We talked to customer relationship management experts to find out what frustrates agents the most and what upcoming advances might make your CRM work better for you.

Ask anyone in a sales-related or client-centered profession and they’ll tell you they have a love-hate relationship with their customer relationship management (CRM). While they know they need a CRM platform, most agents and brokers can never find an out-of-the-box system that works for their particular needs.

Tony Julianelle

“The biggest issue I see in the off-the-shelf options is that all of them have trade-offs,” said Tony Julianelle, CEO of Atlas Real Estate. “While one may be really good at integration with a particular email system or a lead source, it will lack in another area.”

Julianelle said that Atlas prioritizes detailed reporting and finds that most systems lack robust features in that department. That forces them to build reporting outside the platform — a solution that is both time-consuming and costly.

“It’s also difficult to use a CRM effectively while on the move,” Julianelle continued. Finding a fully integrated or fully capable mobile application is essential. Unfortunately, too many mobile versions of the desktop CRM fall short.

Most importantly, for Julianelle, there needs to be a memorable, personal experience between the company and the customer. “The challenge for our company is using the best parts of a CRM to encourage actual human-to-human interaction between our salespeople and our customers,” Julianelle said. “We want to go above and beyond in providing not just outstanding service and results, but also providing a more meaningful relationship.”

Ani Chiuzan

Ani Chiuzan, head of customer marketing for Pipedrive, a CRM company founded in 2010, agrees with Julianelle’s view of CRMs. “A great CRM would be designed from a salesperson’s point of view, which works the way a real estate agent works.”

According to Chiuzan, because they don’t see a real benefit to the CRM they’re provided, many agents end up using it rarely, if at all. “I talk to a lot of salespeople and ask, ‘How often do you use your CRM?’ Most often they say, ‘Just whenever my manager wants to see that I’m logging on.’ Most of the time, they tell me they log in on Friday and put in the bare minimum so that they fill the visibility [required by their managing broker].”

CRMs are supposed to help managers keep track of the potential pipeline for each agent and to help agents convert leads. When real data is not provided at the agent level, the CRM fails to work for either of its stated purposes.

“What we find is that people like to be prompted about when to do the next call. They need to add notes from their mobile phones and add information on the go. When that happens, the manager can go into the system and see what’s happening in real time. When a CRM is easy to update, the data is totally accurate,” Chiuzan said.

When asked why so many mobile versions of CRMs fail to work for most agents, Chiuzan cited the tendency to put everything that is available in the desktop version into the mobile version. “When it comes to optimizing for mobile, only choose the data, notifications and functions that are needed on the go, and leave the rest for the desktop platform,” she said.

Atlas’s Julianelle posits that AI and software advancements will help to make CRMs more personalized and intuitive, and Chiuzan agrees. “We have so much access to information but no time to process it. Intelligent tech can come in and help facilitate the sales flow,” said Chiuzan.

By learning from previous activities what works and what doesn’t work, AI can help the CRM help salespeople understand how to move toward closure and where they are losing people in their pipeline.

“AI also looks at previous activities to give information about what works for other agents like them or what opportunities they should consider in the future. That’s where technology really becomes powerful and can really shift the game significantly,” said Chiuzan.

When the right CRM and the right user combine, it’s a beautiful thing, Chiuzan remarked. “I have a customer in California who calls his CRM the alarm clock for when to call a client and the journal of past conversations. He goes to the CRM first thing in the morning and organizes his schedule around it. It’s so refreshing to hear a customer say he loves his CRM.”

5 things agents hate about CRMs

We reached out to our community to find out about the most frequent CRM-related fears and complaints. Here are the top five, along with responses from CRM platforms.

1. It’s difficult to update and maintain accurate information.

Zvi Band

“CRMs in general already face a garbage in/garbage out problem. It’s exacerbated because anyone an agent knows is a potential buyer/seller/renter/referral. The best agents realize this, and have a lot of discipline around bringing all of their contacts into their CRM. They are very focused around prioritizing the right relationships — and keeping those up to date,” Zvi Band, founder and CEO of Contactually, said.

“This is also where a good CRM can help; for example, automatically flagging and hiding other agents from their database.”

2. I’m afraid of making mistakes in grouping and contact lists.

Gabrielle Fuqua

“Paralysis caused by a fear of inaccurate contact information is a common problem in real estate. CRM adoption is fundamental to overcoming this issue,” Gabrielle Fuqua, director of marketing at ActivePipe, said.

“When a CRM is used, most information is generally correct. Delaying marketing actions out of a fear that 5 percent or 10 percent of the information is incorrect means the 90 percent that could be hearing from you are not. The truth is, a call to tell you there is an error is still an inbound call.”

3. I’m afraid of sending duplicate marketing and outreach pieces and having everything sound canned.

“Looking at social media before a call can give clues on how to make a personal connection. People most often use and recommend agents they trust, their friends,” Fuqua said. “Ask how their house is. Offer vendor recommendations for roofing, plumbing, etc. Be their home expert, not just a real estate expert. You can say anything you want as long as you keep it light and funny.”

4. I’m not sure when to reach out or what to say. 

“Staring at a blank email screen and not knowing what to say can easily lead to decision paralysis. One of the best ways for agents to get around this issue is to build up (or purchase) a library of email templates, that are customized to represent their voice. This simplifies the decision from ‘what should I say’ to ‘which message am I sending?'” Band said.

5. I’m afraid of spam complaints or Do Not Contact violations. 

“Spamming is a valid fear and all businesses do it. The real question is how do you stand out and show value in your email marketing? ActivePipe allows agents to customize content based on a contact’s interests and location,” Fuqua said. “When the subject line of an email offers advice or inside information on something a contact wants to know it’s no longer spam, it is valuable expertise delivered to their doorstep.”

Christy Murdock Edgar is a Realtor, freelance writer, coach and consultant with Writing Real Estate. She is also a Florida Realtors faculty member. Follow Writing Real Estate on  FacebookTwitterInstagram  and YouTube.

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