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5 Reasons CRM Tools Fail—And Why Relationships Engagement Tools Are The Future Of Customer Happiness


Salesforce is the king of enterprise customer relationship management (CRM).

HubSpot is the king of CRM tools for small to medium-size businesses.

The CRM space is a $44 billion industry—with projections to double and reach $80 billion by 2025. And yet, less than 40% of CRM customers have end-user adoption rates above 90%. What this means is, even though businesses all over the world see value in customer relationship management tools, they have a very difficult time implementing them into their organizations. 


Because even though 91% of companies with more than 11 employees use a CRM system, these tools are very robust, difficult to use, and can end up feeling like busywork for employees—rather than easy, automated ways for service providers to engage their customers on a more personal level.

I have been in the CRM world for more than two decades. Here are five of the most common reasons why CRM tools fail to gain full adoption within a company.

1. CRMs require a significant amount of upfront investment of time and education.

Hubspot has an entire academy dedicated to learning how to use their software. Each specialization requires hours of studying, followed by a test that lasts at least an hour—and there are 18 different specializations

But put yourself in the shoes of a salesperson, or a busy business owner. Investing five or ten hours is the equivalent of signing up for a second part-time job or night classes online. This is why so many businesses sign up for CRM tools, only to fail to get more than half of the company on board.

2. CRM automation is still lacking.

While advancements in AI have begun moving CRM tools further down the path of marketing automation, the truth is, even the best CRM platforms in the world still struggle on this front.

Reason being: CRM tools weren’t built for automation. They were built for organization, and having a “hub” where you could store all the data and information you had on each of your customers—name, email, phone number, company title, location, etc.

I am the founder and CEO of a company called Usherpa, and what we specialize in is marketing automation within the mortgage and real estate industries. And I can tell you first-hand that CRM tools like Salesforce and Hubspot are not used in the same way our software gets used by our clients. What our real estate agents and loan officers use Usherpa for is automating relationship-building touchpoints and creating referral machines for themselves and their businesses.

This is where the CRM industry is headed—but since automation has never been its primary focus, it’s going to take a while for them to catch up.

3. CRM tools do not provide effective customer service.

When it comes to support and training, most CRMs aren’t in the business of helping you out along the way. Not for free anyway.

They’re in the software subscription and software consulting business.

The reality is, whenever you are selling software to be adopted within a company, there is going to be some level of hands-on training and facilitation that needs to take place. Not everyone walks through the door with the same level of working knowledge—and so, if you’re in the CRM business, you need to take it upon yourself to give each and every customer the resources they need to succeed (and plan for that accordingly in your own business model).

4. CRMs are notorious for being bloated with features.

Salesforce is one of the largest, most successful companies in the world—and yet, its product is incredibly difficult to use.

Ask anyone if they enjoy using Salesforce and they’ll say, “I hate it. It takes me two hours to do anything.” This is common among companies at the enterprise level, simply because the tools are built to house hundreds and hundreds of features, instead of doubling down on easy-to-use processes anyone can get the hang of.

What’s worth noting here, is 72% of surveyed CRM customers actually said they would trade functionality for ease of use. So, if you’re looking for which tool is going to be right for your organization, one question you should ask yourself is, “Which do I want more? Complicated functionality or intuitive design?”

5. CRM tools treat customers like data points, instead of meaningful relationships.

Finally, the biggest issue I have found with CRM tools is they disregard the wants and needs of the customer.

Even though CRMs are great at documenting and storing customer data, they aren’t great at nurturing the human side of the sales process. There are no features designed to spark customer loyalty and create word of mouth referrals. This is where I believe the future of the CRM industry is headed, towards a customer-centric model: Relationship Engagement Platforms (REPs) that focus less on storing customer data and more on knowing how to intuitively leverage it.

I truly believe it’s this disconnect between client and customer that causes so many CRM projects to fail. According to Harvard Business Review, “In 2017, CIO magazine reported around one-third of all customer relationship management (CRM) projects fail. Those failures can mean a lot of things—over-budget, data integrity issues, technology limitations, and so forth. But in my work with clients, when I ask executives if the CRM system is helping their business to grow, the failure rate is closer to 90%.”

It’s not more bells and whistles you need.

It’s a tool salespeople will adopt and use.

Dan is a partner at Usherpa, which exists is to help Loan Officers and Realtors do more deals with less effort.

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