Are CRM Systems Too Complex for the SMB?

Among managers and small-business owners implementing CRM systems, more than four out of five (82.9 percent) say that getting staff to use the software is the biggest challenge they face, according to a new survey from Really Simple Systems, a provider of hosted CRM software. The survey questioned 500 users of CRM encompassing small and midsize business (SMB) owners, directors, and managers of sales, marketing, and technology personnel on their views of the current state of the CRM market and the efficacy of products currently available. "With any type of application, people struggle with products if they don't use them," says Laurie McCabe, vice president of SMB solutions for AMI Partners. "In the area of CRM, a lot of those using the applications are not technical people. They're in and out of the office, on sales calls on the phone.... If an application isn't pretty intuitive and natural to use, they have too much trouble using it." The firms in this space want CRM systems because they recognize that they need to retain and expand sales to current customers to be successful, she adds. John Patterson, CEO of Really Simple Systems, argues that SMBs using CRM systems would prefer simplicity, but application developers and marketers are focused on additional features as they develop and promote updated versions of the applications. McCabe counters that it's not so much that users don't want the additional functionality, it's that they want any complexity from that additional functionality to be masked behind a simple interface. "For example, Amazon and eBay provide a lot of functionality, but their systems are virtually idiot-proof," McCabe says. Many of the CRM systems designed for SMBs, by contrast, are stripped-down versions of systems designed for larger firms. However, there are free, low-cost, and trial versions of CRM software that may offer SMBs some good alternatives to try applications to see if they meet the company's needs without being too complex, according to McCabe. "Simplifying software is becoming a critical differentiator if you want to play in the SMB market," McCabe adds. "CRM companies are moving along the [simplicity] continuum as fast as they can." The survey also found that:
  • More than two in five (42.9 percent) respondents use less than half of their existing CRM system's functionality.
  • More than half (50.5 percent) say that synchronizing data is a major issue.
  • More than a third (67.1 percent) say that finding time to evaluate CRM systems is a major issue.

Related articles: Feature: The 2007 Market Awards: Small Business Suite CRM The small-business themes of this past year have been partnership and verticality. SAP's Midmarket Design SAP Business ByDesign is the company's new on-demand midmarket product; much of its success hinges on SAP's channel strategy. Business Objects Gives SMBs an Edge New feature to the company's Edge series promises to address the financial concerns of midmarket companies. Maximizer Tries to Score a Perfect 10 with SMBs With Maximizer CRM 10, the vendor hopes to provide SMBs with the tools to compete. IDC Eyes Technology's Future In particular, small and midsize businesses (SMBs) will continue to show strong interest, with the sector expected to increase spending by between 8 percent and 10 percent. NetBooks Targets the 'S' in SMB The creator of QuickBooks debuts a new on-demand business management system, catering to the very smallest of the small-business segment. The New SMB: The Smart Midsize Business As their needs grow more complex, SMBs are turning to a wider array of information in order to make educated product and technology choices. SMBs Are Embracing Enterprise Software New research reveals that enterprise and CRM software isn't just for the big boys anymore. Beyond Office 2007 Despite a strong market with several options, small businesses are still warming up to the idea of online personal productivity software. This Little SMB Went to Market SMBs are turning to specialists for products and services to help themselves take advantage of the Web. SaaS Is a Four-Letter Word for SMBs Adoption of on-demand solutions by SMBs continues to increase, but many smaller companies are still wary of the concept of software-as-a-service, according to a new study. SMBs Find Commonalities and Differences Small and medium businesses have similar broad needs when it comes to IT and growth, but the specifics are not so close; considering them one group may be a mistake. Midsize Businesses Are Fueling CRM's SMB Growth Microsoft, Oracle, Sage, and Salesforce are listed as some of the top solution vendors in the segment. Bigger Isn't Always Better CRM technology adoption in the SMB market is below 20 percent.
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