Non-CRM CRM. What you need to know to make the right choice

The active penetration of web technologies, the development of social services and portable devices is already affecting not only the life of the average person, who actively uses the benefits of new technologies in everyday life, but also the business environment. Over the past few months, in conversations with well-known personalities on the Russian CRM market, we have repeatedly heard that users of business applications are beginning to impose the same requirements on them as they do on social services and other “everyday” software products: no training required, an intuitive interface, ease of mastering. Also don’t forget that you always have the option to order moving industry software.

This trend, of course, has not ignored CRM systems, and in this area the situation is somewhat more complicated: because of the seeming simplicity of the functions of CRM solutions a lot of interest in this market are non-traditional players – web studios and companies specializing in web applications. But is it correct to equate, for example, the social network Facebook and business applications? Is it right to say that your company’s information systems should be as simple as Twitter? Surprisingly, simplicity is not an issue when purchasing a system for operational turnover management or an accounting system! Moreover, it is completely irrelevant there, because the more complicated is a company’s structure and procedures, the more complicated are its information systems, which are nothing else but an electronic version of the same company.

Let’s try to understand why there is such a tendency to simplify a rather complex subject area, which, by the way, requires special knowledge in a large number of related industries.

Problem 1: Substitution of concepts

For many years, it was believed that 1C produced software products for bookkeeping. That is, if an enterprise needed accounting software – it was in 1C, if something else – no longer. The fact that today 1C products are more perceived as management products is the result of several years of work by dozens of people. 

It’s the same with CRM! If a product has the ability to maintain lists of contacts and clients – then it is a CRM-system. Only with CRM situation is much worse, since unlike the same accounting programs (does the balance, then it is accounting) in Russia, there is no unambiguous notion of what is a CRM system and what software products can be attributed specifically to this category. As a result, there is a situation where the notions of “ease of learning the product”, “user-friendly interface” and “no need for training” are transformed into “system simplicity” – that is, the reduction of functions, limitation of opportunities and paucity of functionality. Can you imagine a “simple” accounting program with three functions? Nothing that can not prepare accounts (which is actually what it is for), but inexpensive and easy to learn.

Problem 2: Lack of standards

The situation described in the previous paragraph is complicated by a lack of well-known industrial standards, resulting in the class of CRM include anything from electronic notebooks and contact managers with three or four features for a couple hundred rubles a month to Oracle Siebel CRM-level systems with project costs in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. The foundations of this problem lie, surprisingly enough, far beyond the boundaries of information technology. 

As you know, the creation of software products historically always happened according to the following scheme: some company (not from the IT field) faced the need to improve the efficiency of its work (in the end, any “software” is just a means to do the same thing, but better and faster) and to solve this problem it created a certain information system. Its competitor, in order to maintain its market share and a commensurate increase in efficiency, also created an information system, but taking into account the shortcomings of the first and so on. Each time the information system was created for the realization and improvement of a particular process or several processes. Each time the system had a specific goal – for the accounting process two accountants are needed without the system, can one cope with the task when the system is available? One manager handles twenty requests a day, can he handle forty with the system in place? The economics are simple and obvious – the system allows the same number of employees to perform more tasks. And this saves on rent, wages, equipment, furniture, etc. In other words, I understand where and at what cost I increase efficiency, and I understand how the information system will help me achieve this. That is, I have a certain process, by automating part of the operations of which I get an increase in the efficiency of the company as a whole.

Now back to our problem – the absence of basic customer relationship management processes (again – customer relationship management – not sales personnel control, not sales management), i.e. some systematic activity carried out by the entire company in relation to its customers and aimed at one thing in particular – increasing the number of company products used by its average customer – leads to the fact that:

  • The company does not understand the idea of customer relationship management;
  • The company does not have metrics for customer relationship management;
  • The company does not understand the software requirements for process optimization.

Thus, a large number of companies can not only formulate their requirements and expectations of the CRM-system, but even to understand the ultimate goal of its implementation in terms of the economy of the company as a whole. And some unscrupulous vendors take advantage of this, offering solutions that are obvious (for accounting clients, contacts, tasks), but have nothing to do with CRM, because otherwise we would have to call Google Mail a CRM system, especially given the opportunities for corporate use, or for fans of classic “thick” solutions – MS Outlook. 

More surprising is that almost all sites of such “magic remedies” contain slogans that the system will work for you (the manager) and increase the efficiency of work with the client. The question is how! By accumulating a list of clients, contacts and tasks? With the fact that after the client in this list, he will never call again? And how can we talk about managing relationships if, for example, one of the most important characteristics of knowledge about customers – segmentation parameters – is missing? But in such systems may be possible to prepare primary documents, and all of them – TORG-12, TTN, invoices, etc. But to the accounting these “sub (e) trees can not be attributed, since the preparation of these forms of any control of legal requirements (cross-numbering of invoices, for example) is not made and never will be made.

The paradox is that the company, really wishing to buy a CRM system, often finds itself in a situation where it is “untwisted” into a product with functions which, in principle, already exist in corporate software to solve internal organizational tasks of the company (e-mail, like MS Outlook, or the same 1C) and have nothing to do with the CRM problem neither in substance nor in content. And, as a rule, all this happens in the absence of relationship management process in the company as such, and it is not about any consulting, because after professional consulting they will not buy it! So, this whole process is called “implementation of CRM”, they charge for it, the implemented product is called a CRM system and the implementing company is called a supplier of the latest generation CRM solutions. Is not it strange to you? I do.

Problem 3: No one to look back on

Since the aforementioned products came out of web studios and other similar companies, sophisticated in matters of SEO-optimization and SEO-promotion, then on requests in search engines relating to CRM, a good twenty pages of output will be filled with offers inexpensive CRM-systems on the principle of “sat-go”. If your company has an IT-service or knowledgeable in CRM-problems commercial director will not be a problem – they immediately figured out what’s what. But what about the representatives of small and medium-sized businesses that are not too sophisticated in the matter?

In general, there are several parameters that allow you to classify a product as a CRM solution. Such systems typically have five main CRM process modules: customer base management (including segmentation, including based on financial indicators), contact person management, sales management, marketing management (including loyalty), and service management (including proactive support). We’ve covered these processes in detail in our materials, so we won’t do that here. But in brief, the CRM-system in the presence of these modules provides an answer to the question: what else can I offer to this particular client, and how to do it as beneficial to the client and to my company? It means that on the one hand it accumulates client data to facilitate the work with the client, on the other hand it accumulates financial indicators to understand whether the company is going the right way when working with a client. I assure you, lists of contacts and clients and even a sales funnel are, yes, necessary attributes of a CRM system, but far from being the only ones. On the other hand, even their presence does not always allow you to classify the system as a CRM. So what should you do? Let’s give a couple of recommendations – CRM-system should help you with the answers to these questions:

  • What have I already offered the client and what else can I offer him?
  • What group does this client belong to and how can I attract other clients like him?
  • At what stage are negotiations with all my clients today?
  • How many offers do I have and for how much?
  • What style of work should I choose with this client in view of his group?
  • Should I include my client in the VIP list or not?
  • What is the volume of my client’s purchases and when was the last purchase?
  • How can I improve my company’s performance?

And many other similar questions. You will say – today I only need to keep a list of contacts and clients, I do not need all this complexity. We’ll say yes today, but the appetite, as you know, comes with the meal. And remember, the joy of a low cost product lasts less than the disappointment of its low quality. And we are always ready to help you in choosing or using a CRM-system!