If ever there were a double edge sword it has to be the world of Customer Relationship Management. If you lead a sales or service team there have probably been times that you wonder how I ever got along without CRM and other times when you wonder why you even bothered. Oh, the highs and lows. If you have not implemented CRM or have been scared off in the past the horror stories you have heard may be the justification as to why you keep staying away. I thought about this topic today as I was dealing with an implementation and one of the project managers asked me a question as to whether the company we were implementing was a good candidate for an “implementation”.
To answer this question I had to dissect what was really being asked. Is CRM beneficial to this customer? Does it always have to be complex? Is the system too much to handle for this operation? In reality it is a little bit of everything. The customer only really has a background in putting in their accounting system with various modules appropriate to their type of operation. If modules are appropriate they acquire and implement them and if not it is a non-issue. When you deploy CRM the system comes complete with sales, marketing, and service tightly integrated together.
Because of the way CRM works it is challenging to take a plug and play approach to any implementation. If you have not implemented one of these systems before it is important to understand that you may not necessarily roll out the application to all parts of your operation but you do need to take the time to consider those other pieces during the setup and configuration of the system. In much the same way you may setup a chart of accounts as the foundation of an accounting system the CRM foundation of your customer footprint and the account structure are very important for how the system will eventually work for everyone who will use the system someday.
The best approach to ending up with a successful launch of the CRM platform is to be focused on the operational goals you are trying to achieve. It is best to sort these out before engaging with an IT consultant or a software vendor so that you do not get caught up in everything that CRM can do for you. I couldn’t tell you the number of times we get engaged in these discussions regarding systems and people get caught up in features and functions they don’t need or that may be a second or third phase of the project at best.
It is important to understand the long term vision of where you can go with CRM, whether or not you envision different integration points with different systems, and the type of workflow you would like to eventually deploy. It is also very important to take stock in your top two or three priorities and then focus on those elements in the initial phase of your deployment and setup of your CRM structure.
So, what’s the point? The point is that if you have a map and plan you will be able to execute. As someone much smarter than me told me once, “If you don’t know where you are going you will probably end up somewhere else. And the worst part is that you never get a second chance with the users of any system. Life is hard enough for front line sales and service people and when you spend time on non-value added capabilities people are likely to resist adoption and make the process of change much harder than it has to be.
CRM is not simple but it can be straight forward. If you are uncertain on your approach find someone with the experience to help you get this done and do it right.