Top tips for a Smoother CRM Installation

CRM – Customer Resource Management – sounds pretty good in principle (for an acronym at least :)).  A system that helps you manage your customers better – surely one of the top priorities when running a great business?

Well, yes.  CRM has risen the ranks to become something that every business needs in some form of other.  Every touch point with a customer affects whether or not they will come back, so there’s a certain point when we can no longer keep all that information in our heads. 

That systems needs to provides us with the best intelligence possible to maximise every opportunity and make sure our customers are as happy as they can be.

As good as CRM sounds, often what you end up with is more disappointing than the fourth Indiana Jones film.   In fact Gartner reckon that between 50 – 80% of CRM systems are deemed ‘failures’.

CRM failure can come in many ways, but for me the biggest reason why some implementations are labelled as such is because nobody had any idea of what ‘success’ looked like at the outset.  No goals were defined, so it’s only when the system is built that you realise it doesn’t do what you need it to.

One of our CRM customers is Cross Country trains, and the main reason we achieved what we did with them was the relationship we developed with Matt Foster, Cross Country’s Customer Relationship Manager, and his team. 

The collaboration during the requirements gathering and the design phase allowed us to create ‘TOCrm’, a highly customised solution which has since been rolled-out to many of the UK’s mainline train operators.  Among other benefits, the operating costs for Cross Country running TOCrm has been reduced by 75% compared to their previous system (we have a full Cross Country trains case study if you’re interested).

As well as developing CRM systems for our customers, we also do quite a lot of what’s known as ‘take-on’ CRM projects.  This is when our experts are called upon to rescue a bit of a sinking ship.  The implementation was already underway via a supplier that wasn’t ourselves, but the right level of analysis of the business and the requirements had not been done properly before the implementation took place so things didn’t work as they should. 

For example, they may have concentrated on functionality of the software (e.g. cases) rather than the process to which it relates (e.g. customer services).  We take on the project and make sure that the right level of business analysis takes place.

We also sometimes need to recode development that isn’t working, and train users who haven’t grasped certain key concepts because there was no focus on user adoption at the outset. 

More often than not, we’ll also look at reassessing how the system is sponsored from key executives and managers.  After all, if they don’t have a fundamental understanding of how the system works, how can they expect the users to get the most out of it?

Personally, I love CRM and it is a truly brilliant tool that is directly linked to a successful strategy for businesses…when it’s done properly. 

When it’s not, you can be left with more egg on your face than Gary Cooper when he muttered the immortal line, “Gone with the Wind will be the biggest flop in Hollywood history.  I’m just glad it’ll be Clark Gable falling on his face and not me.”

Here are my top tips for getting the most out of your CRM system:
  • What does success look like?  In other words, what are your goals?
  • Put the customer first always – how will this system help them?
  • Make sure you know who will be using the CRM system
  • Make sure the people who will be using CRM are all tuned in before you start the implementation – this will really help with adoption and ensure they believe in the value of the system.  The user community also needs to take an active role in the design process to ensure their specific needs are met.  Whilst implementation is ongoing, train them thoroughly.
  • For security’s sake, establish access guidelines.  For example, if you give everybody access to the ‘export to excel’ option, then everybody can potentially run away with the full details of all your customers.  Identify all the risks and make sure they are mitigated.
  • Gain executive sponsorship – make sure the people at the top understand the benefits and are active in promoting the new system to their staff.
  • CRM fits into your overall IT strategy – not outside it.  Make sure that you identify the applications that need to be integrated into your CRM system and don’t ignore the mobile factor – a lot of your sales team may be on the road and they need a system that will support this.
  • Choose an IT company you trust to implement it.  Make sure they have the resource, the technical expertise and the right experience with the software.