Assessing Your CRM Situation

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Most CRM users invest significant effort and resources in their initiatives. Fewer take the time to determine whether they’re getting the optimal return on that investment. The CRM Assessment is a cost-effective way to identify and resolve issues that may be hampering both user adoption and payback from resources allocated to your CRM initiative. 

The CRM Assessment has a specific methodology (see box, “The Objectives and the Objections,” below), and includes one or more of the following:

Strategic Linkage Review. First things first: Do you even have a CRM roadmap? Review and critique that plan to answer two questions: Does the roadmap tightly align with your organization’s strategic and business direction? What roadmap changes will improve alignment?

Technical Baseline Review. Do users find your CRM system to be intuitive and easy to use? Are they complaining about the system, and, if so, what are the issues? Has your CRM application been installed and configured properly? If not, can corrections be made quickly and economically? Is it easy or complicated to create reports showing, for example, which companies have purchased which products from you in a specific time period? Are back-office systems (e.g., financial systems) seamlessly integrating valuable customer information with your CRM system? If not, can this integration work be done cost-effectively? Should you be considering innovative alternatives to your current CRM application and, if so, what other CRM software is available that can meet your needs? 

Organizational/Operational Assessment. This includes digging into cultural issues—such as user adoption—to determine whether all CRM users see the “what’s in it for me” benefit and utilize the system as intended. You’ll need to determine your organization’s level of adoption, since that will have an impact on the choices facing you. If adoption has reached a tipping point, it may be difficult to relaunch your CRM initiative using a new software application—but it may be in your best interest to do so anyway. 

You should design, implement, and analyze a Web-based survey of all relevant CRM users to help identify people issues. This survey will identify points in the adoption process that require improvement and provide recommendations for how best to achieve it. Typically this covers CRM governance, training, communications, incentives and rewards, local support, and other user-adoption issues. 

Business Process Assessment. Assess the CRM system’s handling of your organization’s key business processes. Document the five “as-is” business processes that are most important to your business model and that impact user adoption of CRM, and determine whether these processes have been (or can be) incorporated into your CRM application’s workflow tools. (You’ll also want to determine the ease with which users implement key business processes in their day-to-day work.) 

Finally, you should recommend business process enhancements, including any involving the CRM application itself.

Completing a typical CRM Assessment takes between two weeks and four weeks. A written presentation recommends whether or not to retain your current CRM system and outlines the issues involving people, processes, and technology that may affect user adoption. 

In any economic climate, the CRM Assessment is an effective way to maximize investment in business process enhancements and enabling CRM tools. As the economy sputters toward recovery, however, customer retention and advocacy will reign supreme—making the CRM Assessment more valuable than ever. 

Sidebar: The Objectives and the Objections 

As a critical evaluation of your existing initiative, the four-part objective of a CRM Assessment is to ask if your CRM:

  • is still in lock-step with the organization’s strategic direction; 
  • is able to meet the organization’s functional and technical needs;
  • can be outdone by other, more-innovative CRM software; and
  • reveals disconnects in process and/or personnel that need to be resolved.

Barton Goldenberg (bgoldenberg@ismguide.com) is president and founder of ISM, Inc., a Bethesda, Md.–based strategic consulting organization that since 1985 has specialized in CRM, contact centers, and the Digital Client. He is the publisher of The Guide to CRM Automation and author of the new CRM in Real Time: Empowering Customer Relationships (Information Today, Inc.).

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