CRM UsabilityDuring the CRM evaluation process, there can be excessive focus on an appealing user interface as the key “usability” factor for a CRM solution. However, the cosmetic appearance of a CRM system is just one small part of the overall CRM usability equation.

After a CRM system is selected and implemented, if the sum of the factors that detract from CRM usability becomes too great, user adoption will suffer. Decreasing user adoption, in turn, results in economic costs to an organization that has invested in CRM.

Here are eleven factors that are important to the usability of a CRM system. All of these factors should be considered as part of the CRM selection process.

1. Simplicity

If it’s easy to both enter and find information, then visually appealing colors and gradients are of low importance for CRM usability. In fact, if Apple’s mobile OS, as the most common user interface in the world, is the bellwether of user experience, then the coming iOS 7 signals that “flat is in”.

2. Speed

If a user has to wait too long for screens to render, this becomes a detraction to CRM usability. Many of us have had the experience when speaking to someone at large customer service call center who says, “sorry – my system is slow today”. While CSRs in large call centers may have to live with slow systems that are pulling data from multiple locations, enterprise salespeople may not be as tolerant of slow system performance.

3. Minimal (to No) Error Messages

Nothing disrupts the user experience quite like a big error message that pops up on the screen when a user is performing what seems to them like a routine function. A short bug list and therefore minimal error messages makes a CRM system more usable.

4. Consistency Over Time

From version or version, it’s important that new functionality appears in a subtle way. Wholesale changes in how users perform certain functions with each new release can be a discouragement to use of the CRM system.

5. Lack of Disruption

While painful and disruptive CRM upgrades are gradually becoming a thing of the past, not all vendors have conquered the concept of a “seamless upgrade”. If an upgrade results in CRM downtime, this is obviously a major negative usability factor.

6. Economy of Arm and Finger Movement

The more clicking, scrolling and mouse movement that’s required with a CRM application, the more time a user needs to spend getting around the app. When a system becomes too ergonomically challenging, a user’s limbs start to feed their brain with negative messages — and user discouragement results.

7. Email Integration

For many users, a blurring of the line between email and CRM makes the CRM system more usable. Regardless of which email client a user happens to be living in, there should be, at minimum, the ability to associate sent and received emails to CRM records.

8. Access From Any Platform or Device

It’s increasingly important for a CRM system to be accessible from any browser or device. If a user cannot access their company’s CRM system from all of the various platforms that they use, this is a deterrent to CRM usability.

9. Third Party Add-Ins

If important, third party add-ins should be easy to install and configure and if they provide added value to end users, this will increase the perceived usability of the CRM application.

10. Legacy System Integrations

For many users, access to information from back office systems is a make or break aspect of usability. If a user can access all the information within a CRM system that they used to have to log into a separate system to view, they will spend more time within the CRM system and the CRM system’s usability in the eyes of these users will get a big boost.

11. System Design

Not all usability factors can be pinned on the vendor. Those responsible for implementing the selected CRM solution need to be mindful of not “over customizing” the UI or of making too many fields have required data entry.

When evaluating new CRM systems for your organization, it’s important to take a broad view of “CRM usability”.

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