Customer Relationship Management Failure in VARS, Solution Providers, and Consultant Projects

5 Secrets to Protecting Your Customer Relationship Management Project  

I read a great book a while back, “The 4 Disciplines of Execution“, which I highly recommend. In this book, the authors outline 2 principle things a leader can influence when it comes to producing results; your strategy (or plan) and your ability to execute that strategy. And, contrary to what is taught, the biggest challenge is not developing the strategy but rather getting your people to execute it at the level of excellence you need. In this article, I explore various reasons why CRM software may fail to meet objectives.

CRM for many is a “Wildly Important Goal”. The idea is that CRM helps organizations be more effective and efficient in their day-to-day tasks and assists them in reaching long-term business objectives and goals. However, good processes aren’t usually defined and therefore unknown when effective. They are in some cases nearly invisible. Yet, CRM must fit the organization’s processes, which are in turn driven by the customer life-cycle (Attract, Educate, Engage, Continually Delight). And, that’s the tough thing about CRM Software sometimes for organizations to comprehend. It has as much or more to do with people (before and during) than technology long-term.

CRM is short for customer relationship management, but it’s a whole lot more than those three basic words. From my perspective, it’s a combination of methodologies and software components which help companies (all industries) build relationships with customers through organization, automation, business intelligence, synchronicity, and—most recently—social media collaboration. In essence, when approached with strategy as your compass, CRM should tie together the customer life-cycle and distribute it across the integrated teams and every function of your business.

The Failure Points and Secrets for Consideration in Customer Relationship Management 

In 2014, just over half of executives felt their CRM changes were gener­ally successful. In 2004, 41 percent rated their CRM projects a success, according to the 2014 Merkle study “Custom­er-Centric Transformation: Five Ways to Leading Successful Change.” What’s disconcerting is that assessments of CRM initiatives haven ‘t improved much over the past decades. Having been in the industry since 1997, here are my brief thoughts on why this may still be an elusive goal for many.

1. Have the Leadership to Define Goals and Requirements 1st

Failure Point: I have been involved in hundreds of software selection projects over the years. And, this is common scenario. Organizations are so “fired” up about finding a solution to their problem “the easy button approach” that they do not take the time either internally or via an external resource to define what success means to them for this project. In other words, when posed with the question of whether or not you have achieved success no one truly knows what that means. A little secret, it usually means something different for each stake-holders because requirements were not defined, agree upon, prioritized, and executing the search focused on those goals as your compass.

Secret: It may seem contrary to popular opinion. But, software won’t solve the challenges you don’t know exist. In other words, failure is usually due to a lack of what constitutes success in the first place. If you do not determine earlier on what business problems the CRM system must solve and the requirements needed to achieve them you will fail. Requirements are the foundation of success. They should guide your choice and clarify the “best fit”.

2. Outline Technology Needs Today and Look into the Future 

Failure Point: Technology is always changing. In the last 5 years alone, we have seen a dramatic shift in how software is packaged and deployed. That noted, it is not possible to accurately predict the future performance of your business or organization due to the unpredictable market forces in the world today. CRM systems are designed and driven by technology today. Advancement in technology leads to development of new systems that are more effective than previous models. Businesses are usually caught off guard due to lack of long-term strategies and mechanism to align their operations with the CRM as technology changes. Example: Not factoring Social CRM into requirements due to the changing business to business buying process today.

Secret: A solid cloud based solution, product roadmap, & skilled CRM consultant should help overcome this factor. A CRM system must “jell” with the skills of the organization as a whole today and future. Understanding the CRM platform road map fully even before adopting it is one step used to overcome this problem. This will in turn help you to formulate and successfully implement long-term strategies as well as streamline the adoption process. Additionally, the CRM implementation team needs to go to the ground and interact with other employees. This will help them identify various unforeseen challenges that may hamper the implementation process. Furthermore, interacting with employees will help them determine suitability of the system to the organization.

3. Know the 1st Year but don’t Fail to Budget for Ongoing Support Costs

Failure Point: This is one of the most common problems facing small, medium and large business. The cost of buying and installing a CRM platform, not to mention the cost of training your employees on how to operate it (and the time lost as they are not working at fully speed and potential) is enough to make many companies hesitant to take on the risk.
Secret: First, it is important to consider the total cost of purchasing and implementing the system when preparing your annual or monthly budget. Compare and contrast the cost of using each system before making your final decision so as to choose one that is affordable and in line with your budget. For example, choose systems whose documentation is clear and easy to understand to save money and time during the training process. Budget to continually train your staff. This is huge!

4. Realize Disruption is a huge factor in failure 

Failure Point: Not all employees will embrace the change of adopting a new CRM platform. This resistance may hurt the overall performance of your business. For example, some of the employees may feel that the system will expose some of their bad habits to the managerial team.

Secret: A project needs the right leaders to guide the project and keep it on track. Those leaders need to communicate their plans both with executives and end users.Enlightening the employees on the benefits of implementing the CRM system will help to significantly counter the passive resistance and increase employee-adoption rate. Strive to not only convince the team to embrace the change but also create and maintain their enthusiasm and desire to learn more about the system. Communication is key here. When choosing a CRM system, make sure that you not only consider the benefits but also the challenges that you might face during the adoption process. This will greatly help you choose a system that’s easy to adopt and effective in improving service delivery.

5. Right Size Your CRM To Your Needs, Don’t Over Buy 

Failure Point: CRM solutions have been on the market since the 90’s. Through the evolution from contact managers to salesforce automation many features are commoditized. It’s amazing because today new vendors are continually pushing the limits of CRM capabilities. The tribal elders of CRM are working on capabilities that differentiate them from others – like verticalized offerings such as nonprofit CRM or Real Estate CRM, offerings tuned to mobile user first like Salesbox CRM, & others tuned to Social Intelligence like Nimble CRM.

Secret: Make sure the user experiences that come “out-of’the-box” from your CRM vendor are highly intuitive; that they work on the devices and platforms used; and that they don’t impede your productivity in any way. CRM buyers need to remember that more may not be the answer. In fact, more may be detrimental to usage. What I have seen is that extra functionality without merit causes confusion and leads to lack of usage. You need to carefully evaluate vendors which are right-sized for your needs. And, you can’t do that without defining your requirements as they relate to your mission. For more elaborate information on the idea here, please read “Right Size Your CRM by Kate Leggett’s blog on Forester“.

Finally, a bonus. It is critical to monitor and measure the success of the CRM implementation on an ongoing basis. This isn’t a one and done event, but rather an ongoing process, from pre-sales through the many phases of the CRM implementation. Measuring ROI is crucial throughout the usage of CRM. In today’s increasingly competitive market, every size company and almost all industries are becoming increasingly aware of the need for CRM software to help refocus on individual relationships and maximize profitability.

Keeping all of these important secrets (not a secret anymore) in mind may improve your chances of achieving a successful CRM strategy. And, hopefully marshall your team effectively in order to avoid failure of execution. Until next time, keep SmartThoughts in mind.

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