Does CRM change everything?
Hello, Habr! Today I decided to publish a post on the company’s blog that I wrote one on one with a laptop. No one knew about him, no one read and agreed on him. In a difficult (what can I say, disgusting) time for everyone to isolate themselves and reduce business activity, I want to suddenly talk about CRM – but not as an engineer and not as a marketer, but as a person who came across a CRM system already in 2009, being novice analyst. Then even a third of modern CRM developers as such were not. For 11 years, the world of CRM-systems has changed incredibly, we have changed. Automation in small and medium-sized businesses is still small. And this, my friends, is sad.
I don’t laugh from such pictures, I’m sad
As the crisis of 2008 put me in the nose of CRM
2008 was the first year of my work in business. I came to a large interregional company (no joke, 7 branches, numbering over 500 people) from the world of science and education, having an excellent analytical background, a suspended language, graduate school and … complete, total misunderstanding of the business. I went to work on June 19 and it was a whole summer to immerse myself in business topics before the post-vacation load on the company’s services began. If you remember 2008, then autumn turned out to be so-so – the country plunged into a large-scale systemic economic crisis. I well remember how we were re-issued salary cards in several banks, as one went bankrupt, in others there were continuous interruptions in transactions. In short, it was very difficult, the company’s customer base was falling, people stopped using the services of the company, corporate clients left. There were reductions. I stayed – by a miracle, I can’t remember.
And in the midst of all this crisis, the commercial management came to the conclusion that we needed a CRM system. I was included in the implementation working group from the sales and partner services. It was an incredible responsibility and hard analytical work – it was during that period that I learned that after 15 hours of collecting requirements and analyzing business processes, it’s easier not to go home, but to sleep comfortably on an office sofa so that you can get some light – and again for work. So, we chose CRM.
With my own hands, I tested SAP, Salesforce, Oracle Siebel CRM (I drowned for them because I worked with Oracle), and even CBOSS as a more or less suitable Russian-language alternative, together with colleagues from the IT department. Beautiful and smart consultants of these vendors came to our office, initially it was about 40 million rubles. If you think that for our big company it’s a penny, I’ll inform you that it was 11.5% of gross revenue (not profit!). This is pretty weighty. I will not bore you with stories about collecting requirements, I will tell you with milestones about the main problems.
- We spent more, chose a complex Canadian custom system with a not-so-popular name. Then there were no problems with the introduction of foreign software.
- The implementation lasted a year, all this time we consistently lost customers and money, because we did not see part of the data, did not collect and did not interpret them (although something was collected in the database of the IT department). CRM was needed like air.
- Training was the most difficult and painful moment – 24-year-old geeks and 50-year-old ladies and men could not equally quickly perceive the new product, especially since the interface was extremely confusing and overloaded. I have never seen such horror before or after.
- Gathering requirements and establishing business processes, describing them is a difficult task, because each employee considers himself the main process and pulls the blanket over himself. At meetings, meetings, volatiles of the working group, there were open armed conflicts with obscenities, tears and rattle.
- The middle manager was fired for trying to smuggle a solution from one vendor for a nice reward.
It seemed that we were having some kind of feast during the plague: our corporate clients were closing, and we were introducing a huge complex software. By the beginning of autumn 2009, our system was filled with data, was able to build segments and do SMS-mailings on them, supported OLAP and was in the process of integration with the accounting system and the workflow system (both Russian with specific characteristics).
So, by the beginning of the school year and the end of the vacation season, we started working in CRM. In the first month there was no effect, at the beginning of the second there was despair and a feeling of guilt – after all, I was responsible for CRM at the very front, in the sales service. At the end of October, we saw revenue growth, expansion of ancillary services segment, and sales growth. Considered for organic growth. Well, it is clear that the growth of November and December was attributed to New Year’s hype for everything, including our services. In March, we already knew for sure: CRM is working, revenue growth has become almost pre-crisis. The new system paid off due to its cool analytics, very fast work with inquiries and cool individual offers. We overcame the crisis faster than even very large competitors, because the company really worked with the client base, we managed it!
Further, the story is not the most fun – the company changed its owner, it updated CRM with investor money and our debugged machine for making money went into oblivion with the team. We are all gone.
2012: CRM goes around the world, but not around the world
I went to a company that developed, among other cool software, a simple and pretty CRM and sold it to the whole world (minus the CIS, because the principles of imported CRM and CRM for import do not get along with Russian business reality). My observations are in a few lines.
- In Europe and the USA, the CRM system for small and medium-sized businesses is as natural as the office desks and chairs. The principle is something like “what can you live without them?” Yes, there are unsuccessful implementations, but companies always look at what happened and choose other solutions (by the way, clouds had already appeared and multiplied at that time).
- For them, CRM is primarily customer management (namely, customer relationship), and not a sales program. Analytics and reaction speed to user requests for foreign companies above all.
- In France, they prefer to work exclusively in the national language; in the rest of Europe, relations with English are simpler. For the sake of France, I had to do the first localization (then we did everything).
- Business in Germany prefers server software, desktops, and if clouds, then only in German data centers and nothing else. A lot of principled German business demanded from the development company just such an approach.
- The level of automation of small and medium-sized businesses is much higher than in Russia (in Russia it is estimated about 10%).
- Quite often, the initiative to implement CRM abroad comes from ordinary managers to the top, up, and not vice versa – from top to bottom. I have never heard arguments like “oh, well, enter the same data”, “the boss will follow”, etc. – More often, the argument was “it will be convenient for me to work”. And this is a very correct approach, alas, in Russia it is rare.
Well, the company itself, using its CRM, on some mailings and calls, sold implementation services and software an additional couple of tens of thousands of $$ per month. And when I met the crisis of 2014 in this company, the only thing the team did was to plow and plow the internal CRM for opportunities. The effect was, the losses were minimal.
Even then, I knew a lot about the CRM market in Russia and abroad, but I never worked for a company where CRM is a core business. It was interesting to do this. So in my life RegionSoft and our RegionSoft CRM appeared quite suddenly . This is a real, professional CRM-th hardcore – everything I wanted.
Russian CRM – 6 years of total immersion
The attitude of Russian small and medium businesses to CRM systems is specific. CRM is interesting to him, but there are several important points that determine the attitude. They are most visible from the inside.
- Companies believe that CRM is a program for sales and are extremely surprised that it has planning, KPI, a warehouse, business processes, production management, multi-currency accounting, etc. In our RegionSoft CRM, all this is there and I have often heard wow when it comes to reviewing our software.
- Companies get confused in solutions and delivery schemes: for a small, un-technical business, all these servers, clouds, on-premises, and other licensing are an incomprehensible thing. And developers in an IT language can be hard to explain.
- SMEs believe CRM is a luxury, not a tool. That is, if you live curly, you can pamper your employees and buy a program, and if the crisis is cove – stagnation, then CRM seems to be not so necessary. Incidentally, this is erroneous – I talked about crises above and in all cases CRM helped companies a) start quickly after the crisis; b) during the crisis, increase automation and transfer the company from a trolley to a diesel locomotive, that is, to an effective, intensive way to work.
- Employees can resist the CRM system, but then literally fall in love with it. It’s understandable: you’re sitting and picking it in excel, or you enter data, then use it, fill out an invoice in a minute (or even less), print documents upon shipment, easily call directly from CRM, write letters and then do not rush from excel to outluk and back. After a couple of weeks of practice, it becomes cool – the routine literally releases its grip from your throat.
- Companies are afraid of failure to implement. They can be understood. But if you work with a reliable vendor that offers a clear, intelligible solution, then he will always reach out and help you implement and establish processes. Vendor, he is like a doctor: the more thoroughly and honestly you outline the symptoms, the more accurate the diagnosis and treatment will be, the faster the recovery.
For a long time I tried to answer my question: is it expensive for a company to implement CRM? The conclusion is this: if it implements small and medium-sized businesses and it has standard requirements, then no, not expensive. This is an investment that pays off – the payback period depends on the intensity of the work and on the scope of activity. And the payback is primarily not in profit growth, but in cost reduction and redistribution of labor resources. It’s great if you manage to spend a little more time on implementation and training than usual – the work will go uphill. Now is just the time: to choose, understand, review processes, train personnel and press the gas as soon as business activity begins to come to life.
But again, I repeat – this is my personal opinion and my experience. I believe in a CRM system as a tool and as the foundation of a modern company. And so far she has not deceived.
Work in the Russian CRM developer is a thorough challenge, because, as I said, the attitude to CRM in Russia is very different from the western one. It is interesting, responsible, difficult to go this way. For example, we decided not only to implement CRM, but also to share everything that we know about them – for free, so that businesses can read articles, find answers to questions and look for their ideal CRM (I soberly realize that this can be any solution). We chose Habr for these purposes – by the way, today, without one day, 4 years, as we are at Habr, and this is our 121st article. Articles are written exclusively by our team; we do not have any left-wing copywriters, editors, or other outsourcers.
We ourselves develop, implement and support ourselves, provide technical support ourselves, write articles ourselves – we do not belong to anyone, and therefore we are responsible for our work.
After 6 years of work, I know how CRM can change a company because I saw many implementations that made the life of companies easier and better. And every time I hear a review or see how our CRM is recommended, I am proud and confident in the decision and in our team.
There is a long way ahead, interesting solutions for business, development of the CRM system itself, and I know that customer requirements, their feedback on real use and current market demand will always be at the forefront. And CRM will continue to help customers make the business advanced.
Today, RegionSoft is 19 years old, 14 of which the company is developing its entire CRM system based on customer requirements. The team works for small and medium-sized businesses – so that it works quickly, defeats the routine and reliably and safely interacts with the client base. We are close to our customers at any time. Because in 2020, automation decides. And further without it will be harder – this is an obvious trend.