It's Always Something

As Gilda Radner used to say, "It's always something." That's true in life and in business -- with the realm of CRM being no exception. Companies typically implement a CRM system with the highest of hopes for bringing new efficiencies to their organizations and gaining a competitive advantage. But, despite the best intentions, those systems may fail to live up to their expectations. What follows are the top five pitfalls -- and what to do to avoid the CRM pits. Check Under the Hood Shopping for a CRM system can be a little bit like dating. It's all too easy to fall for a nice-looking front end, only to find out later that there's not much of value behind it. With CRM systems, it is critical to choose an underlying architecture with the "brains and brawn" to get the job done. Unless the architecture is adequate enough to meet present needs and scaleable enough to meet future needs, enhancements will come with too great a price tag attached and the total cost of ownership will prove too high. Choose Flexibility over "One Size Fits All"
It can be tempting to implement a system off the shelf, in the mistaken belief that all CRM systems are basically the same anyway. But as soon as you implement it you will want to change it. Come on, admit it, you know you will. The problem will be that many such systems simply do not have the flexibility to accommodate changes. Unable to fit a square peg into a round hole, companies may find they have to scrap an entire system and start over. Don't Fall for the "Industry Best Practices" Line Want to buy some snake oil, or a vacant lot on the moon? Anyone who tells you they have built their software according to industry best practices is as good as offering you the same. Only your practices matter, unless you want to spend the next several years trying to rebuild your business to some MBA's brilliant theory about how it ought to be run. If that's not your idea of a good time, make sure the software matches your needs and business requirements -- not the other way around. Don't Skimp on Training Many companies fail to realize the importance of training both before and after deployment. Adequate training ensures that a) people will understand the importance the organization attaches to the system, b) feel confident enough to use the system, and c) actually use it properly. In addition, be very careful about the promises of home study and distance learning, opting instead for on-site group sessions that offer the opportunity for interaction and reinforcement. If you do plan on blindly sending videos or CDs to users without structured lesson planning, make sure these learning aids are biodegradable -- because very shortly they are going to end up clogging a landfill. Enforce the Procedures Surrounding the System In the end, of course, reports are only as good as the data that is input. If users are not entering or synchronizing their data, then the reports will be as good as useless. Make certain that data is entered and that information is up to date. How can you do this? Be sure that managers are using the system to measure representatives. If the system is being used to evaluate performance, then it will be used thoroughly. About the Author Sam Barclay is vice president of business development for StayinFront. He has a cross-functional role encompassing the creation of new business, including building relationships with StayinFront's global accounts and establishing new partnerships that extend the services StayinFront offers to its clients. Barclay has more than eight years of experience implementing and managing complex CRM systems. Barclay graduated with a bachelor's of law, with honors, from Otago University, and was a lawyer prior to working in the CRM industry. He also holds a bachelor's of information science from Otago University. Contact him at sbarclay@stayinfront.com
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