Archives For UX

A Case for cRm.

Martin Schneider —  June 6, 2013 — 3 Comments

The technology that supports the interactions between a customer and a business have gone through all sorts of changes over r-blogthe past several decades. Advancements in technology, buyer behavior, high-level phenomenon like social media, etc. have all left their mark on CRM technology.

One could argue that in different phases of its evolution, each of the three initials of C-R-M have been the focus. For example, when application software was a nascent market, the simple fact of managing the data around a sales person’s activities (the”M” in CRM) was the focus. Prior to early CRM systems, pen and paper, and early unwieldy databases were the status quo. In short, there was very little focus on the customer and the relationship – just managing and trying to standardize processes and capturing actions. And to keep the “management” conceit going, most early CRM systems benefitted managers more than actual users. Users were forced to enter data, which benefitted management reports around company performance, rather than actually helping users do their jobs better.

As the web, service oriented architectures, the cloud and social media became commonplace, CRM started to become more about customer data. The addition of “the customer” (or the “C” in CRM) sounds ironic, but it was a novel change. Most CRM systems, as noted above, focused on the sales or support agent’s activities and workflow process management, management-level reports, etc. – NOT on optimizing the insights around customer histories to create meaningful experiences at every touch point. Adding the C is a great evolutionary step.

So that brings us to the “R” in CRM. As an industry we have mastered the management of data, and have gotten much better at including rich customer insights into processes and interactions. Evolving further, I think we are starting to actually focus better on the relationships customer have with businesses. That means more of a focus on the point of engagement, not on post-call data entry, or on batch-level rollup reports that tell us nothing in true detail.

Focusing on the relationship benefits both the customer and the actual front line users of a CRM system. The customer benefits because we have the previous addition of their data in the equation, and a focus on solving their problems and generally better meeting their needs right at the point of any engagement, across any channel. That’s good stuff. And by empowering users with the tools they need to better provide that level of service not later, not through 17 screens – but in a single, intuitive user panel that is accessible on any device – sales, marketing and support professionals can do their jobs better and with less stress and manual efforts. Also good stuff.

So, I argue that we are in the era of cRm: focusing on the Relationship aspect of customer interactions. Wether it is a one-time interaction, or a lifelong bond between a buyer and a brand – SugarCRM is looking to help organizations of all sizes optimize those relationships, wherever and whenever.

To learn more about how you can enhance relationships with CRM and related tools, join us for a webinar with Aberdeen Research’s Peter Ostrow titled Amplify the “R” in your CRM on Thursday, June 13th.

We rolled out our new messaging platform back at SugarCon this year, with the “Every Customer, Every User, Every Time” message ringing loud and clear as a call to the CRM world. It’s pretty clear message, especially with end-users who have had to fight against the fails of technology for years and years. But how does this same question resonate in developer circles? Are they too far abstracted away from the user for the message to add value?

I had the privilege of being at the php|tek 2013 conference in Chicago two weeks ago, which is one of the prominent gatherings of the PHP community that we’ve sponsored for the last three years, and heard a great keynote from Andrew Nacin. As lead developer of the WordPress web publishing platform which is being used by millons of people worldwide, he’s observed front and center the challenges of building a self-hosted tool that needs to be as easy as possible to get up and running. There were some great themes that came up…

It speaks loud and clear to the developer world; making users fight against your application, especially in the first experiences the user has with it, is detrimental to adoption. Making the user need to go thru multiple confusing steps to get it up and running, having to install all sort of dependencies, or even needing to do non-trivial maintenance on the application, is way out of their realm; they don’t want to have to learn the internals of an application to be a successful user of it.

For example, telling every user that you need to be using the latest build of Chrome is a requirement, but that doesn’t help the user that is locked by corporate policy into using IE. Or saying that you need to install some specific library in order to install your application, which locks out the person trying to get it up and going on a shared host that doesn’t allow that. Dictating terms like that draws a clear line in the sand, which immediately ostracizes folks who don’t care about these details and just want “something that works”.

Where’s the lesson here? While trying to use the latest whiz-bang-hip thing is great, in the end if it’s not making a tangible different to your user then it doesn’t matter. Users want abstracted from technology, not having to be experts in it. Write every line of code with this thought in mind “Am I helping my user be productive and get the task done, every time?”.