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by Rene T. Domingo (email comments to

Most customer relationship management (CRM) systems are based on the design philosophies of speed and convenience for the customer. They are configured for easy accessibility by the user and greatly reduced waiting times. CRM’s have proliferated in many forms, starting with call centers and ATM’s, and then to the cyberforms of Webs, WAPs, and PDA’s (personal digital assistant). Most of these have indeed succeeded in attaining faster response and processing times to the delight of many. In spite of these initial successes, we have yet to see a mass exodus of users from the visits to traditional physical branches and person-to-person phone calls to accessing these high-tech CRMs. CRM designers have to recognize that while speed is a critical factor in creating and convincing a CRM user, it has to be equally matched by the two other important factors of user-friendliness and security. Unfortunately, many CRM’s have not given enough attention to these two-user expectation which explains the rather lukewarm reception of these technologies. A responsive, accessible, and high-speed CRM cannot retain loyal users if it is difficult to use and gives no assurance of security.

User friendliness

CRM user friendliness includes the aspects of data-entry, flexibility and language. Except for Web-based CRM’s, most CRM’s have limited facility and range for data entry. Phone-based call centers and ATMS are limited to numeric data entries and menu selection. Text entry is impossible. Cellphone-based WAP CRM’s have limited and cumbersome text entry features. Phones are not designed for text entry in the first place, and this design constraint fact limits the growth and popularity of WAP-based services. Most people are not comfortable with entering the 26 letters of the alphabet using 8 numeric keys (2-9). Unless a CRM has full keyboard entry capability or reliable voice recognition features, it will turn off most customers used to entering and sending data and queries intuitively. The latest but pricey cellphones and PDA’s are already addressing these concerns with their built-in or optional full keyboard attachments.

Most current CRM’s have limited or no flexibility in terms of query handling. This inadequacy makes usage of CRM’s excruciating and frustrating. CRM designs are based on sequential choice (menu) selection, and provide no way for the user to backtrack or jump randomly to any choice at will. Take for example, the popular machine-assisted phone CRM’s or call centers used by most corporations, especially utilities, airlines, banks, and credit card companies. You are asked to enter or press a series of numbers until you reach the desired service or information center. There is no way to backtrack once you reach this deep level of the CRM. If you are in the fourth level, you cannot jump to second level to change you choice at that level. The only way to do so would be the hang up, call back, and start the sequence all over again. Getting a busy signal during this second attempt adds to the frustration. It is a known fact that successfully accessing popular CRM’s on the first try is a dream. The other less frustrating procedure, but frustrating nevertheless, is that in which the system, like WAP’s, allows you to backtrack, again sequentially, to return to a higher level of the CRM query hierarchy. This procedure, while maintaining allows continuous contact with the CRM during the session, can be very time consuming especially for the impatient user or inquirer. Only properly designed Web-based CRMs can offer the maximum flexibility that users will appreciate. These CRMs can allow for sequentially backtracking to previous pages or menus, and also, more importantly, random access to any level, any page, anytime during the session. This feature is made possible by the availability of the main selection menu at every page of the CRM Web site.

Lack of language options and choices also limit the flexibility of most CRM’s. While English is the lingua franca of cyberspace and new technology gadgets, it is not always the language of choice and convenience by sizeable groups of actual and potential CRM users. Almost all phone-base call centers, most Websites, and WAP-based CRM’s do not have language options. This inflexibility can lead to user errors and increases the session time and of course waiting time of the next user. CRM designers should look seriously at language flexibility as an integral and not as an optional feature of good CRM design.


Most CRM’s have successfully addressed the critical security issues related to this technology. They have improved data encryption and accuracy, and transmission reliability. Most internet-based and lease line based CRM’s are now practically hack proofed. However, phone-based ones, whether landline or cellphone, are not yet entirely tap proofed. The other remaining security issues that need to be addressed to encourage more CRM users are privacy and transaction confirmation.

Privacy concerns include the use and misuse of personal data sent through the CRM. What is the assurance that these confidential data or transaction would not be sold to or shared with third parties, including government authorities? This concern has nothing to do with technological fixes but with how professional and strict the policies and procedures of the organization running the CRM are. The CRM organization should show commitment to user privacy not only through legal pronouncements and stipulations, but also through actual practice and image building.

Most CRM’s have features that confirm transactions, like order acceptance or processing, of the users. The only question is not whether these confirmation, in whatever form they are, are really reliable and reassuring, especially to the wary user making a critical transaction, like payment of bills. For instance, all CRM’s, except ATMs, will not issue a hard copy receipt or confirmation of the transaction. They will just inform, electronically, the user of a numeric code representing the transaction. Whether this e-receipt can be used in court in case of dispute, e.g., the electric utility cutting off your power for alleged non-payment of bills or a bank deducting the wrong amount from your account, would bother most CRM users not used to cyberspace life. The solution to this concern lies in the development other and more reassuring forms of transaction confirmation, and further educating the users of the reliability of e-receipts and e-confirmation.

The success of the CRM’s will depend on how well their designers could listen to the voice of the users. Speed, user-friendliness, and security would have to be fully integrated into any CRM of the future.


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