Implementing a CRM solution can be a huge undertaking for any organization. There are so many things to consider: technology, business strategies, budgets, operational processes, change management issues, and more. However, if you follow the rules for CRM success, your company can reap all of the benefits that a well-planned CRM program has to offer.

1. Know Your Business

The first mistake that many businesses make is deploying a CRM program without fully understanding the current business processes in place within the organization. Before you even think about implementing a CRM system, define all of your business processes, outline all of your departmental interactions and really think about ways that your organization can better manage customer relationships. This way, you are equipped to intelligently choose the CRM vendor whose product best meets the needs of your organization.

2. Know Your Users

The second thing that companies need to consider before selecting a CRM system, is the habits of the users of that system. In order to get buy-in from the users, it’s important that you bring to the table, a system that benefits them and makes their job easier instead of more complicated. Maybe they would like to have a chat feature to be able to have quicker communication internally and/or with their customers. Integration features with email and calendaring software like Microsoft Outlook may be critical to your team. The availability of mobile applications could increase the productivity of your salesmen while on the road. All of these things must be taken into consideration before committing to a CRM system.

3. Executive Buy-in is Key

We’ve seen it so many times before, the sales team is pumped, marketing and customer service are raring to go, but upper management is just too busy to care or to take the time to learn a new system. Perhaps their assistants will manage their accounts for them. The fact is, management involvement is critical to CRM success. As the leaders of the organization, they set the overall strategic direction of the company as well as the culture. They control the budgets, set the goals and hold all of their employees accountable to those goals. Leadership comes from the top down and if the leaders of the organization don’t value your CRM system, it’s destined to fail.

4. Establish Measurable Goals

It’s imperative that you set your expectations for what you expect the CRM program to deliver. Whether it’s to decrease the sales cycle time by 10%, decrease customer turnover by 5% or increase customer satisfaction, make it clear up front so that you have systems in place to track and measure the progress of those goals.

5. Let Business Goals Drive Functionality

The software is there to enable implementation of a CRM strategy, not the other way around. Try not to place too much focus on the dozens of features available in every CRM program. It’s highly unlikely that your organization will need them all. Instead, once you have laid out your measurable business goals, work with a CRM expert to ensure that the system that you are implementing will have the ability to track and measure those goals.

6. Align All Departmental Strategies

Several different departments will have a stake in the success of your CRM system, namely sales, marketing and customer service. While each of these departments will have their own requirements and goals, it’s important to remember that they do not operate in silos. They are all a part of one entity and your organization must communicate a consistent message across all departments to ensure that your customers have the best brand experience possible.

7. Seek Expertise

Don’t burden yourself with the daunting task of implementing a CRM system on your own. It’s a mistake to assume that your IT department is qualified to handle the task simply because they are trained in technology. Unless you have an experienced CRM expert on staff, it would be wise to work with a consultant or hire a CRM provider that offers implementation support to guide you through the tedious process.

8. Prioritize Training

It’s very important to implement a thorough training program once the CRM system is in place. Train each department based on their specialized needs. Also, take extra time to train individuals who are not as tech savvy as others to ensure that they understand how to use the new system.
Every user should be required to attend a training session before they are allowed access to the system. The training should not only educate users on the system, but also communicate it’s purpose and evangelize to maximize user buy-in.

9. Encourage Feedback and Act on it

Not only should you ask for feedback from all users of the system, but you should really listen and collaborate on ways to make the system better, more useful and easier to use. If the users feel that their opinions are heard, they will be more likely to take ownership of the program long-term.

10. Post-implementation Support

Even if you train people extensively before the system goes live, some people will forget what they were taught and start to use the application in the ways in which it was not intended. This can become a slippery slope. Unless there is a common approach to the data that needs to be recorded and a common approach to how it is recorded, then the main value of the CRM will be lost. Implementing post-implementation support that monitors and mentors users for at least a few few months after the application goes live is critical to your success.

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