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CRM Implementation Best Practices Best Practices in CRM Software Implementation

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While there are several important steps to successfully implementing a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) solution, the central key lies within the user interface and its data presentation. Having the right data available at the right moment via an easy-to-use interface insures that staff will adopt the technology and put it to consistent use. Without that user experience, the CRM software becomes ineffective no matter how strong its features and functions.

The same applies to satisfying your customers. A CRM system must empower customer facing staff to deliver timely and accurate information to customers on demand. Anything less and customers will move on to one of your competitors.

Therefore, it is essential to approach CRM implementation from the human touch points rather than from the technical aspects. By allowing the human element to lead the implementation plan, the success rate is greatly amplified.

Here are best practices in implementing CRM software within your company from this user forward and holistic approach.

Name IT’s Game

When planning your CRM software implementation, determine IT’s specific role in implementing and managing the CRM application. While deployments should not be IT driven, there is still a significant IT role to be played. It is a common mistake to believe that hosted or cloud CRM requires no IT involvement or that ongoing support from a CRM vendor, hosted or on-premise, will be sufficient to keep your CRM software up and running.

While it is generally true that cloud CRM requires much less IT participation than on-premise, not all hosted vendors provide support for integrations, customized changes to the software or third party additions. Integration, customization and third party apps are commonly used to fill gaps and make CRM software user friendly, and thus beneficial to your company. Plan for integration and customization and its support well in advance.

You may find that your cloud CRM vendor does provide full support for custom applications, or you may discover a reliable third-party that does. Either scenario can reduce the demand on your IT department. Figure this out before you get started with CRM implementation so that you have clearly defined who is responsible for what portions of the process. This delineation of responsibility and accountability will go far in keeping your CRM project on course and in budget.

Set aside sufficient funds and IT man-hours to give CRM implementation and support the attention required to make it a successful undertaking. Otherwise, the project is doomed from the start.

Implement in Steps

One of the most common mistakes in implementing CRM software is trying to do too much at once. Instead of a waterfall method, take a phased approach and implement modules or major functions successively. Begin with the features that address the biggest or most pressing business needs and then sequentially add new features based on a cost/benefit or weighted priority.

Once up and running in a pilot or test environment, refine each feature so that the user’s needs are fully and precisely addressed. This will garner the highest advantage for the organization and each individual staff person. This means that the implementation team must include several members from all affected business units, as well as IT members, as IT staff rarely has intimate knowledge of the processes and needs in the business units.

The same applies to customer facing CRM features. Implement a few features at a time, and then perfect them as needed to fully meet customer expectations and comfort levels. Stay in communication with customers during and after the implementation process and ask for feedback on the "latest improvements."

It is important to understand that the deployment effort never really ends. Your business will change and your application will need to change with it. Software features must always be carefully monitored, tweaked and optimized. A static CRM feature will soon be outpaced by changes in the business and can easily go from robust to rust.

Business Process Check

While the CRM software must function in tandem with the people who use it, or they simply will not use it, it is a mistake to move old processes to a new CRM system. Processes, like software, need regular updating. Hopefully, business processes were reviewed and updated prior to implementation kick-off, at the very least in the CRM selection process. If not, now is the time to get that done.

Keep in mind that Customer Relationship Management technology essentially automates, rather than generates, your business processes. Do not force your processes to fit CRM features; instead, tweak features to fit your processes. This tweaking may include flexible configuration, workflow definition, software customization or work-arounds.

However, forcing CRM applications to fit out of date business processes is equally disastrous. Ensure that the processes you wish to automate are worth keeping. If they are not, update them now. Forcing inefficient business processes to new enterprise software is a recipe for failed user adoption and a failed implementation.

If you are updating processes and implementing CRM at the same time, you will need to have a strong change management plan in place too. Otherwise, staff may balk at the changes and begin to seek ways to circumvent both. Proactive change management is a top cited critical success factor among veteran consultants.

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While the CRM software must function in tandem with the people who use it, or they simply will not use it, it is a mistake to move old processes to a new CRM system.

 

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