Customer relationship management systems should usher in a new era of efficient working, yet many implementations fail. CRMs offer huge benefits to multiple workstreams and departments, but it only takes a few rogue critics to cause the project and its leaders to stumble.
DQ Global has identified five CRM project ‘danger zones’. These are key points where many CRM projects stumble and fall. Unfortunately, many of these projects never regain traction, so it’s important to be aware of these from the start.
Your chief data officer, marketing team and sales staff will probably encourage the implementation of a CRM, and your customer service departments will probably be excited at the potential for change. While this energy can be a driving force to get the project moving, it cannot guarantee that the CRM will be implemented at all levels of the organisation.
Having resolve means having the continued drive to implement the CRM. For most businesses, this means involvement at the boardroom level, and a determination to bring the CRM into the heart of the business from day one. There needs to be an understanding of the benefits, and a real determination to realise those benefits, in spite of any challenges that emerge along the way.
A phased roll-out could help to boost resolve by proving the benefits to one group of users ahead of the rest. Once word spreads, excitement – and determination - will build among everyone else.
In an ideal world, everyone in the boardroom would believe in new technology, and there would be no problem securing the required resource for CRM implementation. Reality is often very different. People who are nervous about the introduction of a CRM may try to derail the project, consciously or subconsciously. In fact, a detractor may cause bumps in the road simply by refusing to cooperate with adoption.
Facing dissent is difficult, but a single project manager should be allocated to identify and resolve any objections from staff. From senior management to front line sales staff, everyone should be engaged in the success of the project, and everyone must be motivated to smooth the road ahead. Any concerns simply must be dealt with before they become bigger barriers.
Don’t underestimate people power. According to Bill Band, principle analyst at Forrester, slow user adoption is “the most significant threat” to CRM projects. Once the rot has set in, more and more staff will find ways to circumvent, and possibly sabotage the project. Rather than forcing everyone to submit, it’s important to build a positive atmosphere of optimism, efficiency and approval, since this will drive people through more difficult times.
A difficult managing process is a key reason for failure in CRM implementation projects. While employees may understand what’s needed to see the project through, sustainability can be difficult, particularly if you’re simultaneously inflicting new ways of working on seasoned staff.
Until the solution is bedded in, it’s best to keep things simple. Identify key pain points and use the CRM to resolve them. Steer employees away from using spreadsheets, notepads and other insecure methods of data capture. Train people in short, sharp bursts: show them how to get work done faster.
Remember that the CRM is there to support the way people work, and it should be rolled out in a non-disruptive way. Staff will thank you for non-technical explanations and genuine solutions to process problems.
In order to be successfully rolled out, your CRM needs to be accessible. The technology that underpins it plays a key role
If the technology is inadequate, it will be difficult to get buy-in from employees. For example, a salesperson who travels should have the right mobile device to interact with the CRM at key points during the sales process. If they do not, they will inevitably revert back to old ways of working.
The first point, data entry, has two dimensions. It could mean entering data through some kind of automated import. Equally, it could mean manual entry: typing data in, line by line. During roll-out, there may be a combination of both methods. After some time, the second will be the bigger issue.
There are a myriad of potential problems here. One is CRM pollution. Data corruption spreads from record to record, and in a system where everything is interconnected, this is a key source of headaches for staff.
If you’re bringing in data through imports, there are likely to be character mismatches, invalid fields and other data validation problems. Some of these errors will be clear from the start; others will go unnoticed until they start to cause the CRM to crash, or fail to save records. Even worse, staff may choose to tolerate or work around these errors to save time.
Across the board, and for many years, CRM failure rates have been high. Estimates above 40 per cent are not unusual. When you consider the scale of change you’re trying to install, it’s no surprise that obstacles will appear, both during and after the project.
Yet two outcomes are especially undesirable. The first is that you spend money on CRM implementation only to see it fail completely. The second is to achieve implementation, but find that employees do not use the solution, or actively refuse to engage.
The solution is to design a robust system that helps and does not hinder. Get feedback and adjust course when reasonable, but do not allow employees to derail the process. And focus on maintaining high data quality, so that healthy, usable data is always available in the CRM you spent so much time on.