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September 28, 2018 Business Technologies

What You Said is Not What You Meant: Top 5 Complaints About Your CRM

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By Kevin Cook

I spend a lot of time during the work day forming relationships with new clients looking for advice on how to jazz up their CRM. Maybe you don’t like something about your CRM and you want to jump ship, but you might not be thinking about your problem in the right way. A simple shift in perspective could save you a lot of time, money, blood, sweat, and tears. Here are the top five complaints I hear about CRM.


#1: “I need my CRM to send marketing emails.”

What you meant is: “I need a marketing automation tool bolted into my CRM to send marketing emails.”

This is simple: CRM is not marketing automation. Conflating these two is dangerous on so many levels and very bad practice. You shouldn’t be doing any marketing inside your CRM unless there’s a marketing automation tool integrated with it.

After you send a hundred marketing emails out on a personal ISP through your CRM, you’re just asking to be blacklisted – and good luck getting off that list in six weeks or less! If you’re looking for a CRM that sends marketing emails, then you’re not looking for a CRM. There’s a reason why different kinds of business software exist. Your CRM isn’t a good marketer, and your marketing automation tool isn’t good with customer relationships. Don’t force them to be what they’re not.

Bottom line: talk to experts about different types of business software. If you don’t understand the products you’re using or the products you want to use, you’re just asking to be left behind. Stay informed!


#2: “Other software platforms don’t integrate easily with my CRM.”

What you meant is: “Other software platforms don’t integrate easily with most CRMs.”

The key word here is: easily. Out-of-the-box integrations don’t really exist.

It’s not that your CRM isn’t immediately compatible with other programs, it’s that most CRMs are not immediately compatible with other programs. Integrations are custom to every single use-case, even with straightforward use-cases.

Something I hear a lot is: “I just want QuickBooks to talk to my CRM.” Well, you need to know what kind of information you want the two platforms to talk about. How many company files do you have? Do you want full history or just transaction details to transfer? Do you want credits or debits, or credits AND debits? Many people think they’re asking for out-of-the-box integrations, but in reality they’re asking for a completely custom integration and they don’t realize that.

Bottom line: step back and figure out what an “integration” is to you. The definition is different from person-to-person, as no one has exactly the same set of CRM preferences. I like rare steaks and my wife likes well-done. They’re the same thing – a steak – but they’re also quite different. One tastes different than the other, one will take longer to cook, one will cost more. All about preferences.


#3: “My CRM doesn’t have enough third-party apps.

What you meant is: I don’t know where to look for third-party apps for my CRM.” 

It’s not that your CRM’s third-party app ecosystem is too small, it’s that you may not know where to find it. Some compare their CRM to market leaders like Salesforce who use AppExchange. This ecosystem may seem better, but that’s not necessarily true.

Take SugarCRM, for example. They have a rock-solid third-party app ecosystem. There are plenty of Sugar outfitters and digital platforms where you can pull apps from. Salesforce might have a bigger ecosystem, but not by a huge margin. It may seem much bigger because Salesforce prioritizes organization and user-friendliness, so they make sure their third-party apps are all available in the same place – unlike SugarCRM.

Chalk up the minor difference in size to the fact that more people design third-party apps for Salesforce than Sugar. This is like how there are more Apple Store options than Play Store options for certain smartphone apps – it ties into the fact that Apple (or Salesforce, in this analogy) pours more cash into marketing efforts than most other CRM providers, and thus more people use Salesforce. Demand is just higher.

But bigger doesn’t matter nearly as much as cheaper. Some CRM providers charge extra for third-party app data usage. Salesforce does this. This means that Salesforce will slap you with more charges if you plug anything that wasn’t developed by Salesforce into your CRM. On top of this, you never know for sure how much data your non-Salesforce apps use up, until they send you a bill. But SugarCRM doesn’t charge extra for third-party app data, so you’ll get the same bill from them every month.

Bottom line: know where to look for third-party apps by doing your research or asking for advice. Understand that a CRM with a bigger third-party app ecosystem isn’t necessarily better for you and your business – it just gives you more options. You may not need those options.


#4: “I don’t want my CRM to be deployed on the cloud because if servers go down, I lose everything.”

What you meant is: “I want to make sure the information in my CRM database is protected.”

You will not “lose everything” if your CRM provider’s servers go down. It doesn’t work like that.

Depending on the CRM and server farm your provider uses, parts or copies of your CRM database may be stored on other servers. So if a main server goes down, chances are your CRM provider will operate your database on a different server, or wherever your redundant database is stored. Easy-peasy.

Now, in some cases where CRM providers don’t use these redundant systems, pieces of your CRM database might be stored on different servers (i.e. your customer information on one server, your CRM module customizations on another). In these rare cases, yes – you might lose certain parts of your CRM database if one of the servers fails. But most CRMs are redundant systems and this kind of thing really doesn’t happen often.

Keep in mind, there are different modes of servers. Many CRM providers use multi-tenant systems, which means that several databases and customers are hosted on the same server. For some CRMs, you pay a premium to have your provider host your CRM database on its own server (single-tenant). Single-tenant servers do tend to perform a little more reliably, which means that the chances of your sever going down may be lower and the up-time may be higher.

Bottom line: it’s not 2005 anymore and it’s time to let go of antiquated ideas of how reliable or secure the cloud is. Don’t base decisions about your CRM off an unwarranted fear of the cloud. There’s a very minimal risk of losing your database to a server failure regardless of if your software is on-premise or in the cloud.


#5: “My CRM requires knowledge of PHP or code bases for hard-coded customizations.”

What you meant is: “My CRM requires too much knowledge of PHP or code bases for hard-coded customizations.”

I get it. For many, hard-coded customizations are complex and a cost prohibitive nightmare and can make upgrades more difficult. Maybe you don’t have a developer on your team and it’s just not an easy task. Totally understandable.

But do you actually need to hard-code customizations? Most CRMs allow you to customize using code, but some low-end CRMs don’t. The trick is to understand why you need customizations and how best to implement them. If you do need customizations, keep in mind that different CRMs cater to different types of developers – and don’t believe that you can get by without at least some development knowledge.

Difference between named and concurrent user licenses

For example, you would need a programmer with a fair amount of coding experience to hard-code customizations in Infor. But any web developer or marketer with basic understanding of simple code bases like HTML and CMS can hard-code customizations in Hubspot. The degree of difficulty also varies. Take Salesforce and SugarCRM, for example. Both require minimal development knowledge to get in the back end and mess around. But in SugarCRM, you can splice together different custom modules in a WYSIWYG fashion. In Salesforce, you must build out a custom object and that object needs to have hard code around it to glue it into the main CRM. For this reason, many feel that Salesforce is harder to develop in as an administrator than other CRMs.

Bottom line: pick a CRM that best fits your team’s skillset. Whether you’re programmers or marketers, you can learn to hard-code customizations if you have the right CRM. If you really don’t have time or capability for this, then outsource your customizations to people who can do it for you. But an understanding of development best practices can’t hurt – even if you’re using a WYSIWYG interface.

Have a complaint about your CRM that I haven’t addressed? I’d love to hear what it is. Comment below or shoot me an email at [email protected]!


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Kevin Cook

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