Do I need a customizable CRM?

CSO Insights report that less than 40% of businesses have a CRM adoption rate of 90%.

For professionals working in the industry, this statistic isn’t a surprise; implementing a new CRM is difficult for businesses both large and small.

Although the CRM market is growing quickly, many professionals prefer traditional tools for managing data – Hubspot report 22% of sales reps don’t know what a CRM is.

While there are many feature-rich CRM products on the market, they often don’t give businesses the functionality they need.

More businesses decide to deploy a customized CRM that is specific to their needs. In this article, we’re going to explore the advantages and disadvantages of this approach.

What is a customizable CRM?

A CRM that provides users with the ability to change features to suit specific business needs. Most CRMs have some degree of customization; however, certain CRM providers make customization a key selling point. 

Some businesses decide to build a CRM from scratch – the ultimate form of customization.

Check out our CRM selection checklist for a full look at how to find the best CRM

Customizable CRM – an example 

I recently worked on a project for a UK-based company that provided language services; this mainly involved providing interpreters for government departments like hospitals, prisons, and welfare.

The process was complex; it required:

  • A platform that matched interpreters with assignments and needed to capture very specific data.
  • A set of complicated permissions for different levels of users.
  • Enhanced security due to the sensitive nature of the information being stored.
  • Bespoke reporting that pulled out a range of key data for management and compliance purposes.

The organization tried to use several CRMs but didn’t find the feature-set it required. So it built its own CRM that was built specifically to meet these complex needs.

This is a very common example of a business with specific needs opting to build its own CRM. It is often the case that significant customization is required in niches that don’t have purpose-built solutions.

The level of customization you decide to use will depend on your specific circumstances.

Advantages of a customizable CRM

The key advantage of a customizable CRM is you can build a feature-set specific to your business. Whatever you decide is necessary can be built from scratch - in the language services business, customization helped develop a CRM that catered to its needs. This included elements like an interpreter request notification that was sent to a targeted group of interpreters first, searching for attributes like last log-in date and current location.

It can lead to huge increases in efficiency. A key challenge with using a standard CRM is the requirement to build small hacks into the workflow where the CRM doesn’t provide the precise functionality. Hubspot reports that manual data entry is the number one CRM adoption challenge – this is often a consequence of the CRM not providing an effective experience for the user.

The cost of a standard CRM can be high over the long-term. CRM providers are skilled at making prices seem low, but when you start using the system, they can quickly spiral. A low cost at the start may increase as you add more features (you didn’t realize you needed) and extra users. Of course, once you start using a system and your data is stored there, it’s hard to change. This can leave you with considerable monthly costs.

Disadvantages of customizable CRM

Large CRM companies invest considerable capital and expertise to build solutions. There is much to consider, and it can be daunting to take on the challenge of building a CRM. It’s difficult for a small business to build a system with the same sophistication as a specialist CRM provider, so they must decide if the specific feature-set is important enough to take on the challenge.

Building a bespoke CRM requires considerable time, financial and human resources; a business needs to decide whether it can access these resources.  Many businesses start a CRM project only to realize they don’t have the required expertise. For example, many teams try to build a customized CRM without a project manager, leaving someone in the business to run the project. This often creates disconnect between the technical team and the management of the project.

Learn about the top ten CRM features that provide the highest ROI

Of course, considerable customization can be generated through customizing an existing CRM, and this is often the best way forward for a business. Using a sophisticated solution like Salesforce and adding customization for a specific set of needs is often the chosen option. This can be effective but using the Salesforce, or similar, infrastructure can still be limiting.

Should I use a customizable CRM?

A standard CRM will rarely be perfect for most businesses, so often a CRM will benefit from some degree of customization.

Whether this is building bespoke customizations or starting from scratch will depend on your business.

It’s a difficult decision and best viewed through the prism of costs versus benefit. In our experience businesses make two key mistakes when deciding how to build a CRM:

  1. They try and build the perfect CRM on day one.
  2. They underestimate the challenges of building a bespoke CRM or adding significant customization.

Where possible look for current providers that offer what you need and look for small workarounds in the system to achieve your end goal.

If none of the current providers work for your business and you decide to take on a significant customization project, then make sure you:

  • Hire the right expertise.
  • Develop a detailed specification of the features you want in the system.

Good luck with your customization project, getting the right CRM may be hard but an efficient system will add value to your business every single day.

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Doug Haines

About the author…

Doug Haines has worked on a variety of CRM implementation projects and now writes on a wide range of topics. He is a regular contributor to Discover CRM

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Doug Haines

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