hands when CRM buyers get wrapped up in the Next Big Thing – by matter how potentially useful it may be – and fail to understand that none of it is going to work if your CRM application is ugly, hard to use or rigid in its processes. Social CRM, Mobile CRM, Customer Experience Management – all of these depend on data coming into the system from employees who have real-world contact with customers to create context, content and usefulness. If you drive away the people who build the foundation with a horrible user experience or an eye-offending interface, none of the next-generation CRM concepts will bail you out.

You have to walk before you can run. A lot of vendors, however, have tied your shoelaces together by giving you interfaces that had their roots in database design, and which have not evolved as CRM went from an IT project for sales people to a business tool overseen and enabled by IT pros. We’ve had a long time to grapple with this and we’ve had a lot of input from users about what works for them and what doesn’t. On an industry-wide basis, CRM hasn’t yet gotten the message as thoroughly as it should have, which is why adoption is still a major issue and why we still talk about the idea of “CRM failure.”

It’s been said repeatedly that a good customer experience starts with a good employee experience. The same goes for CRM: a good CRM experience for a company starts with a good CRM experience for the users, and not just the management. Listen to the people who use your CRM application regularly, and if they’re not happy with their experience you should start looking for an experience (read: application) that is designed with the idea of the end user first.

–Chris Bucholtz

One thought on “CRM “success” and “failure:” both are built on the user experience

  1. Great article. Its true without “addition of data into the system” a CRM campaign is basically an expensive guess. “Can you be sure that any decision you make based on incomplete data is the right one?” No. Relevant and up-to-date data are essential to understand key trends in your CRM campaigns. User experience is fundamental to building up trust and loyalty with the customer and in turn drive sales of the product. There are many factors that need to be considered when creating a successful CRM model. You may want to have a look at this helpful infographic on why CRM systems fail:


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