Having been in the CRM space for 22 years, there has always been the requirement for “ease of use/user-friendly interface”. This is a very subjective attribute of any software and has been attempted to be solved by various CRM publishers over the years in many different ways.
Even within Ascendix, we’ve taken the base platform of CRM applications and added “productivity tools” to try and solve for the ever allusive “user-friendly” interface.
You see, not everyone in an organization using CRM wants or needs to view and interact with the CRM system in the same manner.
There are many variables to consider when thinking about the user interface including;
- where the end user will be accessing the system – are they in the office, at home or in the field
- consumer or contributor of data in the CRM system – is the user predominantly consuming data or are they entering information into the system constantly
- what device (desktop, laptop, tablet, smartphone) are they most frequently going to be accessing CRM from
- how broad of a feature set is required to do the job of the user
#1 Different Roles Translates into Different User Interface Requirements
As we’ve been focused on CRM for the commercial real estate sector for the last 9 years, we see a dramatic difference in how we need to present CRM to an admin or assistant as opposed to a broker.
The admin is predominantly working from the office on a PC and is most likely responsible for entering in data, running reports and processing information in the CRM system.
Consequently, the feature and functionality set for the admin are deeper and wider than would be appropriate for most brokers. The interface layout and feature set that is common to core CRM applications maps nicely to this user profile.
The broker, on the other hand, is much more mobile and can be expected to be using tablet and smartphone technology as much as the laptop and/or desktop when they access CRM.
Furthermore, the broker tends to “offload” some of the data entry to inside brokers, admins or assistants and uses the CRM system as a data repository from which to do searches on contact phone numbers, company info, historical correspondence, and deal pipeline to name just a few.
#2 Tablet Technology Advances Have Changed the Game
The tablet (specifically the iPad) combined with the apps that run on it have forever altered the definition of ease of use.
What was initially looked at as a consumer tool has quickly been embraced by the business world.
The standard for developing an interface that is approachable and user-friendly has risen significantly.
Most all of these applications are based on touch/gesture-based navigation which “involves” the end user in a more intimate way.
Although there are abilities to enter in data into these apps, tablet-based apps are designed primarily for consuming data and have been optimized for the searching and viewing of data.
#3 The Paradigm Shift
Taking all of the factors mentioned above into account, we have taken a new tact whereby we are insulating the common broker from the breadth/depth and structure of traditional CRM interfaces and developed a separate “user experience” altogether.
The constructs of CRM simply do not provide the proper flexibility and architecture from which to begin the overhaul for the commercial real estate broker.
Our first application of this technique is being delivered on an iPad where the broker would be hard pressed to tell they are even using a CRM system.
The interface is sleek, highly graphical and oriented around those tasks that make up 80 to 90% of their day in the field where they reside.
The training curve on this app is such that a training manual is not necessary which is critical if it is to be adopted by the brokerage community as a whole.
We’ll be expanding our offerings onto the iPhone in the near future and will be developing a device agnostic interface that can be used on desktops and laptops alike, all the while keeping intact the goal of “insulating” the broker from the traditional perception of hard to use and over-engineered CRM solutions in the past.
We’re not simply making CRM available on an iPad.
Many have done this and have been met with mixed results. We are presenting an entirely new experience that is distant from any CRM experience ever had to make it fit the life and usage habits of the broker.
It is important to note that some roles do require a more feature rich experience so we are not retiring the classic CRM tools and interfaces that are being used by our customers today; they still have a place in the user community.
We have, however, stopped trying to solve the end user adoption problem for the common broker within it.