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Top tips for CRM success in 2018 – part one

23rd Jan 2018
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It’s nearly 30 years since the advent of Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software, and today many SMEs have come to rely on the latest generation of Cloud-based solutions to harness the value of their business data. The scope of modern CRMs goes way beyond their original role as a contact management tool. They can now serve as fully-fledged data management platforms capable of underpinning sales, marketing, customer service and logistics while enabling multi-channel customer engagement and intelligent, data-driven business insight.

That’s the theory, at least. The reality is rather different, with many businesses feeling that their solution isn’t being exploited to anywhere near to its full potential and, consequently, that they are failing to derive adequate return-on-investment.

So in part one of our top tips to help you avoid CRM frustration in 2018, we focus on the human factor – perhaps the most critical component of any drive towards becoming a more customer-focused and forward-thinking organisation.

Scope out requirements

Projects will fall at the first hurdle if there isn’t clear goal-setting – and this requires a thorough analysis of precisely what you are trying to achieve. Who is going to use the CRM, for what purpose, and which features do they really need? Transitioning to a new customer contact database with powerful search capabilities and sales functionality can be hugely beneficial for many organisations - perhaps you don’t actually need the all-singing, all-dancing option. The right provider knows that success relies on the solution closely matching your commercial needs.

Be prepared for change

CRM has the potential to be transformative but if you are committed to delivering enterprise-wide business benefits then your focus needs to be wider than sales. This is about bringing in a fresh business strategy, with your customer at its core – and that entails an overhaul of internal processes, identifying gaps and potential for automation and efficiencies at every point of customer interaction and engagement. As with any worthwhile endeavour, the old adage ‘you get out what you put in’ holds very true here.

Broaden your horizons

Getting buy-in from colleagues in other areas of the business is crucial if you are to drive value across the organisation. You’ll need to build a core team of CRM champions who are fully on-board with the concept and the reality of what’s needed. They should be from different functional areas including IT and ideally span different levels of seniority. This helps to ensure that expertise and knowledge of the company’s existing systems, infrastructure and data assets - as well as current patterns of customer engagement - is fully shared across the project team.

Engage from the outset

Let’s not forget your immediate team. If you are implementing CRM within a sales environment, for instance, then it will prove invaluable to engage your staff at an early stage. The more involved they feel, the more committed they will be and likely to share a sense of responsibility for the project as a whole. Nobody likes having plans suddenly announced without consultation, especially when it concerns a major shift in the way they perform their day-to-day roles. What’s more, they can provide vital input regarding data processes and current procedures that will help smooth the way to successful adoption.

Introduce change gradually

Implementing software can be a relatively quick process. Changing mindsets and people’s behaviour or habits can be somewhat slower. Make sure you set and communicate realistic objectives and timescales, with short-term goals designed to build motivation. You could task your sales team with entering all their contacts into the new database so they start to get used to it, and demonstrate some key features such as tracking all their contacts and email communications inside the single application. Challenging the status quo can be tough so be prepared for some resistance and teething problems.

Training, training, training

Even the most intuitive and user-friendly of CRMs require users to be properly trained. In fact, no CRM provider is immune to the risk of their solution falling by the wayside if they aren’t on the ball with how it’s currently being deployed. From our perspective, that means staying in regular contact with customers to help promote technical understanding and raise awareness of the business benefits, even after implementation.

That said, companies at the planning stage of their CRM initiative are strongly advised to invest in training. It’s false economy not to do so. Buzz People, a customer of our partner Advoco, is a thriving logistics recruitment agency in Fareham, Hampshire, who have used Maximizer CRM since the company was founded in 2012. Operations Director, Peter Carney, says: “When it comes to getting full value from your CRM, training is absolutely critical. It’s no use if one person has had training if they don’t have the time to pass their knowledge and learnings on to the rest of the team. You just can’t expect that to happen. We are a growing business and when we engage new members of the team this year we plan to invest in their CRM training from the outset because that’s how, ultimately, we’ll get them using the solution properly and get payback from the technology.”


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