No one undertakes a CRM implementation with the intention of failing. However, according to Gartner, “55% of CRM initiatives fail to meet measurable business objectives” and other failure reports continue to repeat themselves year after year with failure rates “between 47% and 63%” for new CRM implementations.
These numbers make a lot of would-be CRM adopters understandably nervous. After all, CRM is not cheap. It’s easy to look at the failure rates and see CRM implementation as (at best) a gamble rather than an investment.
But CRM failure isn’t simply a bad throw of the dice. CRM failure is often the result of a fundamental misunderstanding of what CRM is, does, and requires. Too frequently, it’s treated like a magic wand that’ll wave away all the problems facing companies in this digital age.
The overarching strategy to prevent these recurring CRM failures is risk management. Every CRM project brings with it a certain amount of risk, and every failed one incurred a risk that was either not recognised or not addressed.
Therefore, at Arrk we’ve established our Ten Commandments for CRM Success. While impossible to eliminate all risk or anticipate all the challenges that may occur during implementation, these ten commandments will significantly increase the likelihood that big problems won’t occur, and that concerns will be dealt with before they become an issue.
1 – Have a clear vision
A successful CRM implementation begins with clearly defined objectives. What problems are you addressing? What specific, measurable goals are you trying to reach? Where do you want your company to be as a result of your project? Your vision establishes the purpose of your project and guides your strategy. It’s impossible to achieve goals that haven’t been clearly established. Start with the end in mind.
2 – Gain Executive sponsorship
For the best chance of success, everyone involved with the process needs to be on board. While your sales and marketing departments may be able to easily grasp the value of a CRM, the advantages might not be as obvious to others. This can even apply to executives, who may focus more on the costs of a new CRM than on the benefits. A CRM system should be the primary technology enabler in the company’s quest for customer and revenue growth. It’s not enough for the C-Suite planners to acquiesce trying out a CRM, they need to be 100% behind it. The better their understanding of the value the CRM brings to the company, the more invested they’ll become in its long-term success.
3 – Don’t approach CRM as just a technology
CRM is not strictly an IT project. While software has become an integral part of successful CRM implementations, software is merely a tool. CRM should be an enterprise-wide initiative to improve customer-facing business processes in order to meet company goals. It is a culture change that impacts every employee who comes into contact with customers. That means change must be recognised as necessary and accepted in every customer-facing department across all levels of the company. Therefore, the people who will be using the system need to be involved in all phases of the implementation. Forcing employees to use whatever software and processes IT has chosen for them, is a downhill path to failure.
4 – Clearly define your business processes
Well defined and end to end business processes, based on customer journeys, are needed. This could be an enquiry to loan approval, or even broader processes such as a loan enquiry through to settlement. Once you have an enterprise-wide business process view, you can prioritise and architect process optimisation to reduce friction in processes, decrease business process cycle times, and improve outcomes.
It’s important that you perform process optimisation before you capture your CRM requirements, as new business processes will eliminate many of those requirements and new requirements will be missed if only looking at current ‘as is’ state.
5 – Don’t do too much all at once
Trying to do everything at once creates chaos and confusion rather than the more efficient business processes you imagined at the outset. While you need to develop the CRM structure based on an enterprise-wide view, divide your implementation into phases to make the project more manageable. You can work on multiple aspects of your implementation at the same time. Just don’t try to complete the entire enterprise-wide implementation all at once.
6 – Invest the time to clean your data
Your CRM software works because it provides insight into the customer data you collect. CRM cannot make corrupt, outdated, or just incorrect data useful. To get meaningful results, your data needs to be as pristine and complete as possible.
Before you start your CRM project, make sure your data as well as the methods you use to collect it are in the best shape and structure as possible. If there’s a problem with how the data is getting into the system due to poor data entry training, nothing you can do to the CRM itself will address this. Instead, you need to retrain workers using best practices.
7 – Involve end users in solution design
Design your CRM around the needs of the people who’ll use it most. A workflow that makes sense to a coder or UX designer might be bafflingly or unintuitive to the salesperson, support desk agent, or data entry worker who has to use that system daily. These end users are often the very people who ultimately determine if a CRM project succeeds or fails. If the system is poorly designed, those users will either avoid using it, or – even worse – use it in a way that makes the process less efficient than not having a CRM in the first place. By bringing these end users into the planning and user-testing stages, these headaches and costs can often be avoided completely.
8 – Integrate to streamline processes and boost productivity
A CRM system needs to provide a holistic customer view, therefore integration with other business applications is essential. In doing so, customer facing staff, line managers, and knowledge workers will all have access to real-time and on-demand customer information, reports and business intelligence – regardless of where the data resides. You’ll not only have better insight into your customer base and customer’s behaviour, you’ll build lasting relationships and can determine areas for future growth. Consistent data gives you better analytics and reporting, helping you to keep track of your customers preferences, profitability, and loyalty. Plus, it gives you a single version of the truth, so there’s no ambiguity to cloud decision making.
9 – Invest in training and support
There’s a virtuous cycle in CRM systems: the more users who adopt the system, the more data will be entered. The more credible the data, the more valuable an asset it is for all users. The more valuable the asset, the easier it is to get more users leveraging, and contributing to the system. Even if some users become spectacularly effective thanks to CRM usage, if you only have pockets of usage you end up with an inconsistent customer experience and failed objectives. It’s imperative that you fully train your team. CRM software can have a steep learning curve, presenting a challenge even for relatively tech-savvy people. Cutting down on training time might be a good way to trim the project’s budget, but in practice it’ll result in low user adoption rates and increased risk of failure. The same is true around support. Your team will always have questions about the system, and your software will inevitably need revisions and tweaks as your business grows and changes.
10 – Champion continuous process improvement
Your company’s quest to acquire more customers, increase customer share and improve customer retention never ends, so neither should your enabling technology. Like business, CRM is a journey, and successful CRM programs leverage continuous process improvement cycles to constantly refine and optimise the business software system. This may take simple forms such as recurring training after new releases or more expansive forms such as CRM Champions in each department.
Even a relatively successful implementation followed by stagnation will result in a steady decline in CRM usage over time. It won’t take long until users and managers believe the CRM software incurs more effort than value, and begin working without or around the system.
To find out how prepared your organisation is for a successful CRM implementation, we can help you establish how ready you are with our readiness assessment – get in touch now.