What you can do to avoid a CRM fail

After careful consideration and review of CRM products and vetting of the vendors, you finally selected a CRM software option and have been using it for many weeks or months. Now you’re not seeing the immediate results promised by the seller – despite the rave reviews and affirmations splashed throughout their website and marketing collateral.

So what’s the problem?

CRM Software is Not a Miracle Fix

There is a perpetual belief that overnight change is possible with a CRM solution – WRONG! Just as in our personal lives, positive change takes time and effort to see results. Quitting a bad habit, starting an education plan or a new fitness program are ll good examples. The same also applies to business. Adapting to change takes time.

Technology is only one part of Customer Relationship Management. Software cannot and will not overcome bad or missing processes. The biggest mistake that companies make is plunging into the sea of CRM software offerings available to start shopping without really being ready for it. They haven’t yet figured out how the needed information management solution should align with their company’s goals or how it will integrate with other aspects of their business processes and systems currently in use. CRM software implementations are extremely complex because they touch all aspects of the company in one way or another.

If you are already using a CRM program that you are less than pleased with, think back to the reasoning behind your decision to purchase one in the first place. Are you trying to centralize a contact database or get insight into customer communications? Do you want to manage leads and prospects more efficiently or cross-sell products and/or services to increase sales?

Different CRM software tools have some uniqueness to them, but they all must connect email communication, manage sales opportunities and enable customer interactions to be centrally managed – with key functions automated as much as possible. The identification of these functions and processes before introducing the software to users is a must.

Plan, Plan and Plan Some More

Strategies for a successful CRM implementation continue to mystify many business leaders, but it really is very simple when laid out. Planning and foresight are crucial, but the follow-through is just as important.

Be aware of the business situations you are trying to improve and create a thorough outline of the primary goals the software should meet and support. Utilize these steps to achieve a successful CRM launch:

    • Determine what it is that you want to get out of the CRM system.

Ideally this should be done before beginning to evaluate the software choices. If there are no clear objectives, it’s easy to be impressed by features or functions in the software that you may not even need or use.

    • Take ownership.

There must be shared ownership by all users- as well as accountability. Assign a project leader or administrator to spearhead the effort. This individual must have a thorough understanding of the business and can easily identify areas for improvements in processes and efficiency.

    • Do a trial run.

It’s always a good idea to have a pilot launch, even if it’s just a few people. These folks can jump in and try out the CRM system to see if anything obvious was overlooked or needs adjustment.

    • Be realistic.

Introducing new software dramatically alters the way people work, so it’s not always an easy transition for many users. They need support, encouragement, training and clear mandates on why things are changing and what’s expected of them.

    • Analyze and adapt:

The real value from CRM software transpires when the data put into it is leveraged across teams, analyzed thoroughly then acted upon. This propels the development of standardized best practices which increase efficiency when put into effect.

    • View your CRM implementation as a continuous improvement program.

Set achievable goals and see them through to successful completion. Maintain a diary of the improvements so you can see how far you’ve come.

As time goes on, determine what enhancements can be made to improve the CRM system so that it aligns with the business processes that have been uncovered. Keeping it simple to start while continually growing and molding the system to streamline team effectiveness will save time (and money) for years to come.