Dirty Harry. Martin Riggs. Jimmy McNulty. They lived to catch bad guys and played by their own rules. And when they were in the doghouse with their bosses, they got the same punishment.

PaperworkTyping up notes on their mountains of cases 

No one likes paperwork, but the bosses need reports. In our view, that is the central challenge of CRM tools.

CRM (customer relationship management) software was originally designed to help manage and track salespeoples’ interactions with customers, though organizations today use CRM tools for fundraising, loyalty programs, recruiting and more. Besides being a means of organization, CRM systems’ major selling points are visibility into the sales pipeline and ensuring that the company doesn’t lose customer relationships when salespeople switch jobs. Those benefits disappear if users don’t enter information about sales calls and new opportunities as they arise.

Getting value out of CRM software is partly a function of managing its central tensions. It’s hard to think of another critical system whose value depends so heavily on manual data entry. Moreover, the person entering information into the system is often doing so in large part for others’ benefit. Managers get much-needed sales forecasts and pipeline updates. Salespeople get to sit down at the end of the day or week and spend an hour or three typing notes when they could be relaxing or out making money.

How can the CRM makers of today and tomorrow balance the value equation? At it’s simplest, you balance the equation for the do-ers by either reducing the pain of paperwork or creating more value through other mechanisms. Here are some of the clues provided by the CRM members in our network.

Tale of the Tape

We had 165 reviews of different CRM tools to compare this time. To the surprise of no one, 110 of our users’ reviews were of Salesforce‘s ubiquitous SalesCloud product. It’s the New York Yankees of CRM, and it created a sort of Salesforce vs. The Field dynamic as we read through all the feedback. Others in the set were Microsoft Dynamics, Oracle Siebel, SAP CRM,  Insightly, Contactually, NetSuite CRM, Bullhorn, SugarCRM, Zoho, and Hubspot.

One that that jumps out right away when we look at the average CRM tool satisfaction score among UserMuse members is only 4.02 out of 5. And while Salesforce does indeed lead the pack with an average score of 4.1, it’s significantly below the average satisfaction scores we see from other category leaders like MailChimp (4.35) and Slack (4.42). It suggests a softer lead than you might guess.

This review of Sales Cloud by a marketing automation manager in the financial services industry (a 5 out of 5 for satisfaction) seemed to encapsulate much of the sentiment we encountered:

Pro: “Well, it’s Salesforce – most likely the #1 CRM system used by businesses. It isn’t cheap and always requires a dedicated administrator to function properly. But Salesforce (or any similar CRM) is essential to doing business well and is the top system within which many others (email, automatic, analytics, web…) integrate into – and Salesforce is the best solution to manage all the data and spit it out in a usable, sales-drive format.”

Con: “Salesforce is expensive and likely the largest ticket item for many businesses. If you don’t regularly review and check your database, maintaining and cleaning out records, then record maintenance costs add up quickly. Salesforce is also notorious for getting clients pumped about much needed updates and additions to the system, but delivering 2-3 years down the line further than promised / projected. There are few alternatives to Salesforce, however, and provided you set it up and manage it correct, it’s a CRM system that can serve you well.”

We read through all of the reviews looking for where marketers and product managers might find opportunities:

CRM image_3

We don’t promote any products at UserMuse. Our mission is helping product teams and marketers address unmet needs in the market, and there are some interesting finds here. None of these products had a monopoly on UX complaints, although we heard far more complaints about the challenges of reporting in Salesforce and the lack of cross-object reporting. And while reliability and bugs were scarcely mentioned among Salesforce users (though app performance was), they were the second-most common complaint among other tools.

It’s also worth pointing out that some of these concerns are interrelated. For instance, challenges adapting the tool can mean that reporting and navigation stay sub-optimal for users.

What might the future look like? It’s hard to see the big dogs getting knocked off (as it always is), but we think it would be nice to see something along the lines of SquareSpace come along in the CRM industry. A tool that puts customization in the hands of users in a friendlier way with outstanding customer support and documentation. Could start capturing the part of the market that doesn’t have budget for dedicated CRM admins or time to go to their CRM’s online university.

If you’re working on that, let us know if we can help…

If you’re interested in interviewing CRM buyers and users in support of your product efforts, email projects@usermuse.com

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