Risk-Proof Your CRM System

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Some companies have had success with this tactic to bring pen-and-paper deals into the CRM system. "More companies are saying 'If it's not in the CRM system, it didn't happen. We're not going to pay you, not going to help you.' It's a big cultural shift for some companies."

A CRM system must also jell with the skills of the organization as a whole. "An area [where] we see a lot of people struggle is the dichotomy between organizational readiness and CRM readiness. We have customers who will build a lot of the technology, data, and capabilities needed to run CRM. Yet the organization is not ready to digest [the system] yet," Berry recalls. A membership company Merkle worked with created a robust integration to track customers online and offline, but it wasn't utilized "because their ability and skill set to use that data wasn't there. When they built it, they didn't come." Analyzing organizational readiness and then "building muscle around the workstreams" will ensure CRM adoption, he says.

Executives play a key role in shepherding a CRM program through an implementation. "Getting your sponsorship right" is huge, Malinchock says, and includes "making sure organizations have a level of agreement, level of understanding, level of commitment to the program from the start. "Success comes when an executive is a champion of the program.

Simply giving permission is not enough, Berry emphasizes. For people trying to gain executive support, "it's about facts, data, metrics, and being able to create use cases around CRM programs," he sums up. He cites a meeting with a CMO of a large insurance company. When the executive saw a presentation with "the metrics associated with the CRM program we implemented and the incremental gains we saw, [he became] a champion of the program,"Berry remembers.

It's also important to respect the opinions of those you put in charge. Driggs recalls instances where a company assigned employees to a team to work on the project. Then, as the system moved toward the end of the pipeline, others within the company decided they wanted to change the product, further delaying the implementation and driving up costs. "If you put [someone] on the project team to make the decisions, you need to empower and respect those decisions," he entreats.

An insurance company Berry worked with made a mistake, but was able to recognize the error and turn a CRM failure into a win. The company spent millions of dollars on a market research study that defined its customer segments. Then it realized all those findings were essentially worthless, because employees "couldn't tie them back to the database," and acknowledged they were in trouble. Merkle was able to step in and revise the segments and tie them back to the CRM system. Recognizing its misstep allowed the company to salvage millions of dollars and make those findings actionable in a concrete way.

While the automated processes in a CRM system provide real gains, Berry cautions that there still needs to be room for companies to act on gut feelings. "Organizations need to recognize that there is value in an employee's intuition and experience." For the time being, however, it makes sense to focus on pushing employees to use what CRM has to offer. "If you're an organization that migrates to a fact-based approach without using intuition, you're probably missing something, but what we're seeing is that people are still not embracing the data analytics side of things," Berry says.

Define the process and success

Risk-proofing your CRM means analyzing how well it solves a larger problem or question in the company. "The biggest problem people said they had is that they didn't define their business processes clearly enough to be able to use the software correctly," Forrester's Band recalls. According to the Forrester report, 44 percent of respondents stated problems in this area. Of those, more than half said defining business requirements were the cause of the trouble. The driving force behind a business requirement, however, means different things to different people.

For Merkle's Berry, everything boils down to having a customer-centric approach. "A key part of driving a CRM approach is to create customer languages, and to drive customer languages throughout the organization," he says, which might mean having a system that can frame how many shirts are sold across different customer segments, instead of just looking at the total number of shirts sold.

Accenture's Malinchock sees CRM success as a fundamental change in business. "If the system is not giving you a reason to change your day, it's not changing your insight about the customer," he says. If a system is only providing small gains, it can be easy for excitement in the platform to wane.

"If you want to risk-proof your implementation, make sure it impacts the customer experience in a really positive way," Ernst & Young's Driggs advises. "If the salesperson really can walk in with a better value proposition or know about what calls the client made in the call center or what sister division paid for the product in Europe, the experience changes. The end user is more likely to adopt it and use it, and it makes the experience better for the customer."

CRM Northwest's Pozil sees many people looking at the details instead of the big picture, such as how the system can change the experience for the customer and drive sales. "Companies attack problems, when the real way to be successful is going after the business issue," Pozil says. "A problem might be that sales teams are spending too much time putting information in the system. The business issue might be that they're not meeting revenue targets," he observes.

Doing a test in one department may seem like a way to risk-proof a larger CRM implementation, but that's not the case. Pozil has seen companies encounter problems when they scale their CRM system. "You could have any CRM system, and feel like it fits the business perfectly for that specific department. When you roll it out enterprise-wide, it's not having the same impact that it had [on the] individual groups." Departments may be utilizing the system in different ways, or the company may not have accounted for global barriers that further impact utilization across the business.

Often, when a CRM implementation falls short, "it's not very hard to determine what went wrong, but it can be difficult to correct the issue," Pozil says. Identifying potential trouble spots at the beginning of a project can ensure they don't grow as users adopt the program across the organization. Companies wanting to decrease the risk of a project should keep these three things in mind: A pay-per-month cloud plan doesn't erase risk--your employees can be both assets and enemies. Define your key business issues. Then map out a journey, and enjoy your risk-proof ride.

Associate Editor Sarah Sluis can be reached at ssluis@infotoday.com


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