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Ease of use drives CRM adoption

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After being hailed as the "killer app" of the early 21st century, customer relationship management (CRM)  failed to live up to expectations and adoption of the technology floundered. Now this formerly much-hyped technology is finally – and quietly – coming of age.

That's the view of Wayne Human, head of product strategy and innovation in the Software Engineering business unit at The IQ Business Group.
"The problem was that while first- and second-generation CRM technology was supposed to propel businesses into a new customer-centric frame of mind, it was too complex and complicated to use effectively. Instead of making the lives of sales people and customer service personnel easier and their jobs more efficient, it tended to make processes and tasks more cumbersome.
"The result was slow or even no user adoption, which – in turn – resulted in unrealised benefits. In effect, CRM became regarded as a good, theoretical idea with little practical business application. The expense, effort and time required to implement a CRM solution and to train people to use it could seldom be justified by the returns generated," he says.
Another problem has been the complexity involved in implementing an effective CRM system. There are huge difficulties inherent in integrating disparate legacy systems and consolidating data, leaving many organisations with numerous information silos but no unifying application.
"Interest in CRM is picking up again because users are coming to realise that what they had in place was over-complicated. There is no need to have-it-all and do-it-all to benefit from CRM," he adds.
According to Human, there are three main facets of CRM:
* Incident management – knowing when and what complaints customers have logged with the organisation;
* Sales management – knowing what a customer has bought, and his credit record; and
* Market segmentation – knowing who the customer (demographics) is as well as what products he tends to buy.
CRM products have matured to the point where users can quickly and easily use those facets and functions of the CRM application that best suit their needs.
"It's no longer a case of an application having to offer every bell and whistle. Indeed, today's CRM applications arguably offer less functionality than their yesteryear counterparts. However, they have ease-of-use and practicality in their favour.  Indeed, their use is almost intuitive – the CRM application is rapidly becoming just another everyday program on the desktop.
"And that," Human concludes, "is finally driving the widespread adoption of CRM technology."