The Importance of CRM Usability
Usability is crucially important when selecting a CRM application, which is all about the user (hence the name). How complex is the CRM application, or how easy is it to learn and use?
One method of judging a product is by the number of support tickets it has. If it has many, you know that there are serious issues with usability. The number of tickets can also be an indication of the number of bugs the product has—which of course comes back to the usability, too.
In all of Pipeliner’s development, we apply the principles of cybernetics—the science of simplification. Interestingly we have far fewer bugs and support tickets than our competitors.
Simplicity is never easy to program. Steve Jobs famously said, “Simple can be harder than complex: you have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.” Simplicity is really where the rubber meets the road when it comes to CRM, and is the main difference between ourselves and our competition.
In applying cybernetic principles, we work through 3 different areas:
1. We always have the user in mind, programming everything from the standpoint of the salesperson. While I am the CEO, I am also a long-term salesperson and am always working with our development team. Normally an application such as ours is simply left to programmers, but with our methodology, Pipeliner is always programmed from the sales mindset.
2. We are constantly working to make our application simpler. Our goal is to have it so simple and clear that it requires as little explanation as possible—and I’ll provide examples of that in a moment.
3. The third aspect is to build spectacular visualization into the product. A part of this is to use visual elements such as icons that are universal, that anyone can understand.
As an example outside of our field, think about airports, which exist in places with endless different languages. From airport to airport, the symbols are the same. Think about what would happen if the symbol for the baggage claim, for example, was totally different from airport to airport. Chaos would result!
In my opinion, this is where many of our competitors go astray…and the user is totally lost.
I am always monitoring our competition and recently came across a new competitor (I’ll save them embarrassment and not mention their name) that was particularly guilty of this. As a very experienced CRM user (I am the developer of a leading CRM), I became totally confused when trying to use this product. The front screen has 6 icons, labeled “Discuss”, “Calendar”, “Contacts”, “Accounting”, “Project”, and “Settings.” This use of terms by itself is confusing, as these should not be separate components, but integrated into CRM itself.
But then just as an example, their calendar is missing much of the functionality you’d find in ours, and in others, too. You don’t have standard options such as the ability to make a workweek. The main problem, though, is that the calendar is sitting off by itself and isn’t embedded into other functions. If you compare it to Pipeliner, you can go into “Activities” for example, and if you need to see the calendar, you can click on it, and see your activities right on the calendar.
An important aspect of usability is making the CRM easy to learn—and at Pipeliner we provide multiple ways for users to learn the system. First is the application tour, which thoroughly teaches the basics. Then there is the knowledge base, through which a user can learn any aspect they are curious about. Or, the user can turn to support, and there are two ways to do that: through a support ticket, or online chat.
Another method of making a system easy to learn is to make sure the views and screens are consistent so that the user knows from one screen to another where to find things. As an example, we keep the same detail screen no matter if you’re looking at leads, opportunities, accounts or contacts. For users, this means they can easily find their way around the application and learn it much faster. That was a problem with the other CRM application I was discussing earlier—its screens are different from component to component, and it’s easy to become lost.
What They Like, They’ll Use
The fantastic thing about making a CRM easy to learn and use is that users love it. Companies don’t have to force salespeople to use it, because they’ll naturally take to it. This doesn’t happen, I’m sorry to say, with the enormous traditional CRM applications. Companies have to enforce CRM use with penalties for not using it. That’s a sorry comment on that CRM.
Yes, Usability Counts!
Why is usability so important? Because without it, you not only lose users but data. When users hate CRM, they input data sloppily or not at all. Then all the other functions that rely on that data, such as forecasting and reporting, become unreliable. The reverse, then, is also true: when a system is loved and used, the data is far more reliable and reflects the real world.
Pipeliner CRM is the best because of its usability. That’s really the core of our system because it’s totally usable from beginning to end.
Here are the crucial questions to ask when evaluating a CRM application for usability:
1. While being as powerful as you need it, how simple is the system?
2. It is designed and programmed with the salesperson in mind?
3. Is the application visual so that it’s easily understood by all users?
4. How long does it take for a user to learn the system? (Hint: Pipeliner takes an average of 5 hours, where our biggest competitors take weeks or months).
5. Look at reviews: do users like the system and use it because they like it?