What CRM Won’t Do For You

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CRM Computer and Smartphone Haze


CRM can provide significant benefits to any sales-driven organization that’s focused on customer service. And it can have a profoundly positive impact on internal processes and performance, both individually and organizationally. Despite CRM’s inherent ability to boost profits and deliver insights, there are some things that CRM simply can’t do on its own.

Time and again, CRM fails because organizations think implementing the software is all that’s needed to effect the changes they seek. That’s not how it works. CRM and its ability to automate processes can never replace human effort. CRM is a tool – and a very important one, but if the entire organization does not actively embrace CRM, its anticipated results simply cannot manifest.

Manage Expectations

Whether you’re implementing a new CRM system or trying to fix CRM that hasn’t lived up to its promise, it may be helpful to step back and look at the interplay between the technology and the people using it. It’s important to manage everyone’s expectations up front, and clearly understand what’s required to make CRM a success.

  • Users must be willing to change old behaviors.
    “We’ve always done it this way” must become a thing of the past. If CRM is configured and implemented to support the nuances of your business, the transition to embracing new processes will make sense and align with individual and organizational goals. Managers must step up and monitor staffers who cling to old, inefficient processes and any other behaviors that must change to ensure everyone’s success.
  • Data will not maintain itself.
    Customer and prospect data is the lifeblood of any organization. If data is to hold its value for everyone, it must be updated and maintained by everyone. Information should be scrubbed and updated regularly. Notes should be added routinely so everyone has a single, comprehensive view of what’s happening. Blank fields should be completed to ensure meaningful analyses. When data is inaccurate, outdated or incomplete, the potential benefits of CRM are greatly diminished. A simple task like mailing holiday greeting cards can be difficult without good data. Imagine how much worse it can be dividing up a sales territory or launching a new product campaign.
  • Automation alone will not fix inefficient or missing processes.
    There’s no magic wand to eliminate inefficiency. However, CRM does provide a solid framework for establishing new and more efficient work flows. Consider that CRM is the engine and people are the energy that power its potential. Only when CRM guides everyone’s actions will the organization improve productivity, increase sales, and strengthen customer satisfaction.
  • CRM is everyone’s responsibility.
    CRM doesn’t “belong” to IT or any one department. At its core, it is a business solution that uses technology to deliver benefits to the entire organization. Everyone is a stakeholder in CRM’s success because everyone benefits, not just those responsible for implementing it. Conversely, every group should have input into how the system is configured to make sure it reflects their day-to-day reality. Collaboration throughout CRM’s lifecycle is essential to deriving every benefit possible.
  • Executives must lead by example.
    Any system forced on end users will be rejected. It’s human nature. This is especially true if managers and leadership don’t use CRM to inform decision making or assess the relative health of their business. CRM offers flexible dashboards, reports and analyses that benefit every functional area. If managers don’t use or value CRM’s output, users are less likely to care about the quality of their input and will revert to old habits. Leaders should make CRM the “one truth” about the customer relationship and the reference point for every sales meeting, marketing campaign, and service analysis.

Prepare for Success

Besides having a realistic perspective of what CRM does and what your teams must do, there are a few more criteria that are essential for CRM success.

CRM includes functionality and data structures that can – and should – be modified to support how you do business. An out-of-the-box implementation with no personalization will likely lead to abandonment because it doesn’t meet your needs. Be sure you work with a strategic consulting partner that understands the nexus between business and technology, and has the resources to deliver a CRM system that’s “just right” for your organization.

On the people side, training should be a top priority. Not just operational training, which is how to run this and do that, but value-based training, which emphasizes how they will benefit from CRM. When each type of user understands how their investment in CRM pays off for them, they are more inclined to embrace its changes and reap its rewards. And be sure to follow up with advanced training. The deeper users go into CRM, the greater its value to the organization.

Ongoing operational and strategic support is another key consideration. Users should be free to ask questions that maintain productivity and resolve any issues that arise. For executives, having a vision and strategic roadmap for optimizing CRM is essential. It allows you and your technology partner to continuously refine CRM and integrate other applications to meet evolving needs.

Done right, CRM can be a game-changing solution that significantly improves sales, profits, customer satisfaction, and productivity. It takes effort to realize its benefits, before, during and after implementation, but it yields ongoing dividends far into the future. Call me at 330-929-1353, extension 224, to discuss your goals for CRM success.


Bob Sullivan - President, InfoGrow, Microsoft Dynamics CRM Partner

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