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Thinking CRM - how to ensure success of your implementation

CRM success facilitates exponential growth through customer experience optimization. Does your organization have the necessary insights to implement an effective CRM solution?

Executive Summary

Customer expectations are constantly increasing, each purchase is thought-over carefully and a comparison is made to similar products. Most organizations that do not incorporate an effective customer experience optimization solution through better products and services will take the brunt of losing to competitors with effective CRM strategies.

Often, organizations that realized the need for an effective CRM solution early in their maturity path, rush into their decision and select a CRM vendor with a temporary solution. They build a solution for a specific department or attempt to curb increasing customer churn. This is a short-sighted approach and leads to complications later, when the organization needs to expand its operations or introduce new products.

Careful consideration is required when pinpointing the best vendor for future-proof CRM solutions. The system must ensure 100% uptime, high user-adoption, vital customer insights and actionable intelligence. The key lies in selecting a CRM software that effectively incorporates your business strategy and industry best practices to create a bespoke solution.

Recommendations

  • Lack of business structure will often cause a CRM implementation to fail. Take inputs from the top-down levels in your organization to avoid overlooking imperative business strategies.
  • CRM cannot be achieved through a ‘one-size-fits-all’ system, a practice-led implementation is strongly recommended. Ensure the CRM vendor clearly understands your business needs and maps them to the system.
  • Ensure the CRM solution is scalable with 100% uptime to run your critical strategies.
  • Data migration and multi-system integration is necessary for generating a real-time holistic view of customers through a CRM interface

Ensuring your CRM implementation does not fall short of expectations

CRM projects by their very essence are ambitious initiatives, yet statistics show that most of them fail to obtain the desired results. The reasons may be varied. Also, failures can be interpreted in more than one way by different stakeholders-

  • Time/ cost overrun, negative ROI
  • Low user adoption
  • Process automations that deliver no strategic benefits
  • Non-futuristic design, unable to integrate, poor data quality/ Not scalable

Unfortunately, there is no magic formula that ensures success just by choosing a CRM! Success depends on employing the best practices throughout the lifecycle.

According to research firm Gartner, over 60 percent of companies that implement CRM lacked agreement on goals for their projects prior to the implementation. Matching a CRM plan with specific end-goals and business objectives is largely considered to be the top prerequisite for success.

Six factors that can facilitate an effective and quick diffusion of CRM into your organization:

  • A proper understanding of your business model and clearly defined business practices are necessary for an optimal CRM strategy.
  • Implementing a CRM solution does not guarantee ‘Customer Relationship Management’, it only ‘facilitates’ achieving effective CRM. A lot is dependent on user-adoption and effective improvement in customer experience.
  • Inadequate project and change management will lead to a failed CRM implementation, sometimes resulting in large volumes of customer churn.
  • Employees must believe that a CRM solution is the best way forward for the organization, the benefits and outcomes of a successful CRM implementation should be explained to them. If not, user adoption can become a major challenge. Also, software customization will be based on erroneous inputs from prospective users, leading to stretched timelines and other complications.
  • A poor hardware and network platform is likely to compromise system integrity and can often kill an on-premise CRM project.
  • Selecting the wrong CRM vendor will lead to a failed implementation. If the CRM provider is overly expensive, lacks relevant expertise and cannot effectively train users, it will quickly cause low user adoption and poor ROI.

Enhancing user experience

It is important to keep in mind that regardless of how aesthetically correct and useful the CRM interface might look, if logged-in users do not get value out of the application and its data, adoption will keep dropping. This will lead to various operational issues and mismanaged customer information.

When customizing a CRM solution, ensure following is incorporated to increase user adoption and improve customer interactions:

  • Incorporate top management and end-user requirements in the CRM system pertaining to fields, alerts and analytics.
  • Customize escalations and assignment rules after carefully considering best practices, internal strategies and SLAs.
  • Data capture must be easy and the interface must be user-friendly across geographies. Users should spend more time building rapport when interacting with customers than searching for information. Many CRM implementations fail because of unnecessary complexities and over customizing the system.
  • Existing data from multiple systems needs to be migrated into the new CRM solution and depending on the architecture of the database and data quality, this can cause issues, a solution should be identified early in the implementation.
  • The CRM solution should facilitate a better understanding of relationships with customers and display information from across systems through a single view.
  • Reduce non-core activities and ensure consistent communication across the organization through the CRM solution.

CRM Life Cycle

Once you have embarked on the CRM journey, it's crucial to keep the customers at the core - to become truly customer-centric.

Conceptualize

  • CRMnext vision: For ensuring success, the very first step is to chart a customer vision. Set-up a CRM steering committee that will have sponsorship from top management. This is essential for giving vision and continuous direction to initiatives. It will also give the CRM an organisational perspective rather than a departmental solution.
  • Set tangible goals: Do an analysis to benchmark existing processes so that you can set measurable goals that will tangibly justify your success post implementation.

Discover

  • CRM core team: Set-up a CRM team that has representation from all LOBs, departments, major geographies, user groups and even vendors. These members of the core team, will ensure process completeness, align departmental boundaries and also be responsible for user buy-ins/ sign-offs. Thus, the core team will act as CRM champions to drive implementation.
  • User adoption: Think of user adoption at an early stage rather than pushing it later, by early user involvement that will drive the sense of ownership and avert them from viewing CRM as a management tool.
  • Manage change: A good CRM implementation is one that brings process efficiency that necessarily translate into change. This change could be in terms of getting rid of redundant processes, systems, roles, positions etc. Hence, it is important to understand the impact areas before 'going live'. Set a change management process that will help you sail smoothly into newer implementations

Implement

  • Phased manner: Typically CRM initiatives are of a futurist characteristic, yet everything is required 'as on yesterday.' The ideal way is to understand the ground realities, readiness of other systems/ stakeholders and go in a phased manner instead of going 'big-bang' to get an early benefit and also incorporate feedbacks in subsequent development.

Go-live

  • Training: Use a 'train the trainer' approach wherein trainers are not an external entity but champion users who are part of the team. The trainer understands the business plus its technology aspect and is therefore able to bear the torch for the team.
  • Hand holding: Set-up a dedicated point of contact who will help users familiarise themselves with the system as and when required, so as to pre-empt any usage issue plus boost user adoption. Initial teething problems can be easily handled this way and will set the right pace for the future.

Enhance

  • Measure: Without measurement, one cannot improve performance. Measure important KPIs applicable to your business process - they will not only justify your investments but also bring improvements.
  • Benchmarking: Learning processes that benchmark performance should be set-up. Constantly seek ways to set higher standards - this will enhance process efficiency.

Conclusion

Customer relationship management is an ongoing process that provides numerous benefits when implemented through an effective CRM solution. For success, the system should be able to reliably support your critical strategies through 100% uptime and effectively manage growing volumes of customer information. The CRM solution should be flexible and capable of adapting to internal and external changes.

CRM initiatives progressively improve lead conversion, customer retention, product optimization, cross selling, bottom line profitability and more. Often these benefits are realized in the long term, when the ROI from the implementation is clearer. It is important to choose a CRM solution which provides seamless upgrades and flexibility to match new requirements, thereby ensuring future-proof customer relationship management.

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