Mike Wager - 12 January 2021
When customer relationship management (CRM) systems first appeared, they were little more than databases used to store customer contact details, track sales pipelines, and send the occasional marketing email.
Fast forward to now, and CRM systems look quite different. Most are hosted in the cloud — 75% according to Gartner — and with every new release, greater functionality is introduced. And by adding processes, linking business-critical operations together, and integrating enterprise applications, CRMs have become more interactive. CRMs, such as Salesforce and Microsoft Dynamics 365, have become all-encompassing platforms that entire companies run on.
Because the stakes are so high for businesses that rely on CRM, these platforms require robust testing simply to remain operational. To support business objectives and provide an exceptional customer experience, businesses need a coherent CRM testing strategy in place from the planning stage through to version updates and data migrations, when updates occur or data is migrated to newer versions.
What is CRM testing?
CRM testing is the verification that your CRM system is fully operational and delivers against business objectives before and after the software is installed, updated, or upgraded.
Sounds simple, right?
Well, it depends on what you want to achieve.
CRM systems can be considered out-of-the-box, but in reality, few organizations require this level of simplicity. If you were to set up a new CRM system as-is, you'd be able to import contacts, extract basic reports, and create dashboards, but would this deliver against expectations?
To get the most out of your investment, you need to customize your CRM system. This means integrating business workflows for a variety of departments, as well as linking a plethora of enterprise applications together. Now your CRM system is more complex, barely recognizable compared to when it was first delivered. Each integration adds a level of complexity and therefore needs to be thoroughly tested.
Testing of CRM systems has moved far beyond just checking data quality — although this remains vitally important, as any CRM system is only as good as the information inputted into it. It has now become essential to ensure every component works, departmental workflow integrations are synchronized, and business objectives are supported — delivering a seamless internal experience that supports an exceptional customer experience.
Why is CRM testing important?
- Do you need to streamline business workflows and integrate departments into one system?
- Do you need to synchronize enterprise applications to give a holistic view of your customers?
- Is it vital that your employees use the CRM system correctly and input accurate data?
- Do you want to deliver an exceptional customer experience?
- Do you want a more comfortable life?
If you answered yes to any of these questions — you should be screaming YES to all of them — you now understand why CRM testing is important.
CRM testing affects all industries
If you are selling something, odds are you are using a CRM system. Organizations thrive when CRM systems work in harmony with business workflows and enterprise applications to ultimately deliver a first-rate customer experience. Complex processes require coordination between systems and departments, such as warehouses, customer service, sales, and operations. CRM testing is vital to understand whether or not these systems are effectively handling relevant customer data and supporting business objectives.
Why your customer’s experience matters
When CRMs aren’t properly coordinating with relevant systems, bad things happen: frustrated colleagues, lost customers, damage to your brand, and loss of revenue. With 32% of all customers refusing to do business with a brand they previously loved after one bad experience, there is no room for second chances.
Customer relations are fragile at the best of times and can easily be damaged if information is incomplete or not properly shared between systems. If you work in a B2B environment, what would happen if a salesperson wasn't notified about a client meeting and missed it altogether? How would your customers react if they made a complaint and it wasn't picked up by your customer service team? And what about classified information, where a salesperson accidentally shared the wrong price list or discount with a customer due to incorrect data inside your CRM system?
It’s not just B2B customers that are affected due to incomplete or inaccurate data. Failing to test a CRM system for a healthcare provider can be as consequential as life or death. Incorrect lab results, no knowledge of pre-existing medical conditions, or records sent to the wrong patient or doctor can have life-changing effects.
Even if you don't work in the health sector, getting information wrong can be the cause of great stress and inconvenience. It will affect your bottom line, though, and damage both your customers' and employees' goodwill if the system fails to deliver against expectations.
Your employee’s experience matters too
This point should not be understated, as your employees are the ones inputting data and working with the CRM system daily. CRM testing is crucial to maintain data quality, as the system is only as good as the information inputted. Garbage in, garbage out, as the saying goes. In this case, CRM testing can check for incorrectly filled in fields, duplicated records, or forms being missed, along with much more.
Bad data can also produce inaccurate reports and dashboards when management analyzes company performance. Service-level agreement deliverables may appear achieved but have been missed in reality. Sales performance could be incorrectly calculated, stock levels may run incomplete, and marketing campaigns may be impossible to plan and release. With a raft of misleading information, business decisions are made in the dark. Meanwhile, your competitors make accurate judgments to improve their customer experience.
Incorrect or missing data may not be down to an individual using the CRM system incorrectly. CRM testing can diagnose this problem as a UI issue. The question moves from "Are employees using the system correctly?" to "Can employees use the system correctly?". If your CRM system has missing data and fails to deliver against expectations, prepare yourself for ad hoc workarounds and internal grumbling.
Not all user permissions are created equal
With so many different departments plugged into the system, testing of user permissions will be required to ensure only the relevant individuals can access certain information. User permissions should also specify the type of access allowed; read-only or edit. Someone might not realize the power they have and may accidentally delete essential customer records or see something they shouldn't, therefore jeopardizing confidentiality.
Worse still, how damaging would it be if a disgruntled employee accesses confidential customer information they shouldn’t have access to, then leaves your company, taking this information with them to a competitor? Not only can this result in potentially losing a customer, but it also breaches data security regulations.
Could this be down to incorrect user permissions, or could there be a deeper issue that hasn’t been unearthed? Inadequate security measures might be allowing unauthorized access from outside your organization. As well as identifying incorrect user permissions, CRM testing will be able to uncover potential data breaches before they happen, helping to avoid costly legal fees and regulatory fines.
CRM testing checklist
Understanding the importance of CRM testing is one thing. Knowing what to test is the next hurdle to jump over. The most critical areas to test are:
Data is at the heart of any CRM system. As has already been discussed, data quality or lack of it can cause far-reaching damage across your organization. To maintain data quality, testing should ensure that the CRM system handles the data as it should.
When it comes to testing data, concentrate on:
- Missing data
- Duplicated records
- Incorrect data in fields
- Accurate reporting
- New data entries
- Data search functions
Data testing should cover data manually entered by your people, as well as all data that comes from enterprise applications, data warehouses, and other connected systems.
If done incorrectly, your CRM system will be populated with invalid data or have missing fields that ought to be available. This results in erroneous reports and inaccurate business performance tracking.
Data testing should also happen when moving to a different CRM system or switching between versions of your existing CRM (such as between Salesforce Classic and Lightning). In this instance, pay close attention to custom fields when updating or upgrading to avoid losing data during a migration.
Usability or UI testing is imperative because if your employees don't use the CRM system, there will be no data to deliver business analysis or insight. If they can't use it effectively, the data inputted may be wrong.
Your CRM system needs testing to ensure it is easy to use for all users, customer data is available when required, and reporting and dashboards deliver accurate information.
With CRM systems being cloud-based, usability testing should extend to browsers — users will have preferences about which browser they use to access the CRM. Usability testing must ensure that all users have the same experience. Mobile device and application access would also need to be tested for the same reason. Throw in offline capability testing too as some users, particularly salespeople, will need access to customer or prospect information while in the field.
Closely linked with usability, CRM testing should also include performance to check whether the system can withstand the stress of real-life usage. With numerous users across different departments and various applications plugged in, testing needs to ensure the CRM system can perform under peak conditions. Ensuring the CRM system can operate with no lag or downtime is vitally important. This means performance is optimized, and users remain productive even if there are hundreds or thousands of them accessing the system at once.
Don't forget to test:
- Peak conditions (max users, end of month, etc.)
- Peak number of users
- Operating capacity
- Application and workflow integration
- Response time
- Loading speed
Functionality testing should cover all necessary functions, accessibility considerations, and workflows to ensure seamless operation for all users from all departments.
Sales teams need all customer information — be it leads, online forms, or prospect follow-ups — linked together to have a complete view of all interactions. Marketing requires campaign stats, email effectiveness, and social media exchanges all in one place. Customer services need to be able to prioritize tickets raised and inform relevant teams of any customer-related issues or queries, and so on.
CRM testing needs to cover every workflow, business process, and enterprise application to ensure all data is connected and accessible. In addition, end-to-end testing should occur at this step to establish a robust integration between the back-end and front-end, and your CI/CD pipeline for DevOps implementation.
And as more CRMs move to the cloud, they are quickly becoming platforms that integrate third-party apps as well, like Slack or Jira. This adds further complexity when integration testing takes place, as these apps, built on different code bases, require their own testing to maintain functionality between systems.
Integration testing will help identify any bottlenecks across workflows, platforms, and apps, because your CRM is designed to provide one single view of your customer. In addition to covering applications and workflows, integration testing should cover the following customer interactions:
- Customer service
- Mobile applications
- Social media
- Web chats
- Point of Sale
Your CRM system holds a vast amount of customer and prospect data collected over the years from hard-earned relationships. You wouldn't just open that information up to just anyone, would you?
Security testing can monitor user permissions, ensuring each user only sees the relevant information needed to do their job.
CRM testing for vulnerabilities and some ethical hacking goes a long way to ensure your customer records are safe and don't fall into the wrong hands. No one wants to have to deal with a data breach and the regulatory fines that may occur. Plus, if you have a relaxed attitude to security and have customer information being stolen, how many more customers do you think would fall over themselves to work with you? Not very many.
Regression testing verifies that software previously developed and tested will still perform the same way after it has been changed or interfaced with other software. If you are moving to a new CRM system, regression testing is necessary to test data quality before and after migration.
Regression testing is also required after any update. Whatever CRM provider you use, they will provide regular updates to fix any bugs, issues from previous iterations, or simply for system optimization.
Whether you are using regression testing for a new or updated system, it is vital to ensure that all other aspects on this testing checklist haven't been disturbed.
Instead of only testing linear journeys or “happy paths”, exploratory testing increases your test coverage and helps uncover bugs or defects. And by combining exploratory testing with AI, coverage is significantly increased through auto-generating test cases to cover all possible user journeys. Even the best manual tester would struggle to come up with all necessary permutations to match this intelligent way of increasing test coverage.
CRM testing plan
Without a clear CRM testing plan that includes timelines, deliverables, and delegation of who should be involved, things can quickly go awry. To ensure this does happen, follow these steps:
- Get everyone around the table
For any CRM testing effort to be successful, you are going to want to get representatives from every relevant department around one table. Understanding what your colleagues want to get out of the CRM system is a vital first step.
Work with them to understand what they need. Collaborate. Negotiate. It might be a tough few hours in the beginning, but you'll soon get to a place where the entire business is happy. This situation is preferable to monthly leadership meetings where the same problems arise, which could have been ironed out at the start and ultimately avoided.
- Test from the user's perspective
Now that you have all the relevant department heads around one table, you need to understand the requirements from the user's perspective. Set up test cases for multiple personas across your business to better understand how your CRM will be used.
Understand that Tony from HR and Clare from Sales will be using the system in very distinct ways. Different browsers will be used, at various times of the day, perhaps on numerous devices.
Each user will have their own preferred way of viewing or arriving at the same data. CRM testing needs to take into account these diverse and unpredictable user interactions. Artificial intelligence (AI) can auto-generate and test unique user journeys that manual testing would never uncover.
By testing from the user perspective, user adoption of the CRM’s features should be much higher too, which is vital for the overall success of the system.
- Who's going to do the actual testing?
Testing the sheer diversity and complexity of CRM configurations might sound like a job for only the most experienced QA Engineer. However, tests are often best conceived and executed by someone with an understanding of the commercial impact, such as a Business Analyst. Modern testing solutions that take a low-code or no-code approach, don’t require the technical background of a traditional tester. Testing solutions that can explore user journeys through image recognition and optical character recognition (OCR) allow CRMs to be tested by anyone, regardless of technical prowess.
- Do you need automation?
Let’s briefly inventory CRM testing considerations: complexity of configurations; variety of workflows and user journeys; data migration; third party integrations; performance; usability; security; and much more. If this sounds like a lot to do manually, it is.
This is where test automation comes in. Test automation automates repetitive, rule-based tasks, enabling teams to both accelerate testing and increase test coverage. In addition, test automation can use AI to proactively seek out bugs in places that manual testers wouldn’t think to look.
Manual testing has limited coverage and requires maintaining a library of test scripts that can be inadvertently broken by software updates. Manual testing may also focus on redundant processes, yet completely ignore worthwhile test cases. Again, bugs that manual testing misses can have drastic knock-on effects to business-critical applications and workflows.
Choosing a solution provider for CRM testing
The global CRM software market is forecast to hit $43.5 billion by 2024. While indicative of the vast numbers of companies investing in CRM, it also highlights the importance of getting your CRM connected to essential workflows that support business critical functions.
Your CRM testing solution needs to be capable of handling complex integrations while seamlessly supporting business continuity and delivering an exceptional customer experience. It also needs to operate equally well regardless of which programming languages your CRM is written in, or how users access the CRM — whether web, mobile, or desktop app.
Also bear in mind that CRM systems like Salesforce heavily rely on dynamically populated fields contained in iframes. This added layer of abstraction makes traditional code-based testing tools less effective. This problem is heightened as firms migrate to Salesforce Lightning, which places even emphasis on providing a slick visual user experience — raising the importance of choosing a solution provider that concentrates testing via the front-end. Therefore, traditional testing tools that work on a code level aren’t much use here.
Eggplant is an intelligent automated testing solution that is uniquely equipped to handle complex CRM systems. Through AI-powered software testing, Eggplant can:
- Automate testing for any CRM system, including Salesforce Classic and Lightning, and Microsoft Dynamics, no matter the programming language or version.
- Undertake flexible and powerful image and OCR testing, regardless of changes in underlying behaviors and functionality.
- Boost productivity with no-code/low code automation testing, allowing non-technical employees to run tests.
- Create non-invasive test cases from the user perspective with advanced testing powered by AI and ML.
- Speed up test cycles and increase your test coverage across the whole testing process.
- Help future-proof your CRM system and maintain business continuity.
Discover how you can test faster, smarter, and more reliably with AI-powered automation with Eggplant's DAI.