Successfully implementing a CRM application goes far beyond installing software and training staff. A new CRM initiative impacts the way each customer-facing employee does their job. Keep in mind that CRM is a business strategy that is enabled by technology.
Reports of high failure rates among CRM implementations are legendary. Analysts such as Gartner, AMR and Forrester Research have been studying the problem seriously for over a decade and each has issued alarming failure statistics at various times. A few sobering examples follow.
2001 Gartner Group: 50% Failure Rate
2002 Butler Group: 70% Failure Rate
2002 Selling Power, CSO Forum: 69.3% Failure Rate
2005 AMR Research: 18% Failure Rate
2006 AMR Research: 31% Failure Rate
2007 AMR Research: 29% Failure Rate
2007 Economist Intelligence Unit: 56% Failure Rate
2009 Forrester Research: 47% Failure Rate
However, closer analysis shows a more complex situation. Many studies show that large enterprises deploying comprehensive CRM packages have greater failure rates than small and mid-sized companies implementing more modest systems. Definitions of success vary as well. Strict ROI numbers may indicate failure whereas the software may be successful in other ways, such as growing top line sales or improving the customer experience. Another reason for high failure statistics is that, due to recent poor economic conditions, many C-level executives who participate in surveys are compelled to take a shorter view of success based on quarterly reports. Still, by any definition, success rates are far from ideal, and no one enters a CRM implementation with failure in mind. Industry analysts and consultants have done many studies regarding implementation projects over the last ten years. The results can be summarized in this list of best practices.
CRM Implementation Best Practices
- Establish an implementation project management plan. This detailed plan should include resource assignments, task dependencies, critical paths, time lines, deliverables and measurable goals.
- Get executive sponsorship from the beginning. Buy-in must occur at the highest levels of the company and filter down through the ranks. The message must be reinforced throughout the project.
- Establish and communicate vision, strategy, purpose and goals. Let the entire staff know that CRM requires a new corporate culture and mindset, not just software training. Communicate specific goals and expectations.
- Align business processes before implementation. Sales, customer service and marketing need to operate according to standardized practices so that processes can be automated and data can be shared across the company.
- Integrate all customer touchpoints. Call center, email, website self-service, website query, chat/IM and social media.
- Deploy your CRM software in modules or by department rather than all at once. Work out the bugs in one department before moving on to the next. Adjust processes as needed.
- Establish processes for dealing with change management. Change is always stressful and tends to be met with resistance. Include employee representation and feedback channels at all stages of implementation.
- Thoroughly train employees before deployment. Training can be offered in many ways including classroom, web-based lessons and live webinars for remote staff.
- Set incremental goals, create incentives and mark achievements. Make your staff feel excited about and vested in the CRM project. Have celebrations as each department comes online followed by a company-wide event when the deployment is complete.
- Establish a post–implementation project. Immediately begin calculating ROI according to the metrics you set up when the project began. Set future goals for optimizing your CRM solution and monitor customer feedback.
- Integrate Social CRM. Your customers are talking to other customers on an array of social networks, making recommendations or registering complaints about your products as well as the service they received. If your CRM software vendor does not offer a means of monitoring and using this information, do it yourself.
CRM Implementation Mistakes
Failure to follow through on any of the above best practices can be costly and may doom your project. In addition, the following list of implementation pitfalls should be proactively avoided.
- Failure to get executive buy-in. This can't be overstated. Since CRM crosses departments, a leadership void at the top will result in lackluster participation and disappointing results.
- Treating CRM as a technology rather than a business strategy. Even if the technology installation and integration is flawless, the implementation will fail if the company culture fails to orient itself to the customer's viewpoint.
- Failure to eliminate information silos. This can include customer touchpoints that are not integrated, resistance to sharing information across departments, and sales people who won't enter data on the road. Practices like this reinforce information silos, which can undermine the analytical insights CRM is designed to deliver.
- Deploying all modules at the same time. This big bang or watershed practice often leads to cross-functional chaos that can delay and even destroy ROI.
- Failure to measure ongoing customer satisfaction. The point of a CRM project is to create a customer-centric enterprise. Don't fail to monitor this important metric.
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These CRM software implementation best practices, and common mistakes, are key to managing risk, achieving implementation success and maximzing ROI.