Organizations rarely go it alone when they implement a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) strategy and its supporting technology. That's because it can get overwhelming: business strategies, technology, budgets, operational processes, change management issues, people behavior transitions and more.
Useful CRM best practices and principles apply to companies across many industries. One core tenet of CRM is customer centricity.
Companies must instill a customer-centric focus throughout the organization to make a CRM initiative successful and to get the most bang for your buck. Essentially, companies must not only focus on cutting costs and improving productivity, they must also enhance the experience of customers across all customer touch points.
Another critical success factor is understanding the proper mix of People then Process then Technology. People First CRM is the key theme for business success with CRM.
From the outset create a vision, what is the key purpose of CRM. Management must believe in a new CRM system and lead by using the system themselves. Support throughout all echelons of upper management affirms the company's commitment to the initiative, which will motivate all stakeholders below management. Success will come for a manager who realizes the value of CRM, understands the problems it's going to solve, and dedicates time and energy to making it happen. It's incredibly important to be involved directly. Read more...
2. Establish Measurable Business Goals.
Define specific business benefits that you expect the CRM initiative to deliver. Is it to decrease the customer churn rate or decrease the sales cycle time by a specific percent? Is it to increase the win-to-loss ratio of sales opportunities? Maybe it's to decrease the time that a service/support request is unresolved. Define the purpose and scope from the outset of CRM implementation.
3. Let Business Goals Drive Functionality
Will a particular feature help your company better serve customers, improve efficiency in business processes, and lead to results that over-achieve the goals? Convert that big list of 'features' to benefits you hope to obtain by achieving the desired goals. Consider what are your expected outcomes and work backward to plan the desired future.
4. Avoid Automating Chaos
CRM Project leaders need to gain a 360-degree view of their own business first. Which business processes need to be rebuilt or simply need a little touch-up? Make sure you are not using technology to automate the same old ''cow-path'.
What derails CRM initiatives often is the lack of focus on the people and interacting business processes. Read more on People First CRM...
5. Consider All the Stakeholders Affected by the System
Understand what everyone stands to gain or lose. Actively involve end users in the solution design. Solicit and act upon end user input by providing WIIFT--"What's In It For Them." A change to being "customer-centric" from product- or operations-centric involves management of the change process among all users. Make sure the whole team knows what it means to deliver customer value. The mindset is towards a transition to a better future. Read more about People First CRM...
Each department, whether customer service, marketing team, or sales force, has its own requirements and goals. They are also, however, all part of an entity that should communicate a consistent message and brand experience across all customer touch points. Make sure all your departments' strategies converge on the customer as you intend. A well-used CRM shares insights among departments helping the whole organization achieve its goals.
7. Strategy First, Technology Second
The software is there to enable implementation of a CRM strategy, not the other way around. Reorganizing business process efficiencies and bolstering revenue are good drivers of a CRM strategy. Find out how your company's customer touch points can maximize those ideas, then give customers applications that work with them.
8. First, Use as Much Out-of-Box Functionality as You Can
Then customize for additional needs. By getting up to speed with core functionality you get faster ROI. By learning the CRM's functionality you'll be able to determine if there is a business process that needs changing or if customization is required. We typically find that more fully understanding a CRM capabilities brings about new Ah-ha's and perspectives that clearly guide the next successful steps. Refer to #4. More on tailor-made and purpose-built business solutions.
Also consider confidentiality in your Core CRM system and how information will be shared across your organization before implementation. For example, do you need to have separation between different sales regions or teams, now or in the future? Are there certain fields to hide for security reasons?
9. Use Experienced, Expert CRM Consultants
Your business success comes from knowing what you do best. This is where your focus needs to be.
Likewise CRM consultants live and breathe CRM and know what works and what doesn't. Ask the expert when faced with a problem, whether it's customization, functionality, or deployment strategy. CRM-specific knowledge will produce ROI faster. Read more about trusted advisor...
10. Communicate, Communicate, Communicate
Keep people informed of the goals, objectives, and progress. People feel better during the management of this big business change if they know what's going on. Implement a pilot phase using a team of users and managers from different departments. Share what you learn and of the future improvements to come. Everything takes longer than you think; make sure you add plenty of contingency time. Communicate the "quick wins" as they occur to fuel enthusiasm.
11. Invest in useful Education with Knowledge Transfer
Effective education helps to empower end users and helps them become involved. Education should not merely focus on demonstrating how to use the software's features. Instead, education should teach employees how to effectively execute the business process enabled by the CRM system.
People will need to go through the 3 stages of transition: Ending the old ways, the neutral zone and then start the new beginning. So give your end-users as much time as needed with the new solution before going live - it makes the transition much easier and successful.
Use your trusted CRM business partner who can more easily communicate the best practices and transfer their knowledge, so it soaks in to your CRM users daily behavior. Also capture this educational content in a reusable media format. Additionally, provide a working 'copy' of your system for those who learn with 'hands on' tasks. These actions greatly help with long term retention. Over time, additional reinforcement training will provide even more benefits.
12. Phase-In the Roll-Out
Focus each phase on a specific CRM objective that's designed to produce a "quick win" - that is, meaningful results in a reasonable amount of time. Smaller, more manageable phases can yield more momentum and higher end-user adoption. You're building a holistic approach, using a step-by-step process. Read more on end-user adoption...
13. Start with and Maintain Quality Customer information
Put more effort into your data migration than you think is required. Behavioral data is the lifeblood of CRM. Well-used CRM requires accurate customer information, so start by cleaning up any migrated data and duplication. Do this before a roll-out. Make it easier for people to tackle the tough job of data quality, access, and maintenance. Also select a CRM solution that has intelligent capabilities in de-duplication and data cleansing.
14. Minimize Financial Risks and Maximize Return
It's important that executives come to grips with the fact that CRM is not a one-time investment. As more and more users access the system, additional functionality will be found useful and other benefits become evident.
Studies show that clarifying the return on your investment can net $8.71 for ever dollar invested.
Business improvement must be continuous to stay competitive in today's world, so remember that CRM is a journey not a destination.
15. Consider Migration Paths
Understand where your company is heading. Make sure the software vendor you've selected can provide the additional functionality you might need in two or three years. Select one that will enable your CRM software to grow as your company grows. Make sure it can be customized for your business and personalized for the desired customer's experience. Read more about adaptable CRM...
16. Plan for Disruptions - Companies Change but Transition can be planned!
Companies change. They make acquisitions or they get acquired, sections are sold off or outsourced, and executives get replaced. When implementing a CRM strategy, management must be ready for these kinds of changes. People go through a transition: from an ending of the old ways , a scary neutral zone and then onto a new beginning. We can help in those transitions with proper planning. Refer to #15.
17. Measure, Monitor, and Track
Once the system goes live, your company must measure, monitor, and track the system's effectiveness, with an eye to continuously improving performance. Changing behavior is a long-term process, so monitor to track the transition progress. See #11. A positive Return on Investment from CRM comes from making smarter more timely decisions each day and management's ability to observe trends for positive action. Read more on better decisions...
18. Choose a Champion of Change
When you're making a full-suite implementation, start with a single department and let the dominoes fall into place. Choose a department with a manager who's behind the implementation, realizes its benefits, and whose department will also find the most success early on. This person has the same vision as noted in #1 and lives the purpose of CRM. Nothing jump-starts a CRM implementation more than a manager or key business results owner who always has that can-do attitude. CRM success can be contagious. Read more...
Tip: Always start with a solid and adaptable contact management or full CRM system. Link up with a qualified and helpful CRM business partner who will spend the time necessary to know your business and help collaborate on the best solutions available. Make sure you choose a CRM system that is fit for purpose, not only for the next couple of years but one that will grow with your business.