Let Users Tell You Where Your CRM Is Broken

It’s often said that CRM is always a work in progress. Never mind the fact that I’m the one who’s often saying it — it’s true, if you’re doing it right. You should always be looking for areas where you can coach your people, adjust your processes, and fine-tune your technology.

However, thinking about such a monumental set of factors can be extremely daunting. It’s a lot of work putting CRM into place in a green-field situation; conducting a performance audit of an existing CRM program is even more taxing.

Although doing a top-to-bottom review of the minutiae of your CRM strategy is valuable, there’s never a good time for it. But if you want continuous improvement, you will have to perform some examination. How do you do it?

Ask the Resisters

I suggest boiling the process down to its essence. CRM applications are implemented not because it’s a super-groovy technology, but because businesses have problems (or can anticipate problems), and there’s a need to capture data or change processes in a scalable way.

By solving those problems, CRM helps people have an easier time of things. Businesses have an easier time keeping track of customer data, customers have an easier experience when they contact service, managers have an easier time visualizing and forecasting sales, and marketers have an easier task when it comes to correlating marketing activities with sales.

Or, at least, they should. Sometimes, CRM processes and technology end up making things more difficult for the people using them. For example, salespeople loathe having to enter excessive amounts of data into CRM. A day in the field followed by two hours at the laptop does not make their lives easier.

A manager who is forced to use a report format that doesn’t include key metrics for his business, and whose CRM system is too rigid to be easily adapted to provide those metrics, is not having his life made easier.

If marketers are unable to see how activities have correlated to sales and have to do a manual evaluation, their lives are not being made easier.

These sorts of obstacles to productive work aren’t always simply accommodated by employees — they often end up as the source of adoption failure. That means your first step will be to talk to the people often blamed for CRM problems: the people who refuse to use it.

The Big CRM Evolution Picture

Not all of them are luddites or malcontents; some of them have made the reasoned choice between faulty CRM processes and success. Since most people are not evaluated on how enthusiastically they use CRM, this shouldn’t disqualify them from having something useful to say about how your CRM system could be improved.

This mini-audit could be as simple as a company-wide email asking employees to outline the difficulties they have with your CRM technologies and processes.

Armed with this list, the manager in charge of the overall CRM strategy can delegate based on the nature of the problem — or convene small committees of IT and line-of-business staff to develop solutions, with an eye on both the best way to make corrections and how to avoid unforeseen problems a fix might introduce upstream or downstream.

Small fixes are good — but instilling in your employees the idea that CRM is an evolving discipline is perhaps even better. An exercise like this can yield results now and down the road, as your workers come to understand that they have the best vantage point from which to spot areas for improvement.

CRM Buyer columnist Chris Bucholtz blogs about CRM at the CRM Outsiders. He has been a technology journalist for 17 years and has immersed himself in the world of CRM since 2006. When he's not wearing his business and technology geek hat, he's wearing his airplane geek hat; he's written three books on World War II aviation.

1 Comment

  • This is a great post. CRM systems are becoming more and more important however many industries still don’t see the value of these systems and are moving away from the initial cost, not realizing that this investment will increase their overall performance by a thousand-fold.

    A new event highlighting CRMs, their value, the type of systems, how to implement them and what advantages they bring to the company is being held in Berlin, Germany. The focus is on utility companies (EVUs). Check out more details on the following website:

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