In a previous post called CRM Best Practices: Building the Foundation, we walked through 6 crucial steps needed to get CRM off to a great start. In it, we outlined the key foundational components of CRM effectiveness. In this article, we’ll look at 8 practical and proven ways to make CRM easier to use.
Today’s CRMs are incredibly powerful and robust but this can be a double-edged sword. As with most software programs, vendors continually increase functionality, flexibility, customization and integration options. These are all good things, but they also add complexity and can make the system more difficult to learn and use.
The following ideas will help make CRM easier to use for both end-users and the people managing the system. Full adoption of CRM is critical and most times it’s an “all or nothing” proposition. Your CRM must be fully utilized if you want to standardize and simplify processes, have accurate reporting and ultimately increase sales.
Here’s a quick re-cap of the “foundational” tips that were presented in CRM Best Practices: Building the Foundation:
- Gain Executive Buy-In
- Create a Plan
- Build it for Users
- Provide Training & Support
- Mandate Adoption
- Communicate Results
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8 Tips for Making CRM Easier to Use
#1 Minimize Fields:
When deploying CRM, people have a tendency to include fields that are rarely if ever used. People think “we might need this” but don’t stop to ask themselves “why.” In the planning phase, a good approach is to critically challenge every field you want to include. Why is it important? What purpose does it serve? Does it feed a measurement that needs reporting? If you don’t have a valid reason for a field, exclude it.
#2 Customize Page Layouts:
Most CRMs allow you to define roles, permissions and page layouts based on different user groups. Use this feature when you set up your CRM. Only show fields that are relevant to each user type. For example, Marketing often creates custom fields to track awareness and engagement levels before opportunities convert. If people in the Service department use the CRM, they don’t need this data and likely don’t care about it. So don’t include it in their respective views of the system. This keeps their screens from being too distracting.
Another aspect of simplifying page layout involves “related lists.” Accounts, Contacts, and Opportunities typically reside in distinct sections of the CRM and are often referred to as objects. These objects can contain data from other objects that sit under the main body of information. Often, the default includes a number of related lists that seldom get used. It’s best to take those off your page layouts if they’re not useful.
#3 Reduce Required Fields:
The primary way to “force” a user to input specific data is with the dreaded “required field.” Some fields are absolutely a must, but think about your process and make sure you don’t have required fields that are not essential. Nothing annoys a user more than making them enter data they don’t think is relevant. If a field is important and should be required, a good start is explaining why it matters. Keeping required fields to a bare minimum helps productivity and reduces frustration.
#4 Simplify Lead Creation:
When it comes to leads in CRM, most are early stage or not prospects at all. This is why CRMs typically use a separate lead database so you don’t clutter up your accounts with useless data. The idea is to create (or import) leads in a way that takes very little time. Keep your lead record simple! The company name, contact name, lead source, interest, industry, city, email, and phone number will generally do. If you import lists with full addresses and other information, that’s fine – but, don’t ask people to type it in. Once leads convert and there is substance to an opportunity, data will increasingly be added during the sales cycle.
#5 Use Automated Formatting:
Most CRMs allow some degree of automation. It varies between products so to start you should invest time learning about your CRM’s capabilities specifically around: 1) Easing data entry by automatically formatting certain types of information and leveraging dependent picklists: and 2) Any other features that save keystrokes or unnecessary navigation.
#6 Simplify Field Names:
Don’t confuse users with field names that differ from other internal systems. If your entire company refers to those who have bought your products as “clients,” don’t name the CRM field “customers”. Creating a corporate “standard naming convention” document is a great idea if you don’t have one already. The more familiar you make your field names in CRM, the better. If you use custom fields, make them intuitive, short and simple. Titles that are too long will make your reporting unwieldy.
#7 Use Help Buttons:
A great feature of most CRMs is that you can customize help buttons (usually a question mark symbol) to provide real-time instruction if people are not sure about a specific field. If you have this feature, use it. Obviously, you don’t need to explain what a zip code is, but if it’s a custom field, this is a perfect way to help users understand what the field is for and how to use it properly. For required fields, this is a good place to describe why a field is needed. This also makes training for your CRM easier and helps people get up to speed faster.
#8 Make it Mobile:
Like websites and other Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) applications – it needs to be mobile. Many users work in the field – especially salespeople. If they can’t access their CRM data in a way that’s productive, that is a severe limitation. The good news is that virtually all SaaS-based CRMs offer a mobile app version of their software. If they don’t, or you’re considering a licensed CRM without strong mobile capabilities – stop now and save your money!
If you have built a good foundation, making your CRM easier to use is guaranteed to improve adoption and effectiveness. Ease-of-use is heavily impacted by simplicity, a clean interface, and relevance. Think about CRM from the user’s perspective and always challenge yourself in your set-up decisions. It’s been proven time and again that whether it’s a machine, a website, or a software application – positive user experience is often the difference between success and failure.
Please share any ideas, thoughts, or experiences you may have on this topic. Contact Us if we can help with your CRM project, or point you in the right direction.
Randy Fougere | Founder and President I have helped companies grow faster for more than 25 years. With deep expertise in marketing, sales and leadership, I started Think2Grow to help mid-sized B2B clients accelerate sales with thoughtful, results-driven marketing services.