Five Steps to Help Reduce Risk Selecting and Implementing Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Software


Five Steps to Help Reduce Risk Selecting and Implementing Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Software

CRM is designed to assist an enterprise acquire customers, manage its customer interactions and communications, market its products and services, provide product service, manage tasks, email, and calendars, and track / analyze its marketing and sales activities.
Customer Relationship Management (CRM) is a software solution with expansive breadth and depth. But all too often its potential “footprint” and effort to implement CRM is underestimated resulting in CRM becoming not much more than a glorified address book or contact repository. 
CRM tools may be acquired as a core module of an ERP software package, an optional partner product, or a standalone application running on a network or via a subscription model.
This article is was written to offer guidance and avoid five of the common pitfalls experienced by organizations who plan to implement CRM either as a standalone tool or as part of a larger ERP implementation.

Step #1: Choose CRM Software and Implementation Partner Carefully!

Do a thorough job during your evaluation and selection process choosing both a viable software product and a competent implementation partner. If given a chance software vendors will bring out their marketing team and present features they think they do well and can WOW a prospective client. So if budget limitations do not permit working with an experienced software evaluation and selection partner document and weigh the importance of your business requirements. Documenting your CRM requirements and having each vendor you have identified respond HOW they would fulfill each need will at least provide data to benchmark against.
Evaluate each software vendor in terms of their financial stability, identifying customers who are similar in size and business model as your organization, the experience of their implementation consultants who understand marketing or sales strategies and tactics, their training methodologies, and certainly pricing for software and services. Remember, too, that unless you are purchasing software directly from the author company you will have some latitude in choosing a value-added reseller (VAR) as an implementation and possibly a support partner.

Step #2: There is a Huge Difference between Achieving Customer Relationship Management and CRM software

Creating an overall strategy for operating the Customer Relationship Management software is not simple----there will be numerous variables to be managed: new terms and data fields to be defined/learned; workflows to be designed; configurations with other software such as email; and considerations like security that must be agreed upon to name a few. 
Does the implementation team really understand the business? Without a clear, well-documented framework and business processes for operating the CRM software team dissention, delays, and the risks of budget overrun and project failure will increase. Therefore executives need to be included during the project scoping and objective’s setting stage(s).

Step #3: Include Appropriate Marketing and/or Sales Team Throughout the Project

At first glance one might wonder: Why wouldn’t marketing and outside sales reps be included on the team? They may be part of the “core” implementation team but, in the case of the sales function in smaller organizations, an inside sales rep or customer service becomes the spokesperson for the group. So the people who will probably be using CRM the most may not be asked what they need or how they will interact with CRM. Without outside sales reps, who will be using CRM on the front lines, the organization runs the risk of having the reps reject CRM. Obtain their buy-in so the CRM becomes their solution and not customer service or IT’s.

Step #4: Baby Steps!

Your VP of Sales may have a great vision for acquiring, communicating, and nurturing customers but unless her/his team has experience relying upon CRM keep the sales pipeline process basic. Most likely you have a sales pipeline without possibly realizing it. Maybe you have an approach for identifying possible customers. The real benefits of a sales pipeline are to make stages more defined and enable your organization to quickly view progress for optimizing the sales processes. These processes may be automated within CRM if the application offers a workflow engine.
Consider instead of trying to manage sales pipeline stages of Suspect, Prospect, Qualification, Opportunity, Evaluation, Decision, Negotiation, and Close consider a 3 – 4 step pipeline to begin. Whether your sales staff is large or small each person will need to develop discipline to enter, maintain, and utilize CRM data and information.

Step #5: Ensure Data Being Converted is Accurate

Data to be converted from either existing CRM software or ERP probably contain a multitude of errors. Consider company names ABC Company, The ABC Company, and A B C Company. One of these versions may contain most of the data and some CRM software is capable of merging similar records into the record with the most data.
Another factor to deal with are fields that will be utilized in the new software but may not be populated with data. The task of creating the data for these fields is usually much simpler outside of CRM, using MS Excel or SQL tools and import the clean data.