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The processes needed for successful CRM implementation

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7th Jul 2013
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There’s no doubt that implementing a brand new CRM system is not an easy task. There will certainly be hesitancy from within the business as people are often reticent to change. After all, human nature likes familiarity and change worries many, but with it comes improvements. Ensuring that you have the most up-to-date CRM system in place will enable your business to prosper through streamlined marketing efforts, improved customer communications, and enhanced reporting and analytics. So what’s the best plan to get a new CRM system up and running when working alongside an experienced CRM partner?

It is imperative to have a project team that includes stakeholders from across the business, from top down to bottom. There’s no point just having the buy in from one person as they’ll constantly be fighting internally, walking through treacle to get things actioned, and face when it comes to dealing with external people with their own agenda. So there needs to be a senior executive committed to the project as well as other people from across the business helping him/her in the process and working with the external partner. Frequent participation from across senior management, the customer facing side of the business, finance and IT executives is necessary to help champion the vision and show the importance of the system to the company. By having this, the lead on the project will have the time and headspace to work with the external agency to complete the required tasks and get the system running to everyone’s satisfaction.

As a rule, the aim of a CRM system is to create a successful platform that delivers and nurtures new leads, increases existing client retention and helps grow the company’s market share. When implementing this across a business, it is important that everyone involved knows exactly what they want to achieve from it. So critically defining what success will look like is important to the success of the overall project. Is the priority increasing sales to existing customers? Is it to generate new leads? Or is it to create a single view of customer relationships for strategic planning purposes? Or perhaps it is all of these.

It is hard to accomplish goals without all users being on the same page, so ahead of starting work, it is vital that all involved parties sit down and decide the expectations, customisations and requirements upfront before expensive and costly mistakes are made.

Bringing in a new system could mean a complex implementation process. It might be that a phased introduction is the best way to do this, with the areas of business need being developed first. This will allow the right allocation of time, effort and investment among the people involved. Practically speaking, it is also essential that any data that is migrated into the new CRM platform is cleansed thoroughly so that old contacts are removed and as much information is available to users as possible. There’s little point bringing across data that will degrade the system when you’ve invested in a brand new platform that will benefit the business.

Pragmatism is also a virtue that ensures that the rollout of the platform is successful but won’t happen overnight. Everyone knows that Rome wasn’t built in a day and there’s no evidence to suggest that this is a quick process that can be rattled off as a side effort. So be prepared for the long haul and once the foundations are in place and the system is up and running the results will follow quickly.

Finally, there’s a natural tendency to just see CRM as a technology and to think about this first. But this just isn’t the case. The technology can often be the last stage of development. CRM is ultimately about letting the customer-facing side of a business operate more efficiently to create greater profit. So for effective rollout of a CRM programme, it really is important to not start with the technology and instead, work with an experienced strategic partner to map out what you want to achieve. This partner should have fresh knowledge and ability to stay on top of every innovation that affects a customer and prospect whether that’s the technology itself through to new communication channels.

Mark Osman is managing director of Eclipse Marketing

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