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Rick Cook How To Get More Payback From Your CRM Software Investment
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  By Rick Cook

Even if you get the expected ROI from your new Customer Relationship Management system, it doesn't mean you've gotten the maximum out of it. By observing a few simple principles and fine-tuning your processes you can make your CRM project even more productive, probably in ways that aren't immediately obvious. Here are some recommendations to get more payback from your CRM investment.

Make Sure It Is Actively Used

The biggest barrier to CRM payback is lack of active and full adoption. Over and over again, companies who did not achieve their investment goals report that the users either aren't fully or faithfully using the CRM system. Far too many times users simply go through the motions, entering the bare minimum, and often maintaining information outside the CRM application—in email systems, paper documents, Excel spreadsheets or even redundant shadow systems.

Remember that fundamentally Customer Relationship Management is a cooperative effort between the staff, management and IT. All of them have to work together, and all of them have to enjoy benefits of the system, to make the application deliver on its goals.

This takes planning, continuous effort, systemic measurement and constant revisions. Above all, you've got to make sure staff are embracing the business system and not circumventing it. Part of that is making sure the system is easy to use and really helps the users. But part of it is also monitoring and making sure people are employing it.

"If you're not using the customer management reports, call people on it," says Barry Moltz, a writer, speaker and consultant on small business based in Chicago, IL. Moltz suggest taking it a step further. "If it's not recorded in the CRM system it didn't happen," he suggests. "Whatever happened in the CRM system is the reality." In other words, the CRM system should be the master record that everything else depends on.

Look For New Advantages

Implementing a CRM system is a learning process. As CRM software brings information into focus and gives you a broader view of your customers, it opens new opportunities to improve your business and your bottom line.

CRM systems suggest new opportunities by collating data that previously existed in separate silos. By interrogating that data and applying that information intelligently you can find new opportunities to improve internal business processes, serve customers and increase profits.

"Because of the data (in the CRM system) you have a much better sense of what each customer is looking for," says Robert Gorin, a senior director at Getzler Henrich and Associates, a New York City based consultancy. "It's about listening to what the customer is saying so you know what the customer needs ten minutes before they need it."

Gorin cites the example of a company that sells printer ink cartridges. "You should be able to figure out how often I buy ink," he says. "Wouldn't it be great if two days before the ink runs out the supplier sends you an email saying 'by our records you should be about out of black ink—and fortunately we've got a great promotion on?" Combining that message with an easy to use order form would build business by leveraging the information in the CRM system.

Of course, as Gorin points out, in order to make use of the opportunities provided by the information in your CRM system it is necessary to actually do something with it. That means analyzing the information to find opportunities and then acting on them.

Diligently Manage Project Scope

One of the keys to a high-ROI CRM project is relentless focus on project scope and knowing when you're done with each implementation phase. CRM software is an enormously flexible tool with a lot of potential and it's easy to keep adding things to the project as you go along.

At best this puts an added strain on the budget and schedule and at worst the project becomes swamped with additions that have little or less direct impact on company objectives and financial return.

Since CRM projects tend to evolve as they are implementing this is a balancing act. You need to carefully separate the proposed "nice to haves" from the "proposed must-haves" and begin by implementing only those which you absolutely must have. Managing scope, and preventing scope-creep, are critical to achieving the highest priority initiatives.

"Don't boil the ocean as they say," says Ray Simon, a principal of ENPIO, a San Francisco, CA, consultancy.

"Know when a project is over," advises Michael Krigsman, CEO of Asuret Inc., a Brookline, MA consultancy. "On some projects you end up with scope creep. You start with a clear business case and good implementation, but you keep adding features. So the final project doesn't resemble what you began with."

The other point is to understand that there is probably going to be a Version 2 of your CRM system down the road. "I like to say you'll never know less about CRM than you do now because your CRM system is going to grow," Simon says. As you use your CRM system you will learn the strengths and weaknesses and probably see better ways of doing things. When it comes time to upgrade, modify or replace your CRM system you can use that learning curve to understand what features you really need to add.

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Because of the data (in the CRM system) you have a much better sense of what each customer is looking for. It's about listening to what the customer is saying so you know what the customer needs ten minutes before they need it."

~ Robert Gorin, Getzler Henrich & Assocs


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