CRM and the importance of usable software

A few days ago, Lauren Carlson (a CRM analyst at sent me an email about a blog post by Matthew Collins, sales and marketing manager at IXACT Contact. Lauren’s email has no doubt gone out to a number of CRM vendors in an industry-standard link-building strategy. Nice work Lauren – I’m going to bite and respond to the post... in the context of usable software.In his post, Matthew comments that “contact management is not merely a series of names… it’s much more than that. Effective contact management is an approach to doing business.”I absolutely agree.Unfortunately, after making an immensely helpful statement, Matthew proceeds to catalogue the various benefits of CRM use without ever returning to the theme of CRM as “a way of doing business”. Agents everywhere are now more than familiar with the benefits of a contact management system that assists them in managing client information, contact history and so on, all with a view to “building a relationship with their market”. Any agent with even an inkling of what CRM technology is understands the benefits and the basic mechanics of building and working a database.The problem is that most agents will never do this.This arises from a combination of factors, the primary one being that most working agents find it too difficult to get enough time to get their heads above water to learn and establish the discipline of using a customer relationship management system. Those that do will doubtless see the benefits. But, as the old saying goes, “the road to hell is paved with good intentions.” The vast majority of agents will have tried and failed to instill in themselves the discipline of day to day management of a CRM. In a three year old post, a number of Australian agents, agency managers and owners of Australian CRM companies have discussed and commented on the “Great CRM white elephant” – getting agents to use the plethora of “amazing products” available on the market.This is why we believe, it will never be as simple as signing on to a product. Discipline starts at the top and it is up to an agency manager, or head of training at a franchise group, to instill in themselves and in the people that they manage, the discipline to use a systems focused approach.Without a doubt, many managers have done or are considering doing this. The aim of a CRM product must be to enable such forward thinking managers to easily execute on their task. What most real estate-focused CRMs fail at, is making their product sufficiently approachable: “usable”. Managers that attempt to instill a disciplined approach, especially in established organizations and agencies, are faced with an army of agents who oppose their General’s strategy, usually through subversive and highly effective tactics involving inertia. Agents tend to come from vastly diverse backgrounds spanning ages, experience etc. As a result, the level of technical proficiency tends to vary drastically from agent to agent. Bringing all of these minds together on a common purpose of “doing CRM” is often a difficult if not insurmountable task.I’ll use another old adage – “you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink”. The manager’s role is to lead the horse – our role as CRM developers is to bring the water so close to the horse’s mouth that he can’t help but do the obvious. Software needs to be sufficiently simple and approachable that even the most obstinate agents and managers can quickly learn it, use it and see visible results from that use almost immediately.It’s time to reframe the conversation – developers and sales people for real estate CRMs have to stop talking up the benefits of entering data. We need to start presenting solutions to make agents want to enter that data. Let’s give managers the credit they deserve – they know what they need to do, it’s up to us as developers to give them the tools they need to do it.

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