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CRM Selection and Implementation Best Practices

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At Green Beacon Solutions, our focus is not only on providing quality consulting and managed services, but we also work closely with our prospective clients to assess their needs and help them select the customer relationship management (CRM) solution that's right for them. Below we’ve highlighted key strategies when considering a new CRM implementation or system enhancement:

Upper Management Sponsorship - If management doesn't believe in the project, why should the employees? Identifying, developing and implementing a CRM solution or upgrade requires working across organizational boundaries and breaking down long-term siloed behaviors and attitudes. You can't do that by yourself! Many times the difference between a successful CRM strategy and a huge waste of money is backing from the executive suite.

Stakeholder Participation – Once you’ve received executive sponsorship, and prior to developing your CRM strategy or selecting your CRM software, form a CRM team with key representatives from each department to make sure colleagues' needs and concerns are addressed. Too often companies neglect to include the correct stakeholders, and the initiative fails to meet the needs of those tied to its results. Pick your CRM team wisely - everyone will need to own the customer experience. Remember when forming the team; consider people, process, and technology as all will be affected.

Determine Success Metrics – Define “critical success factors” (CSF) prior to the project’s kick off. Without these metrics, how will you know if your CRM program has been a success?

Define Business Objectives - Your CRM strategy must be designed with agreed-upon and prioritized business objectives and customer requirements in mind.

Customer Identification – Next, agree upon a definition of "customer" - the marketing department of an automobile company might consider a "customer" to be a dealer, but the call center might consider it to be a driver. Solicit consensus from stakeholders and confirm with upper management on this and other key definitions. Can you identify your customers across multiple touch points (retail, call center, mail, catalog, web and e-mail)

Customer Differentiation – Further identify your customers by defining segments - your high-value and high potential customers. Know who you want to serve. Understand what that customer wants? Prioritize. What is the customer worth and what is their potential worth to the company?

Customer Understanding – Now that you’ve identified and segmented your customers, understand what they want, and how they want it from you.

Customer Experience Goal Definition – Sense a theme here? You and your company are the users, but the solution is about your customer. Articulate the customer experience. How should their experience feel? Identify important business interactions e.g. high volume or high cost. Identify interactions that are important to the customer - high involvement and high perceived importance. Evaluate performance: How are these interactions currently handled by your company? Are there opportunities for improvement? Focus on hot spots: Identify the areas that require your greatest focus and will provide the greatest potential return.

Customer Strategy Integration - Today interactive marketing is a fragmented discipline in which marketers work with many different vendors to develop and execute marketing programs. Recognize that disparate databases of customer information prevent companies from gaining a holistic view of the customer throughout the organization. Break down those silos. Line-of-business (LoB) managers are often employing tactics that address products and not customers. That is because they are still looking at accounts on file, rather than at customer relationships e.g. banks that send two offers within a short time span - one that recommends consolidating their debt into a home equity loan and the other that offers a balance transfer for their credit card.

Define and Map Data Requirements and Standardize Data - You'll need to know what customer data is necessary and from what system it will originate. See your customer through the same lens. A firm understanding of the level of customer data - account or household level - is critical. Do you plan to append external data? If so, what types: household size, income, psychographics, ZIP, real estate information etc.

Since various departments may see your customers quite differently from one another, use one integrated set of analytical data throughout the company to help make key decisions about how much to invest in a particular customer.

Create Customer Engagement Programs (i.e. by cycle: acquisition, growth, and retention) - Customer engagement is a process, not an event. Too often retention is treated as a project, rather than a guiding principle. Move your customers through the lifecycle... to maximize their value.

Collect Data - Collect and use information from each customer interaction to make your chosen customers more valuable to your enterprise. Can you identify behaviors, attitudes, needs, propensities, or intentions? Plan to clean your data regularly.

Monitor & Adjust the Customer Experience - Keep your eye on the prize. Measure the results against the metrics that you determined earlier and address the inevitable issues. Walk a mile in your customers' shoes. Don't rely on complaints from customers about how horrific it is to do business with you. Put yourself in their shoes by going through the typical customer experience. 

Evaluation & Purchase - Don't buy what you don't need in a CRM solution. The fewer bells and whistles, the less time and money you'll need to devote to train internal and external users on the solution. People don't like change as it is; keeping things simple only makes the switchover that much easier. And train early and train often.

Communicate - Evangelize your successes to the rest of the organization. Identify quick wins. Tackle the smallest, easiest task straight away and save the hard stuff for later. Success early on gets the ball rolling and motivates employees. Success can be contagious.

by Green Beacon, New York Microsofte Dynamics CRM Partner

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