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Chris Bucholtz A Common CRM Software Selection Mistake (with Big Repercussions)

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  By Chris Bucholtz

Early and Broad Staff Participation Key to CRM Software Selection Success

Once in a while you stumble across reasons that Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems and strategies are still looked at with a jaundiced eye. In almost every such circumstance, CRM systems themselves aren't to blame – it's the humans who select, implement and use them who are the problem.

Today's shocking moment came during a call with Mike Snyder, president of Sonoma Partners, a Microsoft Dynamics CRM consulting firm of great repute. We were speaking about the CRM software selection process, and what works to help buyers get the best solutions (and vendors) for their needs and objectives. We were talking about the people most often involved in this decision process, typically, IT staff along with sales and marketing executives.

I've written "how to buy" articles about CRM software for over a decade, and the widespread consensus from leading thinkers is that users of the CRM system – such as sales professionals, people in the marketing trenches and customer service agents – should be in on the decision process for a few key reasons. First off, these are the people who use the existing CRM systems and customer facing business processes now, and who will be best equipped to see how well those systems and processes map to a new and improved CRM solution. Second, from the project management, change management and psychological perspectives, including these people in the CRM software selection and decision making process gives them the sense that they are partners in the software selection outcome and thus have a stake in the success of the CRM solution, which can greatly help kick-start user adoption.

But Mike surprised me. "We've only had one customer include these kinds of people in the software decision process," he said. "It surprises me, the evaluations of what CRM solutions to use are often based on features and tools that people don't often use. You'd think that it would be helpful to hear what Joe Sales Guy or Susie Call Center Representative has to say, since they will be the ones who interface with the CRM system."

This really took me aback. Perhaps I naively assumed that organizations which had matured enough to adopt new CRM software systems would recognize that, in order to drive campaigns, sales or customer support with CRM solutions, the first people they would have to sell would be their own staff – the users whose participation is critical to success. Not including their active participation in the customer relationship management software selection process seems like complete folly.

But there's the problem again: for many business and IT buyers Customer Relationship Management is still seen not as a business transforming discipline but as just another IT buy. As a result, it gets treated like an IT buy, with little consideration for the human impact on the business software solution. Mike said that the impulse of many companies is to relegate the CRM software selection choice down to a 'features shootout,' which is usually pretty fruitless since nearly all customer management solutions have the essentials. The real choices should in large part be based on the human aspects – ease of use, automation, information, support, training and on and on. These are the drivers that the front-line users ought to be able to provide meaningful insight into.

Apparently, I was incorrect in my assumption about what's going on among CRM software buyers. But I'm not wrong in my assertion that a committee of real users should be a critical component of the CRM buying team. To build effective relationships with customers, you have to build relationships with your staff. If the relationships you have with your staff are so devalued or tenuous that you can't include them in the software decision process for a tool that will be central to their jobs, and your business strategy, you'll likely never be able to build relationships with customers no matter what CRM solution you select. End

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We've only had one customer include [users] in the software decision process. It surprises me, the evaluations of what CRM solutions to use are often based on features and tools that people don't often use. You'd think that it would be helpful to hear what Joe Sales Guy or Susie Call Center Representative has to say, since they will be the ones who interface with the CRM system."

~ Mike Snyder, Sonoma Partners

 

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