In a bittersweet twist of irony, a CRM technology solution can save a company or kill it. If wielded effectively, obstacles disappear and profits materialize. Used wrongly, your investment and customers are lost — often permanently. It’s crucial to know your company’s CRM strengths and, more importantly, what’s holding it back.
If you already have a CRM technology solution in place, is it the right solution? Is your company wielding it effectively? If you don’t have a CRM solution already, which should you buy?
The answers to these questions are not found in ads or product pitches but within your own company walls. The only thing that counts is your company’s actual needs. The only way you can reliably know what your organization’s needs are is to fully assess your current customer management situation. Then, and only then, will you know what CRM solution to buy or what tweaks your existing CRM system needs to optimally perform.
Define Your Goals
Defining goals sounds like a no-brainer but, trust me, it is most certainly a brainer. Most companies state their goals too broadly or vaguely to accomplish anything. Maybe the goal is to “make more money.” Or, “make 30 percent more profit next quarter.” While these sound good, they are too broad to be a road map to any actual destination.
Your goals must be specific to work. What is it that you want your CRM to actually accomplish? Do you intend to use it to increase customer loyalty? To increase efficiencies in service calls? To proactively reach out to new customers? To target new and old customers with personalized or bundled goods and services? Maybe you wish to do a combination of these things. Maybe you have other specific process improvements you’d like to implement.
Whatever it is you wish your CRM solution to do, spell it out. Mapping a way to get there becomes much easier when you know your destination.
Identify Customer Expectations
Even if you are a respected expert in your field, it is the customer that brings you profits. You may believe that you know exactly what your customers expect, but when was the last time you specifically asked them about their expectations of you? Have you ever surveyed your customers to determine whether you are meeting or exceeding their expectations, or to measure how loyal they are to you? If you haven’t formally gotten this type of feedback from your customers, you better do so — or run the risk that customers may drift toward your competition.
How about your internal customer-facing processes? Is your company being as effective and efficient as possible in dealing with its prospects and customers? Is your customer information as complete, accurate and accessible as you’d like it to be? If not, you need to identify what your specific problems are and seek out CRM technology solutions that can help you fix them.
Check Your Staff’s Enthusiasm
One of the main reasons a good CRM product can go bad is lack of acceptance by employees. If your employees see CRM as too difficult to use, or deem it nonsensical in practice, then the system will fail because your employees will not use it.
To prevent this unintentional or intentional sabotage from happening, involve your employees in the buying process early. Take their feedback to heart when deciding which product to buy. In training sessions, explain why the CRM is set up the way it is and what your company expects it to do.
If staff rejection of your existing CRM is already a problem, find out what they don’t like about the system. Sales staff may fear it’s a lead stealer or admins may think it’s redundant to their other work. Whatever the reasons, find them all and chart corrective actions to fit. Solutions may include tweaking the existing system, revising processes to eliminate duplicate work, reassuring job-scared employees, or replacing a faulty CRM system with a new one that works better.
Whether you are investing in your first CRM solution or living with an imperfect system that you’re looking to replace, a certain minimum level of organizational readiness must be in place if you hope to succeed. Otherwise, the disruption that a CRM project might cause could far outweigh its potential benefits.
Jim Berkowitz, a CRM industry analyst and technology coach with CRM Mastery, has more than 25 years of experience in customer relationship management.