After two decades of CRM (Customer Relationship Management) software, or SFA (Sales Force Automation) if you prefer, one might think the rules are clear for companies just getting automated with customer tracking. Problems remain. Therefore, take to hear these three DO’s: Get buy in from the very top down, funnel all customer messaging through the new system, and get everyone involved. This will balance the all-too-familiar DON’Ts: one executive champion forces the issue, customer information is scattered around, and during phase-in periods, the CRM project loses steam.
The first DO is the most critical: every member of the executive team must be in favor and actively pushing the new CRM system. If the VP of Sales carries the flag alone, the VP of Operations and VP of Marketing and even the President will doom the project by their lack of participation. Even if the other executives stay neutral, the CRM project will falter. Everyone in the nice offices must push the project forward, and spread good words about the process, even if their department is outside the project.
Many times in many companies, CRM projects fail because the VP of Sales starts the project without proper “grooming” of the other executives. This has become increasingly common, now that SaaS CRM options make it much easier to start a project so cheaply that no budget overview is needed. Previously, the costs of the server and software meant a new CRM project was quite noticeable. Today, a few dollars per user per month for outstanding CRM software hides in the budget couch cushions. Remember: one against all means failure, while all for the one CRM project means success.
Even with top-down support, the change can be wrenching. Training users, and their managers, to funnel all the customer-centric messaging through the CRM, and keep those messages out of email, will take constant vigilance. After executive malaise, more CRM projects die from “a thousand email cuts” than anything else.
Use email as a notification tool only, like the email messages Facebook sends you when someone tags you in a photo. You get a message, but have to login to Facebook to see or change the photo tag. Your CRM should work the same way: send emails saying, effectively, “go check your CRM account because something important happened.” Don’t send the message, “Dave Smith called and said yes he’s ready to go,” though email. That’s how CRM data holes begin, grow, and finally kill the system.
Finally, make everyone jump into the system at once, for two reasons. First, to go with the “no email for information” rule above, this keeps all the CRM information within the CRM application. Second, the group using CRM will be struggling to learn the new system, while other users will be doing the older, more comfortable process they’ve always done. The CRM system will suffer by comparison.
The exceptions? Pilot groups for CRM testing. And, if your company is large enough, phasing in the new system by department. Maybe the Sales department jumps in and the Marketing follows the next quarter. That won’t kill the project, as long as all the sales people, and all the marketing people, jump in when their department jumps in.
Follow these three DO’s and DON’Ts, and your CRM implementation will go so smoothly you’ll wonder why you waited so long to get automated.
James Gaskin writes books, articles, and jokes about technology, and consults for those who don’t read his books and articles. Email him at [email protected]