This article originally appeared in Forbes)
A press release from a CRM company called Evergent caught my eye this week.
The company announced the release of a new customer relationship management (CRM) product specifically targeted at streaming and digital subscription businesses who use Amazon Web Services (AWS) as their cloud platform and its listing on the AWS marketplace, a place where thousands of app developers are also selling their solutions.
Evergent’s product — called CCB 3.0 — looks promising and I wish them every success. But what really caught my eye was their headline which promised that its solutions are “user friendly.” I hope so. Because if you’re looking for a CRM and particularly for a small or mid-sized business that doesn’t need very advanced or complex requirements, being “user friendly” is important, albeit somewhat difficult to achieve.
That’s because “user friendly” is a very, very gray area. I can easily name twenty of my clients who think that one of the products we sell — Zoho — is extremely user friendly and then immediately offer another twenty that say it’s very much not user friendly. User friendly depends on personalities, habits, left brain, right brain and other impossible-to-quantify factors. You tell me the color of the living room is blue. Your spouse says it’s aqua. Given all the subjectiveness, it’s problematic to get everyone in a team to agree on whether or not a CRM application is user friendly. But it’s important to at least get a significant majority to agree.
My advice: choose a CRM that’s most like your existing applications. That’s because people don’t like change. So if they come across a CRM application that looks and feels familiar they’ll say it’s user friendly, even if it’s no more friendly than anything else. Which means that if your company uses Office 365 or Google or a specific ERP/accounting software a lot then finding a CRM that’s most like it will be your best bet.
This is important because — in reality — most mainstream and successful CRM applications geared to small and mid-sized businesses have the features you need. They watch each other closely. They easily publish updates overnight to their cloud-based systems. They match the competition line-by-line on the typical “CRM Comparison” checklist that people seem to like to do. You’re not going to find one that’s so overwhelmingly better than another in this category.
That’s why user friendliness is so critical. That…and one other thing.
It’s how the system is delivered. Because even though these small business CRM applications have the necessary ingredients to be a very productive tool, they need to be set up the right way. Because if they’re not, then all the “user friendly” in the world won’t help you.
So just as important as being user friendly you need to find a person — the internal team at the CRM vendor or an outside partner or consultant — to set up your system properly. That means configuring the fields, designing the reports, migrating the data, creating automation, integrating with other applications. And then there’s training, training, training, training, training…of both users and administrators to carry the ball. All of this needs to be done by people that you like and trust and give you confidence.
No offense, but when it comes to setting up your CRM system, there’s a high probability that you don’t know what you’re doing. You don’t implement CRM systems for a living. You’re in sales, marketing or service. You know your company and your products. And you also know what you want when the smoke clears. So you’ll want to communicate those objectives to an experienced person or firm that does this all the time with the product you’ve selected. They’ll get you off on the right foot and, if you’re willing to keep investing, they’ll continue to make sure that you don’t go off-track.
So yes, user friendly is very critical. But so is who’s implementing your system. If you’re a small or mid-sized business that’s chosen a popular CRM application then focus on those two things and you’ll have a very significant chance of success with your new system.