Successful CRM Implementation #3: Make It Work

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In this installment, we’ll take a look at the remaining steps to a successful CRM implementation, starting with your processes.

Hone up the Processes

Process is intrinsic to CRM systems—they live and breathe through process. But these are not processes based on moving paper around from desk to desk, these are electronic processes that move around instantaneously on a computer network. Existing processes will inevitably need to be tweaked or changed before the CRM project gets underway, and new ones will need to be developed to take advantage of the technology. The better and more freely-flowing the old process, the easier it is to duplicate it on the computer.

Bring the groups together that are responsible for processing all of the customer’s transactions and look how information flows between them. Is it efficient, and does it work? How will it work when the computer is pushing digits instead of people pushing paper? When you try to move a paper system to an electronic one, current problems will surface very quickly. Moving to CRM provides an excellent excuse to get on a new page and to fix the disruptions, road blocks, and delays caused by established bad or poorly-defined practices.

Develop the Database

Inadequate, non-existent, or unobtainable customer information is one of the prime incentives to move to CRM. The challenge is creating a new customer database from their legacy information, whatever and wherever that may be. It is probably going to come from multiple sources including paper files and computer records from both the Front and Back Offices. In the case of the sales team, the data may be dispersed in the files of whatever contact management application each salesperson uses.

A great danger lies in imposing a new set of data on everyone only for them to find that it has lower quality information and stuff belonging to other folks that they don’t want to see. Don’t invent new information. Take the old, then sift through and cleanse it. The more carefully and accurately this is done, the better.

It’s better to favor economy rather than try to include too much of the old, bad stuff. Develop and implement some sensible rules for cleaning information. Use the computer to correct batches of data or remove duplication. Excel or any spreadsheet works well for this. Establish a Database Manager who believes in the vision, and who knows that clean data is integral, and give them the power to control the situation.

Once it’s clean, keep it that way.

Monitor Progress

The implementation plan is the best way to monitor progress. There should be regular reviews of vision, objectives, tasks, and achievements, driven by what is laid down in the plan. In these meetings, issues are identified and a plan is set up to take care of them. The project will have tentacles reaching out to everywhere in the organization, and the best tactic is to elicit help from all the people they touch.

Lay Down the Rules

In the sharing culture of CRM, everyone has to participate, even though they may not want to initially. When you have a common vision there can’t be any deviations. Most salespeople have large egos and will want to do things their own way. If they learn the advantages of working in a team, they will join in. If they don’t, they will have to be managed by rules. Anarchy cannot be the order of the day. The Sales Manager has responsibilities, and has to report performance up to the boss. This job gets tough if there is no consistency simply because each salesperson sees their own way as the best.

At the outset of the CRM project, the vision has to be carefully articulated with an acknowledgement that change is always difficult, but that the end result is worth the pain. The benefits to the individual, by working as a team, have to be laid down. If the team does not naturally evolve under the new environment, rules may have to be enforced to encourage the process. And rules are easy to set and enforce in a CRM system.

One way to ease in the rules is to blend them into administrative processes. The “you can’t do that until you have done this” philosophy works well in practice. For example, getting sales opportunities logged and worked early in the sales cycle is a huge advantage. Usually, in the early stages of their buying process, customers request product information. Make a rule that says that any time a customer requests product information, an opportunity must exist in the CRM system. If one doesn’t, then it will have to be created.

Experience shows that when rules are applied through process, there will be initial resistance from salespeople, but that quickly dissipates as time goes on and the benefits materialize, and they will with a properly designed and functioning CRM system.

Share the Results

Everyone that the new system touches has a stake in it and can influence its success. They have to know how the project is progressing. Hold regular meetings to review the original expectations along with the current measurement of success. If people are experiencing a bit more process to guarantee that customer data is getting better, then they should be shown directly the improvement. Is there more data? Is there cleaner data? Is the transaction flowing faster? Is the information easier to retrieve? These issues will become apparent much quicker than the macro effects such as improved forecasting or increased sales revenues.

If It Starts to Fail, Put It Right

CRM is here to stay. There is nothing mystical about it. It is just a way to do good business and if you haven’t got it, your business is working under a huge handicap.

If past projects have failed, you can be sure something in this paper was neglected or not done correctly. If your project hesitates, take a deep breath, don’t panic, regroup and start again.

CRM Implementation #1: Getting It Right the First Time

CRM Implementation #2: Develop the Plan

CRM Implementation #3: Make It Work

CRM Implementation #4: The Checklist

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