Simplicity Equals Success When Considering Salesforce CRM

April 19th, 2012 by Clive Bearman

A guest post by Justin Hoffman, Director of Marketing, PSA Insurance and Financial Services

Can a successful, sales-driven organization swing and miss on a CRM deployment? Absolutely. At least that’s what I confirm below and in the video that discusses the first time we rolled out Salesforce at my company, PSA Insurance and Financial Services.

For context, PSA is a well-established insurance and financial services firm that was founded in 1928. We’ve since grown to 160 employees serving businesses and individuals with a broad range of products. We’re ranked as one of the top 100 insurance brokers in the United States as well as one of the top 100 in retirement planning with over $1 billion in assets under advisement.

It’s safe to say, we know how to sell. And we thought a CRM app — designed to improve customer sales, service and support — would effectively sell itself to salespeople. But three years ago, when we first made Salesforce available to our employees, they just weren’t buying it. Instead of immediate acceptance, our users expressed resistance. Their primary criticisms revolved around the value of Salesforce. Most viewed it as unnecessary data entry at best. As a result, few used Salesforce when it debuted in 2009.

Looking back, we made a number of mistakes with our initial Salesforce deployment. It offered very little customization out of the box and was not integrated with our agency management system. And it was optional, so users didn’t have to use it if they didn’t want to. When we re-launched Salesforce in May 2011, we took a much different approach to putting CRM tools in our employees’ hands. First, we integrated Salesforce with our agency management system via Informatica Cloud. We also customized Salesforce extensively with the help of Silverline CRM, a customization firm in New York City that focuses on the financial services industry.

Additionally, we used Cloud Extend for Salesforce to make it a lot easier for our users to use Salesforce. Given the variety of our user population, ease of use was a must. PSA has some tech-savvy users, the kind who won’t give up an iPhone without a fight, but we also have some very successful, more traditional salespeople who have amassed a sizable book using “Post-It” notes, notebooks, Excel spreadsheets , Outlook reminders and other home-grown systems.

The user experience we wanted to emulate was an airport kiosk. That is, we wanted to give our users a simple, Q&A-style user interface — Salesforce asks the questions, the user provides the answers. Basically, the UI leads the user through a given CRM process, from creating a lead to pursuing a cross-selling opportunity. And while users see a very straightforward and simple UI, complex logic and algorithms are at work behind the scenes to route users through precise CRM workflows.

And that’s the role Cloud Extend plays for us. It provides an easy to use, kiosk-style UI on the front end to shield users from the complexity of the Salesforce engine on the backend. That simplicity and ease of use are essential to driving broad adoption and use. And by turning CRM tasks into programmatic processes, salespeople and other customer-facing PSA employees can more fully engage the client and rely on Cloud Extend for Salesforce to prompt them for the important fields and information we use for the immediate opportunity as well as for future sales and marketing efforts.

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