We’ve all heard the saying, “you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.” Maybe you can’t MAKE him drink, but… you can ENTICE him to drink. You can provide beautiful, convenient and tasty water so that he WANTS to drink. Let’s apply this analogy to software UI (screen layout) design.
Designing a user interface that is attractive, intuitive and efficient is key for user adoption and ultimately, imperative to the success of your software implementation.
The general guidelines shared below can be applied to any software package, but the examples relate directly to Act! CRM software.
In Act!, the primary screens people use to enter data are the contact detail, company detail, opportunity detail and group detail. The Act! detail screens employ “layouts” that are customizeable, and I feel they *should* be customized. Sure, the default interface is the result of untold hours of design, user surveys, trend analysis, yadda yadda. However, one size does not fit all, and these default layouts should be seen as a starting point, not the final destination.
1. Decide what information is vital to know about your customers/prospects for your business needs
If you are selling widgets, it might be nice to know at a glance if the prospect or customer you are working with has any of your widgets; what color/size/type/make/model of widgets do they have (or want to have); when they are going to be looking to buy more widgets, etc.
Create fields to hold this vital data. Consider drop down fields with limited choices and checkboxes to make it quicker for users to update these fields and to make it easy to find contacts through searches.
2. Make it obvious
By default, “business card” and prospecting data are shown in the top half of the Contact detail screen. Related and less-used data is “hidden” in tabs in the bottom half of the screen.
Once you’ve decided what additional information is important for your business to track, move the most-used information to the top half of the screen where it will be seen as soon as a contact is viewed.
HIGHLIGHT it. Shading, lines, boxes and color draw the eye to what’s most important.
3. Use white space
Now that I’ve recommended you put your most-used data at the top of the contact screen, I have to caution you against having TOO MUCH information in that area. Clutter is the enemy of efficiency.
White space is a must in every design. There will need to be compromise…you can’t have every field available AND have an uncluttered, simple design. Be judicious about what fields are really needed on the main screen and what can be a click or two away.
Separate fields and sections with blank space to make it easier to read the screen at a glance.
4. Consider user input on design
If you are not the primary user of the system, it’s important to speak with someone who IS. This can also increase user buy-in and lead to greater user adoption of a new system.
5. Create multiple layouts for different scenarios
Layouts can be easily swapped, so consider creating a different layout for different users, departments and/or interfaces.
The marketing department may have different “key” fields for their purposes than the sales or service departments.
If you have multiple databases it can be useful to have a different background so that you know at a glance which database you are in.
Resolution and dpi scaling can mess up a design. Consider the screen resolution of your users. Act! By default has 3 different versions of each detail layout based on screen resolution. It’s important to look at your layout on screens that your users view.
6. Remember your web users!
Your design may look awesome on the desktop, but if you have Act! For Web users, you will need to make sure that your design translates properly in a web browser.
If you have a layout that really only works on the desktop, consider creating a copy of your layout that is slightly different for web usage.
Some fonts may not translate well in the web interface. Make sure you are using a standard font in a size that is easy to read online for your web layout.
7. Remove what is not needed, and add shortcuts
In the desktop interface you have the ability to add or remove buttons from the navigation and toolbars. If you are implementing Act! For the first time, consider what elements your users NEED, and remove extraneous navigation that clutters the screen and can cause confusion.
Add buttons for frequently used tasks. For instance, on remote user interfaces I find it useful to add the “synchronize now” button to the toolbar. This saves 4 clicks and puts the sync function in the forefront.
Following these tips will result in a better Act! user experience. This should translate into greater user adoption and efficiency, and that is better for everyone.
During a meeting last week we were discussing a book to review during a quarterly education event coming up. Cleaning out my desk drawers the week before, I stumbled upon a miniature edition of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. I suggested we use that as our book review. It’s timeless and still very relevant. That idea made me go look for the full size version and I re-read it over the weekend. Well, mostly I sped-read it.
The reading event triggered my blog post today. Every Sunday, I take time to do research on Twitter and blog topics for the week. It’s part of my business routine. People always ask us how to come up for ideas for blog posts and tweets and it’s actually pretty easy. Look at events the crop up and they will lead you to discovery of ideas.
The main theme I remembered from the book was finding out what is important in life and reducing focus on things that are not important. We all need to learn what is truly urgent and relevant and what can go away as not important. This theme comes up in many books I read on organization and time management.
One book said to create 10 yellow stickie notes with the word NO and then stick them on mail, paperwork, or “hypothetically” on those things that are not tangible – like spending time looking at social media sites like Facebook and Instagram. Those are fun – but do they need to take up valuable time during your productive moments.
Mr. Covey stressed that while it is critical to focus on urgent tasks, we need to ensure we don’t forget the Important but not urgent items as well. It really is about balance. Stop working on things not important – and focus on the important but not urgent items in more depth.
His 7 habits in the book are:
1. Be Proactive
2. Begin with the end in mind
3. Put first things first
4. Think win-win
5. Seek first to understand, then to be understood
7. Sharpen the saw
Each of his habits is geared towards the same goal – keeping on track and focused. Know the end goal and move towards it. It’s not something you figure out and you are done. This is a life long journey of discovery and reshaping yourself. And to be successful we need to realize we are not on the journey alone. Once we have mastered knowing ourselves we move on to understanding working with others via communication, collaboration and teamwork.
It’s all about discipline. Develop a set of habits and stick to them. While it is easy to get distracted, setting up a plan for your day, sticking to it, ending it, planning the next day and repeating will ensure you keep on track. And of course you can keep track of these ideas using your CRM. Set up tasks to help guide you towards focusing on what is important and avoiding the time drains that keep us off target.
This was a good exercise for me and I realized it’d make a good blog post as well. We all need motivation and something to help us keep our eye on the ball. It made a very good start for my week. Spring cleaning for the mind so to speak.
I’ve been working with a client recently and we’re getting ready to upgrade their Act! As part of the project, I asked my client what was their defined sales process. And I got the answer I was actually expecting. There was none.
Most of the sales reps had been selling this product line for years. They knew what to do. It just came naturally to them. So I asked him were they planning on bringing anyone on board who was not familiar with the products or how they all sell. He said yes. I asked him how they were planning on training them. He said the boss would follow them around showing them the ropes.
This happens all the time. It’s been this way for years in many organizations. But can you imagine how much faster a sales person could come up to speed if there was a defined process and a tool to keep track of it. The tool part is easy – pick a CRM. My choice is Act! but what I’m talking about here would work for any tool. It’s the defined process that is typically either missing or varies depending on who you talk to.
As I was talking to my client I told him of my 3-word description of a successful CRM implementation. Define, Train and Enforce.
Define the process.
When there is no defined sales process it’s hard to design a CRM infrastructure or to keep everyone on the same page. Yes, it’s probably true that all the reps know what to do but it’s a good chance they all do it differently. And keep it in their heads or on yellow pads. And all that business knowledge and experience goes away if they do. A defined process keeps everyone on the mark and a good CRM keeps track of it all. For easy access later.
Train on the tool and process.
Once you have defined the process and built a CRM implementation, now you need to train the users. That does not mean putting a link to a website or an icon on a desktop and then saying – “here ya go.” It means documenting the process and the CRM tool and showing people how to use it. Hold periodic sessions to talk about the tool and if there needs to be extra fields added or steps enhanced or changed. The end users become your most valuable resource in tweaking the system to perfection.
Enforce the Process.
The word Enforce sounds harsh but it’s not meant to be. What it means is gently reminding people to update their information. Keep track of the opportunities and leads. Follow up on things not dealt with recently. Establishing a good discipline of updating information is very valuable for so many reasons. But someone needs to make sure it’s happening. You need a person in your organization who becomes the gentle “enforcer” to keep everyone on track. The paybacks will be huge for everyone. Management knows what’s going on. The users can find historical information quickly and tell who has not been contacted recently. You can establish Key Performance Indicators to validate that the process is indeed working.
A good CRM is a win/win for your company, your staff and most importantly, your customers.
Here’s a little chart I designed to help show this process. [Infographic]
If you would like help setting up a working CRM let us know. Click on our Contact us page and we’ll call you back right away.
One of the features of Act! is the ability to create Word templates that can then be auto populated with fields from the act database. The classic details pulled into the document are company name, contact name, addresses, etc.
A tip we often show is adding last contact interaction information such as the last time the contact was called or had a meeting. If you use the Act! calendar and clear out the activities, Act! automatically records that information as Last Reach (phone calls), Last Meeting, Last Email and Letter Sent. You can take advantage of that information to create email templates to send out and check in with your client.
Here’s an example. You can do a lookup in Act! for contacts that have not been contacted for 60 days. Build a Word template which asks the client how things are going. Tell them the last call recorded was “last reach” or the last meeting was “last meeting” but have those dates automatically filled in on the template. We created a template for a customer that said: “Hi, it’s been a while since we touched base with you. Our last conversation was “insert the last reach field here”. We’ve got exciting news about some new services. You can visit our website at …….to learn more.” It turned out to be pretty effective in getting people to visit their website.
Another thing you can do is have a standard document that is sent out when a new client has been added. Most organizations have a sales rep or key contact within your organization and you can add their name based on a field in Act! You provide your contact information, hours of operation, etc. And you can do this for everyone that has been added in the last week simply by looking up the create date and doing a mail merge.
One last idea is something we’ve done many times. Often organizations have forms they need to complete when products are sold. One client had 9 forms that needed to be filled in for vehicle registration, state and city forms, etc. All we had to do was add a few more fields for data not already being captured and put all 9 forms in one Act template. A process that used to take several days of manual typing, copying and pasting now took minutes. Such a simple idea with tremendous impact.
Look at forms, letters or emails you send out on a regular basis. I am betting many of them can be set up as templates in Act! This is yet one more automation trick.
The next article on Word templates will show how to embed Excel spreadsheet capabilities into a Word template and adding formulas to tables in Word as well.
We have all known procrastinators or have been one at some point ourselves. Managing a procrastinator can be a frustrating and difficult situation. Let’s face it, procrastination not only affects our business but it affects our sanity. One of the obligations of a good manager is to mentor those we manage and help them achieve their project and career goals.
There are ways to help a procrastinator from falling into those same destructive patterns. One way to help them is to find a way to help your procrastinator take that baby step to simply start the project they are putting off. The hardest part of a project is often taking that first step. A procrastinator might be overwhelmed by looking at the big picture and simply not start. To facilitate that first step, talk your procrastinator through the process of getting started. Break the project up into steps so that it doesn’t feel so overwhelming. Set up weekly or biweekly meetings to facilitate the flow of the project. Teaching them the time management and organization skills that helped you become successful can be helpful to them.
This kind of management is not something that will or should last for longer than a couple projects. It is important to set firm goals with consequences. You may find that the employee needs too much handholding which can be a time drain and counterproductive. Learn when to cut your losses. Stick to your goals and consequences knowing that this is for your benefit (and sanity) as well as that of the procrastinator.