How to Design a CRM System: All You Need to Know About Custom CRM

Natalia Borysko

If you clicked this article, it's more likely you have an idea of building a CRM circulating in your mind. But also, you may probably ask yourself a question like, “Do I really need a custom CRM when a handful of well-known CRM giants have already been around?

To help you come to your own right decision, in this article, we’ll ponder over why you need a custom CRM, uncover custom CRM benefits, walk through the CRM development main steps, and discuss how to create the best CRM UX design. 

Ready to imbibe this sacred knowledge Eleken team will share with you? Then, here goes! 

Why do you need a custom CRM?

Do you know that quite a fair number of companies that had ever bought a ready-to-use CRM couldn’t integrate it into their businesses? Even though the pros like Salesforce, Zoho, or Hubspot do their best to foresee various possible user needs and offer industry-specific solutions, it’s still a challenging task to create a CRM system that can ideally fit every business’s unique processes.

Let’s check whether you need your own CRM. If you would rather agree than disagree with the statements below, probably, you can start thinking about creating a CRM from scratch. 

So, you may probably be on your way to a custom CRM, in case you:

  • Need to outline your company’s identity 

In a packaged CRM, you can’t adjust UI/UX design to reflect your brand identity. What is more important, when using marketing automation to communicate with your customers, you won’t be able to differ from other market players in your niche as they predominantly use ready-to-use CRM solutions with standardized features and algorithms. 

  • Want to save money on features you don’t need

As CRM developers aim to cover the needs of as many businesses as possible, they fill their products with multiple features, the half of which you’d likely never use. However, you can rarely opt out of the features you don’t need when purchasing a ready-made CRM. Thus, it’s simply a waste of money.

  • Require particular integrations

Typically, CRM products designed for a broad audience offer integrations with social networks and popular email services. But if you have some very specific software you want to connect with a CRM, chances are the integration process may not be smooth enough. 

Suppose all three points above are about your business. Then let’s look at what benefits you’ll have if you build your own CRM software.

Custom CRM benefits

The most significant benefit is coming from the word “custom”. This is up to your business needs to scale, improve, and alter CRM system functionality without paying for unnecessary features.

What else can be attributed to benefits?

  • In-house system control

Some CRM providers offer system monitoring functions. However, having full control on your side, you can address any technical issues quicker. Also, you can ensure the data is gathered in the most suitable format, which eases the information editing. 

  • Tailored customer analytics

Ready-made CRM allows you to filter customer data and see basic insights such as geography and age, but what if you need more in-depth analysis using the combination of filters? Custom CRM enables you to build customer analytics according to your company’s business goals.

  • Automated workflows

Each business has its own automation requirements due to user journey specifics. For example, you may not need marketing automation but want to send scheduled notifications, which isn’t supposed to be included in a packaged CRM functionality. 

Okay, if you’ve become full of confidence to build your own CRM software up to this line, let’s clarify…

What do you need to start CRM development?

I won’t surprise you by saying that you should do the preparation job before starting a significant business process. In the case of CRM, the questions you and the experts from different company departments have to answer concern the system goals, requirements, and core functionality. During your brainstorming sessions, you should create some sort of “CRM Bible” that designers and programmers must adhere to when working on CRM design and development. 

Here is the list of aspects to decide upon before embarking in the CRM building process.

  • Business goals

In other words, define what you expect to improve in your business with the help of CRM implementation. Whether you intend to streamline marketing by automated services or employ a new strategy based on the analytics, these goals should be directly related to and achieved thanks to the new CRM.

  • System requirements

Determine what critical CRM features you’ll die (of course, metaphorically!) to have. For example, integrations, work speed, analytics, automation - all these requirements should be listed before going into the development process.

  • Software specifications (or functional requirements)

Think of how targeted departments will use a CRM and ensure it has the parts dedicated to each group of employees. This point is crucial to consider as each department has its own tasks and ways to accomplish them.

When you’re ready with the preparation stage, it’s time to move to the development phase.

CRM development: main steps

  1. Design

In terms of CRM, the design implies rather UX than UI design as it’s more critical to ensure customer satisfaction than interface beauty. CRM UI design is certainly important from a brand identity perspective. However, move to decoration only after a logical workflow and clear customer journeys embodied in a functioning prototype.

  1. Development

In this step, the prototype is presented to the development team. Now, programmers have to estimate deadlines and come up with the project roadmap. I would advise here not to set tough deadlines, but to plan some extra time in case something doesn’t go as expected (and, more likely, it will). 

  1. Launch and monitoring

To launch your fresh CRM, you need, on the one hand, to integrate the system with the existing databases, and then to teach staff how to use it. Also, it’s insightful to learn how real people interact with the CRM, what features they find useful, and which they never even try.

Why does the good CRM user experience matter? 

Because whatever feature-rich your CRM is, if customers can’t get the point of how to use it, all efforts are in vain. That is where good UX plays a crucial role. To make a good UX design, designers conduct UX research to determine what people wait for from their CRMs and how they actually use them. After collecting sufficient data, the UX designers typically build user flows, customer journey maps, and prototypes. But, having this done, their job still isn’t over. The next step is user testing, by which designers may find and improve critical flaws in user experience.

In all fairness, it has to be added that good UX serves not only customers but also businesses by bringing them substantial benefits.

  • Sales automation

It makes it much easier to follow the sales process, from a prospect to a closed deal, with no steps missed when the UX is good enough to help salespeople effectively perform their job.

  • Lead tracking

The biggest problem of companies that don’t use CRM (or have the bad CRM UX) is leads’ loss. Leads often drop out of the sales funnel due to the inconsistency of follow-ups from the marketing and sales teams.

  • Time-saving

Don’t you agree that wasting time figuring out complicated workflows isn’t making you any closer to business goals achievement? The good UX enables your CRM users to be more productive. 

  • Communication consistency

This is my favorite benefit. It’s hard to imagine what else can kill sales effectiveness so mercilessly as non-organized crucial information about a lead. If thoughtfully designed, CRM UX facilitates information sharing and ensures everybody knows how to find and easily access the information they need.

With this said, let’s define what deteriorates user experience when developing a CRM. 

Top mistakes to avoid in CRM UX

  1. Puzzled navigation

The simpler the user flow is, the quicker users can find necessary features or information. The data says that employees spend around 8% of their time searching for information they need to proceed with the tasks. The good UX is called on to decrease this percentage (ideally, to zero!).

  1. Missing email integration

If your users can send and receive emails from the CRM, it’ll definitely make their everyday work easier. Typically, sales and marketing people have to operate with several systems a day and may miss some important updates due to the huge workload. So it’ll be hundred times more convenient when CRM allows integration with email, where important threads can be tracked.

Integration with email
Image credit: copper.com
  1. Unclear data representation 

The data itself is a raw material before being meaningfully interpreted. If the data in your CRM is tough to analyze, this is also the UX flub. To not miss the life-changing business opportunities, the information should be easily readable, understandable, and...hmm...analyzable?


The example of the analytics chart
Image credit: copper.com
  1. Limited accessibility

And here I mean, if your CRM is accessible only from certain browsers and devices, that isn’t what the modern world requires. Your CRM UX should provide the possibility to either work from the office, or work on the go with the same level of convenience.

  1. Lack of integration with other apps

Think of CRM as your own information hub, which should unite all your company tools to create a smooth user experience. Typically, a good CRM UX implies integrations with popular apps, though you can expand the number of integrated apps upon the necessity.

Popular integrations a CRM system usually integrates with

Now you know what bad CRM UX implies. 

So, it’s time to shed some light on actionable steps to improve CRM UX design to ensure a positive customer experience.

How to build great UX design for CRM

  1. Set your own CRM terminology

CRM is a system widely used throughout the organization by many different people, and it’s critically important they all speak the same business language. Before working on your best CRM design, define your business terminology as it can differ from company to company. It’s always beneficial to use the terms that are used internally, even though they can be different from other companies’ business vocabulary.

  1. Create pre-designed templates

It can be the templates of reports, proposals, marketing emails, or any other materials your sales and marketing teams regularly use. These templates should be easily customizable and adhere to brand guidelines.

  1. Work on intuitive navigation

Easy-to-understand dashboards are probably the “must-have” for great CRM design. They are crucial to quickly gain insights on sales, market trends, inventory management, and leads tracking. In a nutshell, intuitive navigation helps marry user needs and company goals to ensure overall business growth.

  1. Improve your UX with analytics

In an ideal world, a CRM shouldn’t be just a place for storing customers’ data. It should also empower gathering users' behavioral insights, which shed light on how customers react to different interactions and situations, and help better understand and forecast customers’ needs.

  1. Leverage developing technologies

Machine learning and predictive analysis powered by artificial intelligence can increase the number of qualified leads, resulting in a higher number of closed deals. Also, you can employ conversational UI (simply put, chatbots) to boost customer satisfaction and engagement.

To sum up

Developing and designing a custom CRM is a complex, multi-faceted process that requires a thoughtful and knowledgeable approach. However, your own CRM system can also bring you significant benefits worth all endeavors you put into the development process. Eleken’s team of seasoned UI/UX designers is ready to consult you regarding any questions you have about CRM UX design and provide you with qualified assistance.

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