Fight back against CRM's 'culture of failure' - 10 questions you need to ask

Saratoga Systems today released a report outlining the top 10 questions that companies should ask if they are to reap any real benefits from their current CRM projects. The report states that - even though many first-generation CRM solutions have failed to meet expectations - companies should not ignore ways of improving the longevity and profitability of their relationships with customers and prospects.

"Back in the 90s, many large companies bought into the CRM dream by selecting and deploying large-scale CRM systems," says Guy Tweedale, Managing Director, Northern Europe, Saratoga Systems. "Implementations were long and arduous, budgets over-ran, and many projects were never even completed - and yet many of these underperforming systems remain in organisations today. As a consequence, CRM is often a dirty word in modern board rooms, even though the need for good customer relations has never been greater."

Quality products and services are obviously important if high-growth businesses want to attract and retain profitable customers, but customer loyalty is also a critical goal for any successful company. Building customer loyalty means understanding customer behaviour, which in turn means analysing data from operational systems to identify any patterns in the way people buy products or services, choose between suppliers, and perhaps move from one supplier to another.

The free Saratoga report, released today, addresses the top 10 questions that all business should consider with regard to CRM strategy. The information provided in the report includes in-depth responses to important questions including:

1. Why should we change?
The main drivers for change are flexibility and effectiveness. Flexibility is crucial to the success of any implementation because business processes simply don't stand still.

2. Are we getting any real value for money?
The cost model for CRM has changed. Many companies switching to a modern, flexible and responsive CRM system find that their current maintenance bill is higher than buying a complete new system, including implementation and maintenance. Modern, flexible CRM solutions should provide the tools you need to keep the system up to date with your own business processes in-house, using your own business people.

3. Where do we start?
Once you have made a decision that it is worth starting a new initiative, spend time on determining where the biggest pain points in the business are, and determine where making a change will have the maximum impact to both the business and the users.

4. How do we start?
CRM is a strategic tool and must be treated as such, so it is critical to engage a board level sponsor whose personal objectives are reflected by the goals of the new system. Just as critical as finding the right sponsor is setting the right goals for the project. Goals must be linked to real and tangible business benefits and be measurable.

5. What are the objectives for the system?
It is too easy to start by saying: I need a system that does the same as I have now, but more cheaply and with greater flexibility. Perform an in-depth review of your current CRM system and determine where it falls down.

6. How do we choose a supplier?
Bring the challenge to the vendors and have them prove that they can deliver what you need. Start by looking at whether their solution can deliver the environment you need for success, and look carefully at system capabilities.

7. How do we control costs?
Make sure the vendor you choose can prove that they can control costs both during the implementation (do they offer a fixed price?) and afterwards (can you manage the system without external support?). Check their references for proof that this is the way that they really conduct their business.

8. How do we deliver it?
To get the benefits from a new CRM system it is critical to get user adoption as soon as possible. Engage power users early in the implementation process to speed adoption. Develop tailored training materials and don't forget to use them. Incentivise the use of the system through education of the personal benefits.

9. How do we know it worked?
Measuring the success of the project is critical for both the understanding of return on investment and the ongoing vitality of the system. Set objectives, work out how to measure them and then measure them - regularly.

10. What comes next?
In the modern world, for a business to survive it must continually evolve. Customer relationships are becoming more and more important in the battle for competitive advantage, and the CRM system is a critical weapon for winning the war.

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