Sales and marketing pros want more from their CRM systems

Discussion
Photo: Getty Images/sanjeri
Aug 23, 2022

More than three decades after the software’s arrival in the late eighties, surveys show CRM (customer relationship management) remains a frustration to many users.

A survey of 511 sales and marketing professionals from Insightly and Ascend2 taken in April found only 21 percent “extremely satisfied” with their CRM solution with 62 percent “somewhat satisfied.”

Among managers and directors, the biggest complaints were: missing/inadequate features, cited by 29 percent; difficult to customize/coding required, 28 percent; and initial or ongoing costs, 27 percent. Executives interviewed cited challenges in scaling.

The top five implementation challenges were found to be: training time, 43 percent; integrating existing systems, 40 percent; data migration, 37 percent; complexity, 31 percent; and time/expense for customizations, 30 percent.

A Salesforce-commissioned study from Forrester Consulting based on a survey last year of about 800 executives found fewer than half saw their CRM able to completely support the customer lifecycle, from discovery to engagement and retention, and only 32 percent believe their CRM system provides a complete, single view of customer information. Fifty-seven percent reported struggling to maintain good CX (customer experience) with the shift to remote work because their CRM systems were not well-integrated and accessible.

A survey for more than 500 sales professionals from Beagle Research Group in partnership with Oracle taken this past January found that 38 percent rate their CRM as neutral, inadequate or completely inadequate, and 33 percent say the same about their sales training. The group was highly critical of many things related to leads, including 43 percent neutral or negative about lead generation.

Fully 39 percent of sellers said they spent too much time working with different technologies and 27 percent said there were too many manual tasks that kept them from selling.

Beagle Research wrote in the study, “While these technologies have helped capture important data about customers and deals, they’ve also proven to be so time and labor intensive that they crowd out actual selling time.”

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: What do you see as the weak points and strong points of CRM systems? Do you see technology shortfalls, low user adoption, weak data, siloed departments or some other factor holding back CRM benefits?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
Braintrust
"CRM systems are only as good as the effort that you put in. It is true however that they need to be made easier to customize to fit your sales process."
"The failure to integrate CRM thinking across the entire organization, or, the confusion of a tool with a strategy is clearly an issue. Can it be saved? Maybe..."
"...it has always seemed to me that CRM was expected to deliver a kind of magic which simply isn’t possible."

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12 Comments on "Sales and marketing pros want more from their CRM systems"


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Bob Phibbs
BrainTrust

The frustration is real. I’m a longtime Hubspotter and when I was working with IBM, we got Watson thinking we could make all these magical connections. Turns out your data has to be super clean, connected, and complete. CRM certainly creates frustration in terms of what it is capable of, and our desire for things to be quick and easy which databases rarely are.

Zel Bianco
BrainTrust

This falls under the old “garbage in, garbage out.” CRM systems are only as good as the effort that you put in. It is true however that they need to be made easier to customize to fit your sales process. One size does not fit all in CRM.

Mark Price
BrainTrust

As the article above mentioned, the issues with CRM systems today can be classified into two categories: integration and excessive sales person requirements to be successful. The integration issues are common among many different types of software today. There are so many systems providing information that is critical to customer success. The requirements on IT to integrate the data from these disparate systems can be overwhelming. The result is that sales is forced to use multiple systems to manage their customers. Using multiple systems often frustrates sales and leads to lack of adherence.

The other piece that often dooms CRM projects is excessive demands for input and reporting by senior management. This is a classic case of management asking for everything because they can, when actually what is needed is for the sales people to be spending most of their time managing their customers and identifying prospects.

Dion Kenney
BrainTrust
5 months 16 days ago

Like the old joke about automobiles, “their biggest mechanical problem is the nut behind the wheel.” There is little question that many marketers and businesses do not extract the full value from their CRM. However the issue mostly lies in the driver not knowing one of the following things: a.) how to create a customer contact flow map, b.) how to connect the various technologies (of which CRM is only one) to implement a powerful automated customer outreach process, or c.) how to analyze and segment the results to understand the needs of the customer and how they align with their offerings. The horsepower is there to be tapped, but many don’t take the time to learn how to use it.

Gary Sankary
BrainTrust

One thing that has not changed in 30 years of using CRMs — it’s all about the data. Without clean data with well-identified attributes, normalized across all records, and supporting good data governance practices, the frustration companies are experiencing with their CRMs will continue. Details matter!

Ken Morris
BrainTrust

CRM stands for Customer Relationship Management. Easy, right? Just kidding. Today, more than ever, there are thousands of moving parts in engaging with and satisfying customers. Most CRM systems grew up around the account management model and aren’t well suited to selling on the sales floor. For that, retailers need something like the old black book. That showed at a glance what the customer’s purchase history and preferences were. From this article, it seems like there’s a huge opportunity to get that solution right.

Paula Rosenblum
BrainTrust

Unless a retailer is very high end, it really is more trouble than it’s worth. What’s the cost of sales for that additional $30 skirt? Or avocado?

And why am I still getting four emails a day for things I either have no interest in or bought from that same retailer about two days ago? Retargeting seems to be all most retailers can effectively handle, and that’s just too bad.

Doug Garnett
BrainTrust

I have spent over 30 years selling without a CRM because I’ve been selling to small numbers of high value customers. From this distance, it has always seemed to me that CRM was expected to deliver a kind of magic which simply isn’t possible.

We need always remember that software is a tool to support the people selling. Yet CRM promises today seem designed to have the software do the selling which it can’t. Fundamentally, expectations are out of line for the software – expectations driven by the promises of the software makers.

Camille P. Schuster, PhD.
BrainTrust

Successful CRM systems are the ones designed for the tasks they will be asked to perform AND that are actually used by sales and marketing. One way to ensure this success is to have marketing and IT people work together as the system is being designed. Telling IT what is needed is not enough. IT and marketing professionals think about and perform tasks differently. They have to work together to design every step of the process to ensure its usability for marketing and sales. Then marketing and sales employees need to be trained to use the system, with success and value being demonstrated along the way. Without both of these steps a CRM system will never be fully successful.

Ryan Mathews
BrainTrust

CRM is one of the classic examples of retailing’s herd behavior — or should I say lemming-like behavior. We’ve seen this over and over and over again. Somebody forges a magic bullet, the buzz builds, everyone adopts the flavor of the month, and then spends a decade or two, or three in this case, trying to make a flawed idea live up to its hype. What’s wrong with CRM? Almost everything. Certainly the technology has not evolved to anywhere close to what its initial proponents promised. Weak data and limited algorithms are another. The failure to integrate CRM thinking across the entire organization, or, the confusion of a tool with a strategy is clearly an issue. Can it be saved? Maybe — given enough time. There ought to be a time limit to beta tests, even in marketing.

Phil Rubin
BrainTrust

Great discussion topic and comments. Having been involved with dozens of retailers and systems in terms of strategy, selling, implementation and execution, there are common themes resulting in such low satisfaction levels. Here are my top 3:

  1. Bad or no strategy, usually resulting from silo’d requirements, decision-making and support. CRM is not a departmental function but really takes an enterprise-wide commitment to be excellent (i.e., show profit impact). This requires leadership.
  2. Bad, incomplete or under-utilized data. The foundational data in any CRM system needs to be usable and used. CRM requires the proper utilization of data and the resulting insights to be good for the customer, the business and its employees (and partners/suppliers).
  3. Bad marketing. See #1 re strategy but there are too many CRM (and loyalty) practitioners that fail to understand the value that data can unlock. At the heart of CRM is the ability to capture, process and extract value from data that drives revenue, margin and profit growth.
Brad Halverson
Guest

For retailers, be ready to manage the constant change and updates in any given CRM tool and what that means against your CX strategy, and the hoped for ROI. You can easily burn more hours working on it than you intended, so be ready to set scope & boundaries. It’s work to do it right.

For example, in the planning for inputs and time spent, understand your trade area may have resident (potential customers) annual turnover in the 5%-13% range depending on your market. Meaning, 1/3 of your customers could be new within 3 years. For this alone, an important part of the job will be just staying on top of customer change. and being proactive in your customer acquisition marketing (let alone using many more feature sets).

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"CRM systems are only as good as the effort that you put in. It is true however that they need to be made easier to customize to fit your sales process."
"The failure to integrate CRM thinking across the entire organization, or, the confusion of a tool with a strategy is clearly an issue. Can it be saved? Maybe..."
"...it has always seemed to me that CRM was expected to deliver a kind of magic which simply isn’t possible."

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