CRM and the User-Friendly Visual Interface
One of the principles that makes accessible, visual CRM great for any type or any size of business can in some ways be traced back to a piece of “legacy” engineering by Apple Computer back in the primordial dawn of the late 1980s. For some of us who came of age in that interesting time before tiny cell phones, global Internet and a lot of other tech goodies we take for granted today, the classic Macintosh computer stood out as a major landmark in our process of encountering technology. The boxy ‘old Mac’ with its squat, collectivized monitor and disk drive was an object of fascination for more than one reason.
The Apple program that in some ways proved a precursor to a lot of today’s best interfaces was called HyperCard. Before the web hyperlink was something that we use every day, Apple had already embraced the concept of ‘hypermedia’ and created a unique programming tool that blended scripted coding with a specific type of format that made a lot of projects more ‘visual’ in some of the same ways that Microsoft Windows innovated the operating system, or in what MS Visual Basic offers to a developer platform (in fact, the HyperCard “card” is often seen as another similar resource as the VB “form”)
A Stack of Cards
The core concept of HyperCard was that programming in the computer was manifested in the format of a stack of cards. Cards could be hyperlinked to one another, embedded with command objects, shuffled around, and generally navigated by users. At the same time, a coding language called ‘HyperTalk’ stood, invisible, behind these ‘card’ units.
Combining something as simple as flipping a set of cards with an underlying scripting capability created a lot of interesting opportunities for projects that had a lot of technical complexity but were still very user-friendly, where connecting to the nuts and bolts of the program didn’t involve the kind of tedious technicality in, say, reading the lines of an old PC-DOS session.
Today’s users still want that user-friendly phenomenon, and anyone who doesn’t wear UNIX t-shirts, talk in pseudo-code or otherwise feel comfortable in a “world of pure syntax” wants something to deliver them from the dryness and inaccessibility of linear code or text.
How Visual CRM Delivers Client Data
Great visual CRM interfaces do some of the same things that HyperCard did. Like HyperCard, a CRM resource is much more than just a “stack of cards,” but the idea that each customer or individual has their own “file” or “dossier” presented on demand means that thinking of these programs as a stack of cards can be a relevant way for non-technical users to understand how these interfaces work. Just as HyperCard fundamentally changed the way people programmed, visual CRM changes the nature of customer data. For example, many businesses used to keep customer data in simple Excel spreadsheets, and some still do – which is a shame, since Excel is not very readable or visually attractive. In fact, many of us lack the ability to concentrate on these tiny lines long enough to really learn a column representing a person’s name and other key data. On the other hand, the kinds of CRM tools that feature immediate use (pop-up caller i.d., etc.) give users much more, from a smiling head shot to go with a name, to other kinds of information that you can find without scrolling through a spreadsheet.
Business leaders who have taken the plunge and implemented these kinds of easy to use, rich visual CRM presentations have seen that changing sales force resources in this way can have a big effect on what a company is able to do to reach out and keep in touch with their best clients and customers, and to generate new business in ways that rely on closer, fuller connections. Talking to good CRM vendors can give an executive or other leader much more of an idea of how these kinds of tools can fit into a specific business plan to help a firm expand and compete in a high-tech business world.
Justin Stoltzfus is a freelance writer covering technology and business solutions at Techopedia, Business Finance Store and Ringio, focusing on emerging trends in IT services.