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Caveats in the CRM Suite

There are many caveats to consider in adopting a CRM system from both user experience and business objectives standpoints, in this age of data abundance and AI solutions.

Editor’s Intro: CRM systems have taken such a firm hold because of the promises they make about managing and building customer relationships and therefore longer-term profits. Unfortunately, in too many cases, the reality doesn’t match the promise. Vivian Chak gives us a mature POV on the problems of CRM under-delivery and the many pain points that need to be considered by companies looking to build a CRM system that actually delivers against their needs. There are many worthwhile points to consider inter article.

The Customer Relationship Management (CRM) suite allows businesses like yours and mine to leverage a specific set of technological and data products or tools to track and analyze customer interactions and transactions. One of the biggest problems CRM is trying to currently solve is to help understand customers better by allowing corporations to realize the full value of their customer data. For some, this might mean leveraging CRM insights about customers to provide timely services or goods. Healthcare providers, for example, may use CRM to coordinate appointments between disparate clinics for patients, with the ultimate goal of improving health outcomes through patient adherence to treatment regimens. Or a retailer may use CRM to track product sales and customer satisfaction over time, with the aim of using this aggregated data to predict their next bestseller.

Matching the right CRM to the right use case is important. People buy CRM with the expectation that it will be easier to use and get value from than spreadsheets or paper files. These expectations can vary dramatically between different market segments and industries. Service providers may require their CRM to have a user interface allowing them to toggle between serving a customer and viewing their history with the company. For example, a family-owned business may have different requirements for their CRM, such as an interface that enables easy access to customer contact information, and a place to store their transaction history. Determining the right CRM for your business in collaboration with your end users is key to enabling the best user experience.

The top 10 pain-points when working in the CRM suite today are:


1. Bad data

A good CRM should allow users to draw insights from their customer data by being the source of truth for the company; inaccurate data makes this difficult – “garbage in, garbage out.”


2. Permanence of Bad Data

An extension of the problem posed by bad data, distinguishing it from correct data and removing it from the system can be more difficult than discovering the faulty data itself. And should we be headed for a future of widespread permanent data ledgers, we could soon be experiencing “garbage in, garbage forever”.


3. Enablement

CRM inputs come from its users (sales, service, marketing). If the users do not understand how to properly use the interface, bad data proliferates.


4. Setup

If a company’s data lives in many places—spreadsheets on assorted hard drives, files in cabinets—and the chosen CRM is not simple to port data into, this can significantly delay return on investment, as valuable time is spent trying to aggregate the disparate data instead of analyzing and using it to inform business decisions.


5. Establishing Business Use Cases

Given the diverse use cases of CRM and its widespread applications, it is unfortunately very easy to buy the wrong product for the intended use (e.g., using a generalized CRM lacking proper data encryption to store patient data).


6. Communication

While CRM is meant to facilitate discussion across departments (like encouraging corporate strategy and sales to collaborate on sales metrics), the ease of access to the data it provides, coupled with user silos, can double the work: like multiple people building the same or similar metric dashboard and ensuing confusion about which metric dashboard is the correct one!


7. Keeping Users Engaged

Even after establishing clear use cases for CRM, successful setup, and enabling users, the value return cannot be sustained if users are not motivated to continue inputting fresh data and draw timely insights.


8. Security (external)

While one of the main functions of a CRM is improving communications across the company and its customers, this is a double-edged sword. Storing customer data and the subsequent obligation to protect it, can be a pain, if it is not properly secured.


9. Changing Personal Privacy Laws

Given the increasing ease with which companies and organizations can now collect data on individuals and the new frontiers this breaches, new laws and guidelines are constantly being created globally to protect the individual’s rights to privacy. Subsequently, when considering CRM purchases, it is important to ensure that the intended use for the CRM does not violate customer rights.


10. Drowning in Data

CRM can greatly increase the volume of data available to a company or organization; if this is not considered, what seemed like an irrelevant problem prior to the CRM purchase can suddenly become significant. For example, CRM is purchased to track customer transactions in-store, but it comes with a feature to track online sales as well. With this feature turned on, the data volume exponentially increases at a faster than expected rate, and the company runs out of server storage space.


I believe this need for companies to collect and draw insights from their CRM data will only grow over the next 10 years, as individual data grows. Barring few recent incidents of mass user data leaks and unconsented use of social network data, our appetites for sharing personal information in exchange for better customer or user experiences remains high. And the expectations we have of empathetic user experiences will grow. We would like our service providers and merchants to know what we want and when we want; and as technological advances make it possible to fulfill more of these expectations, organizations will feel pressured to maximize their use of data and technology to satisfy more clients.


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Vivian Chak

Vivian Chak

Senior Analyst, Sales Strategy and Operations, Salesforce