WARNING: Avoid Too Much CRM Customization

CRM customization can be a beautiful thing. It allows businesses to capture more ROI from an out-of-the-box (OOTB) system by streamlining the fields, functions, and data points relevant to their needs. These differentiators can make-or-break your competitive advantage, especially when nearly 91% of companies are using a CRM. In an ideal world, your customizations will deepen insights and help you react faster than the other guy.

CRM companies tout their customizable features and infinite options  – but can a plethora of customizations be too much of a good thing?

CRM Customization Benefits

A good customization is one that is well thought out, useful for multiple individuals, and relevant to your business processes. The best customizations will:

  • Adapt your OOTB CRM to your existing processes and operations
  • Get rid of unnecessary steps to streamline CRM workflow
  • Be easily reconfigurable for the evolving competitive landscape
  • Shorten staff training time and increase use of the CRM
  • Offer unique data insights (ex: customized reports)

CRM Customization Pitfalls

On the flipside, an overly-customized CRM can cause some major business woes. When does it get excessive? Let’s discuss some pitfalls of unbridled CRM customization.

Go-Live Delays

In its simplest sense, too much customization prolongs your project timeline. A CRM implementation that should take a few weeks can end up taking months. Plus, all that additional development and testing strains the budget. Avoid the issue altogether with proper CRM planning. Your CRM consultant can help you make decisions about which customizations are worth saving, which will be provided by your new platform (and are therefore no longer necessary to build), and which are no longer relevant to your business processes. Understanding your CRM goals is the first step to making sense of the customizations you need. Ask yourself, “How will these customizations serve my vision?”

Inhibiting Partnership Opportunities

A partner with the right skillset can build your customizations, and short term, it may work out just fine. But what happens if you decide to switch partners? That’s when you could find yourself in a bind. Your CRM customizations are a red flag for potential new partners. If they didn’t build it, how can they guarantee they can support it? How do they know for sure they can maintain it without incurring additional costs for you? It’s a risk. The new partner must either spend time learning the inner workings of your CRM or require you to re-implement—both options will cost you. 

Integration Issues

Ready to integrate your CRM with your ERP? How about your CRM and marketing automation? These are common integrations for many companies looking to gain a broader perspective of their customer data. However, too much customization can affect your CRMs ability to evolve and connect with these systems. A CRM and ERP programmed to fit perfectly together are now seemingly mismatched. It’s another workaround that you and your CRM partner will have to problem solve.

Too many customizations could also mean the system is more likely to encounter problems with software upgrades. Customizations could break or malfunction when paired with the new release. Fixing them could mean significant downtime for the system.

New Fields, No Rules

Even if you’re not building any customizations, most CRMs nowadays have pre-built capabilities for adding custom fields and functions. When users have the power to create their own custom fields, your CRM can turn from a well-oiled machine to a chaotic monster. If you’re going to give users that authority, make sure there are strict business rules for how it’s done. Get team consensus on the usability of the field. Double check there aren’t any similar fields preexisting that may cause confusion or redundancy. Avoid the predicament of option-overload with too many variables or check boxes. An overabundance of fields could skew reporting and fragment data results.

CRM companies invest a lot of money in tailoring their platforms for specific industries and business needs, so it’s more likely you’ll find one that’s well-suited for your business from the get-go. Of course, these systems won’t always be perfect out-of-the-box, and some customization may still be necessary; but, if you start with the right CRM, you won’t need any over-the-top customizations.

Your CRM consultant will assess your business and help you narrow down the functions crucial for your success with the system. Keep in mind that you may need your CRM to interact with other systems down the road and ask your consultant how the customizations may affect those relationships.

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Danine Pontarelli
Director of Marketing

Danine is the Director of Marketing for Technology Advisors Inc. She spearheads TAI events, marketing campaigns, and social media efforts. Prior to her work at TAI, Danine was a copywriter in the B2B publishing industry. Her interests include blockbuster disaster movies, tank tops in an array of colors, used book stores, Clint Eastwood, and being surrounded by trees.