The CRM Adoption Paradox

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Here we sit in 2018 and the buzz around CRM continues to be artificial intelligence (AI) and customer engagement. The platform providers for CRM continue to reach for the stars with innovation that seems groundbreaking and game changing. Yet about half of the organizations using CRM platforms continue to have significant struggles with the buy-in of these very feature-rich and powerful systems. It raises the question of whether the “C” in CRM starts with your external customer, or with your internal one.

To answer the question, we must look at the entire ecosystem of your organization and evaluate the operational structure in combination with the tools you are using to reach your desired goals. Many management teams have their annual strategy retreats and make plans for each year, and then the plans are passed down through the ranks. The problem, though, is that many companies do not calibrate their CRM systems to align with their objectives.

Today’s CRM platforms can be powerful tools of collaboration, but too often the way they are implemented makes them overwhelming to users. Even more curious is how companies continue to extend these tools before they have optimized them for their current objectives. Getting lost along the way is the notion of truly connecting with your customers.

It seems simple, but the first step in the process is to translate goals into tactical objectives. Compensation plans are adjusted and numbers are pushed around without getting granular in how outcomes will be achieved. The challenge for those on the front lines is that interpreting how to achieve company goals is often left up to individual managers or the sales and service personnel themselves.

The key to a successful CRM implementation is to take a step back and define each of the constituencies that will be part of reaching your companywide goals. In other words, take a holistic view and look at the connections between internal teams, channel partners, vendors or suppliers, and end customers. None of your goals can be met without understanding the tactics you need to execute to reach the desired results.

Most organizations do not have a structure set up that goes through the process of aligning strategy to tactics. Planning takes place late in the year, and by the time the new year rolls around, people are too busy having sales kickoff meetings. Yet there has been little or no adjustment to your CRM so that achieving those results is simple and process-driven. Therefore, people are using tools that are calibrated for when they were first rolled out and not for the goals you have set for the current year.

After recently helping a professional services organization work through the process of CRM transformation, we established a set of best practices that changed the way people approached their day-to-day execution. The following case study runs through how we were able to turn the corner on low adoption and a negative view of CRM.

Evaluation. First we sat down with management and ran through their strategic plans for the coming year, before ever taking a look at the perceived problems with the CRM platform. Once we understood their goals of increased top-line revenue, we tactically broke them down from a new-customer and an existing-client perspective. At this point we looked at the current CRM system to see how it was being implemented. This process exposed the gap between expectations and system capabilities.

We also interviewed front-line managers and end users to understand both their thoughts about the CRM platform and to document the challenges they faced in using it to reach the goals provided by management. This was eye-opening, because we found many examples where the platform failed to provide relevant data or reporting to make reaching those goals easier.

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