Survey Says: CRM Adoption Strong Among SMBs

Increasingly small to mid-size businesses are adopting CRM solutions and the percentage of CRM functionality they use is higher than one might have anticipated, according to the results of a May survey conducted by research firm ITIC, which polled over 200 SMBs.

Seventy-four percent of the survey respondents indicated they have a CRM platform, and 52% of them said their companies use at least 50% of the solution's functionality. Additionally, half of the survey respondents said they are analyzing requirements or evaluating (new or upgraded) CRM solutions with an eye toward adoption; and another 20% plan to install a CRM solution within the next six to 12 months. Twenty-six percent of the respondents said they've used a CRM solution for over 10 years and 26% of the survey participants said they were not currently using a CRM solution.

The survey, which was commissioned by OSF Global Services, also looked at CRM deployment trends, timetables and specific vendor products; issues that propel and/or impede CRM deployment and usage; the types of CRM deployed-on-premise, SaaS, cloud or a hybrid; and the benefits the company as well as its customer derived from a CRM solution.

"These C-level executives and IT managers were extremely forthcoming about what they liked and disliked regarding their CRM experiences," said ITIC principal analyst Laura DiDio, in a statement. "Participants clearly recognize and embrace both the potential and actual benefits a CRM solution delivers to them and their customers. At the same time they are anxious for CRM solution providers to appreciate and respond to the unique needs of SMBs."

Gerry Szatvanyi, President and CEO of OSF Global Services, said the CRM adoption rates indicate that companies can no longer differentiate themselves based on the features of their product or the services they offer.

"Instead companies are looking to offer customers and prospects an exceptional experience with every interaction," Szatvanyi said in the statement. "Data extracted from their CRM is used to improve customer service, strengthen the relationship and proactively pursue upsell opportunities."

Eighty-six percent of the respondents said they decided which CRM solution to purchase based on its features and performance. Although the larger CRM vendors, Salesforce, Microsoft Dynamics, Sage and Sugar CRM are the most popular with survey participants, the combination of lesser known CRM brands plus homegrown CRMs outscored the larger CRM firms, according to the survey. 

For example, a manufacturing firm is using a 10-year old Act platform and a finance company developed its own custom CRM solution after deciding it would have to heavily customize the commercial CRM products to make the systems useful. And many respondents said they were using the "CRM-like" capabilities within Microsoft Office to achieve baseline CRM functions.

Survey respondents said they were concerned with the cost, complexity, ease of use, and ease of manageability of CRM solutions. For instance, an executive at a mid-size financial services firm said venturing into the realm of CRM was "one of the biggest boondoggles [it] ever experienced." The company said its CRM system requires a lot of help from IT and customization is also a problem. And the CEO at a consulting firm learned firsthand that "user interface and ease of use beats features," if you expect users to adopt the CRM.

The web-based survey recorded 200 responses to multiple choice and essay questions.  Over 95% of respondents were from North America and represented more than 30 different vertical markets. In addition, ITIC conducted nearly two dozen first person interviews with C-level executives, systems administrators, third party consultants and service providers.
About Linda Rosencrance

Linda Rosencrance is a freelance writer/editor in Massachusetts. She has written about information technology for 10 years. She has been a journalist since the late 1980s. She wrote for numerous community newspapers in the Boston area, where she covered politics and was a high-profile investigative reporter. She has freelanced for the Boston Globe and the Boston Herald. She is the published author of four true crime books "Murder at Morses Pond," "An Act of Murder," "Ripper", and "Bone Crusher" for Kensington Publishing Corp. (Pinnacle imprint). She has just started her fifth true crime book for Kensington.

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