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The CRM Adoption Paradox

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Planning. To decide whether the organization had the right platform, we needed to work backward from outcomes to tactics to see if the current environment could support our internal customers’ goals. More simply put, we were trying to find out what their external customers needed to do more business with the firm. We then took our findings and built use case scenarios that involved assessments of each of the constituent populations.

Finally, we were able to establish how to calibrate the CRM platform for each team to make it more successful and developed plans for changing the organization’s approach to the platform that included both structural and procedural enhancements.

Execution. One of the first changes we implemented involved the internal communication stream as it related to CRM. The original approach by management had been to use CRM as a condition of employment; we wanted to change the thinking so that users viewed CRM as mission-critical, and that input from them, the internal “customers,” would be vital to its success going forward.

The next step in the process was to streamline and simplify many of the CRM platform’s capabilities and processes. The firm had suffered from CRM overload—the company was trying to use so many CRM features that it was like training for a marathon before learning how to walk.

We then took a fresh approach to integrating key data and reporting to illuminate business opportunities and give front-line personnel a better picture of their customer relationships from a purely analytical perspective. This process involved communicating how the data aligned with management’s strategy and how to use the data to generate more business.

Finally, we put in place a feedback mechanism for the purpose of ensuring that day-to-day users and managers were involved in any changes going forward. This mechanism became one of the keys to having people tied into adoption.

Results. The transformation was quite impressive for many reasons. After a six-month period of CRM retooling and retraining, the company saw its revenue goals exceeded in less than six months. More importantly, it was easier for individual contributors to leverage CRM as a strategic business tool. And with the reporting in place, it was much easier to manage the business.

On a less empirical note, the feedback received from customers and internal teams was eye-opening. One manager said that her first action of the day, before opening her email, was to launch CRM; she had previously been one of platform’s biggest detractors. And during one of the annual client reviews, a customer that had doubled its revenue from the previous year commented that the firm had become a much more strategic adviser in helping it improve its business results.

The best CRM implementations are set up to make the platforms easy to use, have meaningful data, and support the tactical goals that will help execute your leadership’s strategic objectives. CRM platforms should be the operational heartbeat of the firm. In simple terms, if your internal “customers” are happy and successful, it will translate into your actual customers being serviced in a way that will prompt them to do more business with you, which means stronger, more long-term relationships.


Danny Estrada is the founder of E Squared, a management consulting firm focused on sales team performance, and has been a CRM practitioner for the past 20 years. As a practice leader, he has guided teams through the implementation and development cycles of more than 500 CRM projects. He is author of the Practical CRM blog (http://blog.practicalcrm.net) and has served as a keynote speaker for companies such as Salesforce, Microsoft, SAP, and Sage, discussing real-world application of CRM concepts. Estrada is also an executive MBA from the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University.

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