Customer Relationship-Building Made Easy: Tools to Help You Make the Sale

Eva Gaumond, Senior Principal Usability Engineer, CRM and Enabling Technologies


Successful sales people know how to get the right product information to the right customer at the right time. Staying up-to-date with their company's offerings while building and maintaining strong customer relationships requires both a focus on details and the ability to see the big picture at the same time. Efficient tracking and management of all the steps in the sales process can be overwhelming. Enter Oracle's Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software, an invaluable tool that facilitates selling from initial sales prospecting to the all-important closing of the deal.

Listening to Users

To design great applications, we have to watch, talk to, listen to, and interact with end users. At Oracle, we use a myriad of usability techniques to understand our users. Sales people are a particularly intriguing group to work with. They are extremely results driven: their performance is measured almost entirely by their sales. Naturally, sales reps want to spend their time selling. Time is money to these folks, and getting on their calendar to conduct user research means convincing them that the time they give will ultimately result in improvements that will help them sell more. Fortunately, sales professionals tend to be adept at vocalizing their opinions and reactions, a characteristic prized by usability professionals.


The following methods proved to be valuable in our process:

Surveying the landscape: CRM applications have been around for a while, which means that there are a lot of people out there with real-world experience using the products we make at Oracle, as well as those products made by our competition. We interviewed our own customers, as well as our competitors, in order to assess how our CRM offerings stack up against the competition. Known as a "Comparative Analysis", what we learned is helping us ensure that we continue to offer CRM products that meet the evolving needs of our customers.

Asking them what they want: CRM users know what they have now, and they know what's working for them and what's not. But what do they want to see in the future? How can we enhance what they already have? Again, we asked Oracle and non-Oracle CRM users directly. We conducted a "Wants & Needs" session with sales reps who use CRM products from multiple vendors to help understand the demands of hectic schedules and information overload.

"Traditional" usability studies: With state-of-the-art usability labs at Oracle, we let the reps get hands-on the software. How well did our designs for the next generation of CRM software support our users tasks and goals? Here's what we found out: as it turns out, some of our new concepts worked very well, such as the overall design paradigm--meaning the way the data is organized and how users navigate within the system. So, we knew we were on the right track at a global level. At the same time, we found some things that worked less well. For example, we learned that in some places, users needed to scroll in order to see important buttons. Depending on what their goal was, if the user did not scroll, they might not be able to complete the task. By identifying these kinds of issues early, we can refine the UI design long before an application is released.

Getting out in the field: Sales people spend a lot of time "out there" on the road. Ultimately, any kind of ethnographic research or contextual observation or inquiry requires usability professionals to get out there with them, learning how they do their jobs without getting in the way. Oracle has sent usability professionals all over the world to do just that.

Now What?

So, what have we learned from all this research? Well, lots of things about the information and communication needs of sales professionals: how they work, where they work, and what they need to close the deal. The data we've gathered has strongly influenced our designs. Because time is precious to sales professionals, user adoption of a CRM application is driven by its usability and usefulness. If a CRM application is easy to use and enables sales people to increase sales, they will embrace it. At Oracle, we are making sure that our CRM software is designed to support sales professionals by keeping them involved in the design process every step of the way.


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