Archives For UX

appsorangsThe title may be a bit confusing if you thought the words “customer” and “consumer” are the same, but I urge you to think again. There is a huge distinction in these two groups of people, especially as it applies to CRM. When we go to market as a CRM vendor, we essentially play both the “B2B” role of winning over decision-makers (“customers”), while also needing to win the war over user adoption (the true “consumers” of CRM). And oftentimes, the needs and goals of these two groups may seem different, if not diametrically opposed.

We have seen the types of issues than can befall firms that favor the “customer” over the consumer. In the smartphone world, Blackberry listened to the corporate IT “customer” while Apple favored the “consumer” and brought the iPhone to market – and we’ve seen how Apple’s fortunes have fared since 2007. Closer to home, we saw companies like Siebel Systems favor a complex, enterprise IT and CXO selling focus at the expense of the user experience. While some of the Siebel technology exists under Oracle, Siebel’s glory days are a distant memory in 2014.

At SugarCRM, we try to solve the “customer’s” issues (management-level decision makers) by meeting the “consumer’s” needs (the everyday end user) in new and innovative ways. By giving the front line, customer-facing employee tools they can actually use to do their job more effectively, a lot of benefits rise to the top. For example, with seamless and intuitive mobile tools, sales reps get a tool that gives them critical data when in front of clients. And, simple mobile tools ensure reps can add data when it is most fresh in their minds – not hours later. Therefore, data quality increases, as does revenue predictability – something management cares most about.

This is just one example of how designing for the consumer, and not simply the customer – makes sense. The symbiotic nature of “bottom’s up” design benefits everyone. When customer-facing employees actually want to use the system, management gains insight, predictability, while customer satisfaction and retention can increase (which means greater profit margins). I have seen sales teams that value the individual take this idea and run with it, to great success.

So, for those looking to begin or expand on a CRM initiative – it is important to ask yourself: Is the system I am evaluating designed for the decision-maker, or the everyday user? If it is the former, the long term benefits may not be as strong as you’d expect. But, if you choose a partner that designs with the consumer in mind, you are more than likely on the right track for higher adoption and more profound return on your CRM investment.

We here at SugarCRM are coming off an AMAZING week. In addition to gathering in San Francisco with our customer and partners at SugarCon, we sugarcrm-dashboardalso celebrated our tenth anniversary as a company. All throughout SugarCon, we talked about the Power of “i” and what it means in terms of empowering more individuals in the organizations we serve to be more effective every time they engage with a customer, and to simply perform their jobs better. A huge part of empowering companies to harness the power of “i” comes from the innovative user experience found in Sugar 7. We designed Sugar 7 with the individual in mind – aiming at offering a unique UI that gives users more actionable insight on every screen, as well as a more collaborative approach to CRM. In short, giving users what is most relevant to the tasks at hand – nothing more, nothing less.

Just before SugarCon, analysis firm Software Advice rated their Top 5 Favorite SFA Software User Interfaces, and I can say I am not surprised that Sugar 7 made the list. Here is what the author of the report told SugarCRM he was looking for when making their evaluations:

“When we were evaluating SFA user interfaces (UIs), we looked for designs that included intuitive, unobtrusive navigation systems; clear, aesthetically pleasing reports; and sensible layouts that make smart use of space to emphasize important information. Our favorites combine all these elements (and others) to make using the software both painless for the uninitiated and lightning-fast for SFA veterans,” says Jay Ivey, Managing Editor at Software Advice.

And while Ivey and Software Advice were not necessarily keen to our Power of “i” concept before writing the report, his description of why Sugar 7 made the cut speaks directly to the vision we hold around empowering individual users:

“We chose SugarCRM as one of our favorite interfaces for a lot of reasons, but we especially liked how easy it is for users to customize every aspect of their experience. With a wide range of drag-and-drop dashlets (which are basically widgets containing elements such as opportunity forecasts or contact information), it’s easy to make dashboards your own,” says Ivey. “Once you curate and arrange information to best suit your particular needs, you’ll find yourself wasting less time clicking through multiple screens to access what you’re looking for.”

The validation from Software Advice is not simply a nice kudos to a well designed product. Instead, it is a deeper validation of SugarCRM’s innovative vision in a marketplace that for many years has remained somewhat static. In my opinion, our refreshing approach to user enablement sets us apart, and it is great to see third parties agreeing as well.

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?”.