Corporate CRM system design and SME CRM16/02/2010

A company that had been using Maximizer CRM for over 10 years decided in 2008 to move to Microsoft CRM. Now they are back with Maximizer. Their experience is a lesson to all SME organizations. Sometimes a corporate CRM solution is not appropriate. The company is in the business of supplying high-end servers and screens to thousands of customers, and they run large e-mail campaigns to support a telesales team of 10. They were introduced to Maximizer CRM by JI Software.

They began their Microsoft CRM implementation with a review of business processes. There was considerable customisation work done to accommodate their established ways of working. When sales staff were shown how they would use the system, they were initially critical of the multiple-screen way of working, ‘Too many mouse clicks!’. In the early months after the go-live, there was a need to re-design some of the screens. Before the Credit Crunch became serious, their sales levels were acceptable and the system seemed to be doing what was required.

The company had many banks in their customer list and during 2008 their spending on IT equipment was cut. They were struggling to maintain sales at budgeted levels and the sales team was under pressure to step up their efforts. In 2009 trading conditions continued to be tough. Sales levels were just 'adequate' but below target. The business needed more, so staff were again put under pressure to make more calls. There was some complaining about the system being slow, so as they were an IT supplier they put the CRM application on a top-end server. The complaints subsided a little and the daily call rate went up. Staff began to complain that they had not found it difficult to make high call rate targets with Maximizer, but the new system was holding them back; it was too slow. Management had the screens modified in an attempt to work more like Maximizer.

By the middle of 2009 trading conditions had not improved so management told sales staff to look through the records of old customers who had not bought or who might be encouraged to buy more. Management discovered that this was impossible because the customer profiles in the system had not been properly maintained. Sales staff informed management that in order to make the call rate required of them and get the business in, they had stopped putting the notes into the customer record. As a result the team was unable to search, group and target campaigns as they had done in the past with Maximizer. This was a very serious problem.

In their defense, they argued that the system was too slow and they had no option but to drop the updating of customer information in order to make targets. Management reviewed the sales processes they were using and concluded that the ‘slowness’ was only partly an IT issue; it was more a matter of the design of the user interface. There were too many screens and mouse-clicks. The CRM activity overhead on every call took too much time. What they had been able to do in Maximizer 18 months before was not possible with the new system so they contacted JI Software and moved back to Maximizer CRM.

What do we learn from this experience?  First of all it seems that that corporate CRM systems offer only  hosted (browser) deployment and the customer interface processes as a consequence must be constructed in forms. This has an advantage of sorts in that it constrains users to follow process; and it can give a lower IT management cost per workstation. This might be right and economic for large teams but is an unacceptable overhead for SME’s. Maximizer's client-server user interface however works differently; it’s more flexible. It does this by using the power of the workstation/PC to create an immediate and responsive working environment. Hosted CRM systems cannot match this.

Things you can do in Maximizer like saving call notes take only a few seconds and a few clicks. Users see it has a toolkit of office tasks which they use as necessary; their work is ‘enabled’ by Maximizer not ‘constrained’ by forms. This helps them to work faster and smarter and get more job satisfaction out of managing their own time, getting the job done and making their targets.

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