When Time is Money…..

Customer Service

When Time is Money: Why an Easy Interface, Quick Installation and Good Support is Important

Good customer relationship management or CRM tools can do a lot to help a business power forward into future quarters, but for those who are talking glibly about the inherent benefits of these technologies in the office, there may be more than a few elephants in the room. You really don’t have to look too far to get a view of “the dark side” of CRM, where various projects have fallen flat for a variety of reasons. Whether it’s an investment firm, a Fortune 500 provider of building products, or a world renowned chocolatier with multinational operations, many different kinds of executives have their own horror stories about how the benefits of these neat new Web delivered systems failed to materialize in the field. Entrepreneurs and executives who shiver at these tales probably won’t feel better reading “dark omens” like this one from business research firm Gartner, which, according to CRM Magazine, noted several years ago that they expected the majority of CRM buyers to be disappointed through 2006. More recently, other reports have also discounted a lot of the progress of CRM efforts across the board, such as this IT Business Edge article that points out how many companies haven’t really succeeded with efficiently and integration.

CRM for Small Business

Some of the risks of investing in these systems are even bigger for businesses with a smaller footprint. So what do these smaller shops need to benefit the most from a new IT solution for customer outreach and business communications? Let’s start with what they don’t need, evidenced by some of these ‘CRM horror stories.’ As major obstacles, planners experience in IT mismatches site some of these common problems:

  • incompatibility with system requirements
  • ‘user-unfriendly’ designs that lower morale, or that employees refuse to contend with
  • too much complexity and cost
  • systems that don’t sync up with operations in a practical, reasonable way
  • lack of training or support from vendors

All of these roadblocks have led to situations where companies go in in good faith, only to find that they had not sourced the IT solutions that would serve them best.

Desirable CRM Solutions for SMBs (And Pretty Much Everyone Else)

Simply flipping some of these problems upside down shows clearly what a majority of business leaders want from their CRM systems. One big principle is accessibility and an easy interface; when these systems are delivered, people need them to work quickly and work well. There needs to be a minimal ‘learning curve’ attached to use, from the commands and controls that will help end users navigate to the APIs and design features that will help in-house IT to customize screens.

Another big point is that implementation should also be quick and simple. Having a well designed cloud-based or web hosted CRM system helps, but trouble-free delivery still takes some work on the part of the vendor. For instance, those who order new IT systems may have questions like: when can I log on? What machines will this work with? Can this support multiple users? Where do I access this from?

These simple questions can persist from the original installation into the next phase, ongoing use. That’s where clients continue to need substantial support from vendors about how to call up screens, populate files, or add (or subtract) features.

The bottom line is that small business owners particularly need agile, affordable CRM systems that perform efficiently. Many buyers would gladly sacrifice bells and whistles for additional ease of use and a price that’s easier on the company’s expenses. Not to mention that an ounce of vendor support can be worth a pound of functionality. So for those who are just starting to shop around to various vendors and look at different web hosted solutions, it’s important to be able to sort through the options and realize that these kinds of systems can be radically different, and that these differences can really affect what happens when business owners or managers “unwrap the box” and get started actually using these designs in their offices.

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.

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