CRM: Don’t Flop – Start at the Top

It’s widely known that many
CRM initiatives fail, but the major reason for that glitch might be a
bit of a bombshell. In the quest for CRM initiatives, which the
business world realizes have the means to spin client/prospect
management straw into gold, the breakdown generally starts at the
executive level–failure rolls downhill.

By definition CRM is a
business model that provides the processes and tools for a firm’s
employees to accomplish a myriad of important business elements in the
management of clients and prospects. Via a CRM system you can cultivate
and enhance client relationships, maintain client information, track
leads and opportunities, schedule business development tasks, and
execute comprehensive forecasting and reporting. In addition, CRM can
help companies conduct marketing campaigns, increase efficiency and
profitability, and enhance the overall client experience.

Any business-savvy person
would agree these are all good things, and question why difficulty
would arise in pushing such a positive initiative to fruition. The
problem actually starts with the widely held misconception that the CRM
software works the enterprise business magic on its own.

CRM is
much more than installing software–it is a business philosophy and a
change management initiative that doesn’t end once the software has
been installed. This is an important takeaway that makes an incredible
difference in the implementation of any CRM initiative. Without this
understanding, the initiative moves on an increasingly uphill plane.

The Fear Factor

have commonalities of fear surrounding CRM. Employees don’t want to
share their client information. Statistics will become readily
available that make employees more accountable for their roles. Rewards
and review systems may need to change as companies change the mindset
of their firms. The commitment and discipline to see the initiative
through can be daunting.

Companies need to do a deep dive
analysis of processes and capabilities across many departments to
achieve CRM success. The end plan in mind needs to focus on increased
revenues, measurable results, data integrity, and customer-centric
strategies. That raises critical operational questions like, How do we
manage our resources differently to make this happen? Who is going to
provide training and support? How are we going to manage our time under
this initiative? Will this change our sales processes? Do we need to
rethink roles and responsibilities?

It’s because of these fears
and the ensuing organizational questions that executives need to
enthusiastically dedicate themselves to the ongoing direction and
support of CRM–not just the initiation of it. Embracing CRM is a
change management initiative that does not end once the software has
been installed. The deployment of a CRM solution is a journey, not a
destination. It changes the culture of an organization–and it’s
something that leadership needs to make a constant priority.

Steps to Success

embracing the CRM concept, senior executives should resolve to take a
top-down approach in assuring the effort’s success. They need to work
to instill the value of the concept and build support and excitement
about the initiative among employees. Most importantly, they should
design a plan to stay involved. If the executive
responsibilities are well executed, the following steps to successful
CRM will happen with minimal conflict and more ease.

What’s next?
Firms need to identify the right staff to build an innovative project
team. These people need to be employees you can count on, individuals
that have a personal stake in contributing to the CRM initiative and
who have the opinion leader status to rally support and create

From there it’s time to design scaleable business
processes for your organization during this effort, because in this
case, it is a truism that you are only as good as your processes.
Remember to do what makes sense for your firm. Make certain that the
processes are thoughtful, mindful, efficient, and user-friendly. As
your company determines these processes it’s crucial to remember that
they need to be easy to understand.

As you build the foundation
for your CRM plan, remember that technology is only a tool and that the
software is only a component to CRM. Test drive new technology and let
that endeavor help you implement realistic goals. Don’t be shortsighted
and forget to compensate for future growth and expansion–and along
this same line, don’t look at the CRM software as a standalone.
Consider how you might use and integrate other mobile/virtual
technologies in use in your organization.

Another boost to
ensuring CRM success comes with promoting a sales-focused mentality.
Staff should be trained to identify opportunities, and be rewarded via
sales incentives. Heightened awareness of sales goals and activities
will keep the CRM initiative on an inspired and constantly refreshed

It’s important to develop standard metrics to gauge CRM
success. Somewhere along the line, people need to understand the payoff
of the initiative, and these milestones shouldn’t be guesstimates.
Elements involved in the pursuit of good metrics include:

  • determining what defines success for your company
  • having the discipline to measure
  • benchmarking over specified timeframes
  • defining the value proposition

  • The
    final step ensuring successful CRM comes with realizing that it is
    never final. Companies need to constantly strive to improve the
    program, revisit and revise processes, manage strategic alignment with
    the firm’s goals, and continually benchmark success criteria.

    In Summary

    sustained executive championship, businesses implementing CRM can
    follow the steps to success without any fear of failure. The key is to
    keep in mind that continued success translates to a continued journey
    for all levels of your organization. It’s a trip worth taking.

    About the Author
    Bunn leads the CRM practice at BST Global. He assists firms with CRM
    strategies, system analysis, business process improvement, and
    integration consulting.

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