Have you ever asked, is your company uses software and digital tools in the best possible way to help you to arrange the work? Or have you wondered, is there some other software that can impact your success and improve your work? For me, this has been an intriguing question. To get some insight, I decided to study what others are using and what impressions they have.
In October 2021, I surveyed small and midsize enterprises in Estonia. The goal was to study how satisfied they are with the sales and customer management solutions they are using (including customer feedback and survey tools, marketing tools, customer support tools, and other CRM solutions they are using), what the software and tools lack, and also what the perfect customer and sales management software should include. The survey was conducted with the help of Formaloo survey applications.
I have sent out 90 invitations and got 37 responses. The target group was company owners, sales- or marketing persons. The responded businesses were mostly small-sized with less than 10 employees. 8 businesses had 20 employees. ⅔ of respondents are companies serving less than 60 customers per month. Only 4 respondents serve more than 1000 customers per month. The responders represent different businesses: sales, consultation, accommodation, entertainment, production, IT services, etc.
Although the companies are different and mostly the responders are satisfied with the systems they are using, we can still point out a few lessons that businesses can take into account when choosing digital tools or software for sales, marketing, and customer relationships.
What we learned
According to the survey, typically 2-4 different and separate software or digital tools are used in one company. The satisfaction does not depend on the size or the business area of the company. However, less satisfied tend to be users for whom the system is too complex and who are using only a part of what the software enables. As one respondent mentioned: “There is often not enough time or resource for the small business to fully learn the software itself.” As we see, people don’t like to use Tools they do not understand enough, and they don’t like to learn new skills if they don’t have time for this.
On the other hand, the software does not fully meet the needs of most of the users. Either the necessary functionalities are missing, or the user is not convenient. Some users desire well-designed search and filtering capabilities for customer management. Some of the respondents desired real-time data updates, such as inventory updates. Also, for some users viewing and visualizing the Reports might be better. Others desired automatic reminders about important dates and deadlines.
Related to the previous, as companies use multiple software and tools, the data is often scattered and not in one database. To process, analyze and understand the data, it’s necessary to combine the data manually. This raises other questions regarding data management – data security and accessibility. Which employees in the company should have access to what kind of data. Or even if it’s possible to share the access rights to colleagues at all.
Many of the problems mentioned can be fixed if the company is ready to invest. This brings us to one of the Main Lessons. For small businesses, every cost is important. Therefore, they look for free-of-cost solutions or use more affordable software which doesn’t meet their needs. Different software could be combined with API integrations, but the return on investment is questionable for a small player. Therefore it is understandable why most of the respondents are using multiple software and digital tools.
Another result we can point out: the more customers the company has, the more data the company wants to exploit. Those respondents pointed out that more data enables for more strategic action, more efficient working organization, and enables a good relationship with regular customers. Thus, only a few of the respondents in the survey seem to try to understand their customers’ behavior and needs, and target to use this data for business growth & success.
Most of the respondents are not using a single but they are using multiple digital tools or software for sales and customer management. Usually, the respondents are rather satisfied with their current solution. However, the majority of them admit the current solution isn’t perfect and they would like to have additional options and better functionality. Many respondents desire to use better quality data about their customers, but only a few mentioned why they need this.
This survey did not give trustworthy data to make strong conclusions (too few respondents and in the future I would like to adjust the questions). Still, it’s an insight to understand what small and midsize companies need. I have a feeling the smaller companies are just doing what they are doing, without thinking much about what would support them better. They just pick something that seems to be suitable. This may also apply to other companies – at some point they choose software, get used to this and they are just proceeding with it without asking, maybe something else is better for them.
About the researcher:
Heiki Järveveer is a Marketing and Financial Management master’s student at the University of Tartu. He’s working in the company Est-Doma OÜ as a board member and is responsible for sales and communication. Also, he has been active in voluntary organizations – education, youth work, community activities.