Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software has come a long way since its advent over 30 years ago, when it primarily served as a contact management tool.
These days, many fast-growth SMEs are harnessing the power of the latest Cloud-based solutions to underpin their marketing, sales, customer service and even logistics function, as well as enabling multi-channel customer engagement, business insight and improved data governance.
In other words, the technology is helping them to manage – and reap maximum value from – their enterprise-wide business data.
So why do so many company owners and managers shudder at the memory of their previous CRM implementations? It’s fair to say that many have had their fingers burnt, usually connected with difficulty in getting staff to buy in and actually use the solution, or because it fell short of business objectives.
Here are 6 top ways that companies can set themselves up for CRM success and avoid the frustration of an under-used solution that fails to deliver return-on-investment.
Be clear on requirements
When there is a disconnect between objectives and outcomes, it usually comes down to mistakes at the scoping phase. Take time to consider carefully what you are trying to achieve and who the CRM will be used by. Do you understand the features that will come as standard in the solution, and is your provider demonstrating how these closely match your needs? Delving into your real organisational requirements, in partnership with your provider, is a crucial starting point.
See CRM as a cultural shift
It’s helpful to convey to users that transitioning to a new CRM signals a change in the way you work and think. Successful implementations go hand-in-hand with a more customer-focused and data-driven business strategy, helping your organisation become more collaborative, analytical, organised and efficient. Companies that are highly engaged with their CRM project usually find that it instigates an overhaul of many processes – especially in marketing and sales – as it highlights gaps and opportunities in the way you currently engage with customers and manage the sales pipeline.
Engage the whole business
CRM should act as a bridge between your departments and teams. But for this to happen, you need to employ the right engagement strategies from the outset.
As with any significant business change, aim to engage with colleagues in different roles – you could create a varied team of CRM champions who take ownership of project success. Your staff are the ones with intimate knowledge of your current systems, processes and data – and they are instrumental at the preparation and implementation phases. Listen carefully to any concerns raised – their satisfaction and buy-in is crucial to widespread, smooth adoption.
Get your data in shape
A CRM won’t miraculously clean your data. In the run up to GDPR enforcement, we had many companies get in touch to ask whether our CRM was compliant – but of course that’s not the right way to look at things. It’s your data itself that needs to be compliant! Hopefully you’ve recently gone through an information audit to get ready for the new data protection regulations, in which case you are ideally placed to kick off a CRM project with a clean slate.
Once your data is migrated into the central platform, it’s easier to keep on top of its ongoing management. But again, if you are to extract full benefit from your investment, multiple customer-facing departments should be using the CRM to ensure that your data practices are standardised, GDPR-compliant, and stand the greatest chance of delivering real improvements in customer experience and business insight.
A lack of training is one of the most common reasons for CRMs falling out of favour. Your provider should work with you to ensure that basic training is conducted as the solution is rolled out, and it’s always advisable to invest in further training when new staff members join the company. Providers bear a responsibility to encourage a deeper technical knowledge of the solution – and to make sure that you are on track with your overall project objectives.
Make the most of customisation
First and foremost, you should endeavour to understand the full breadth of the ‘out-of-the-box’ features and functions that can be applied to your business needs. This is the best way to achieve quick payback and to win users’ approval.
Beyond that, there will be numerous ways to tailor the solution such as easily customisable dashboards or ‘user defined fields’, which are data fields that you create to store custom information about your Address Book contacts, sales opportunities, customer service cases, or campaigns.
If further bespoke configuration is necessary, you should work closely with your provider to scope out your exact requirements, costs and timelines, so that budgets and deadlines are pre-agreed.
These six factors, spanning both project management and technical considerations, are crucial in defining the value that you derive from your CRM investment.
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