How to avoid a CRM car crash

Any CEO knows that customer information is a very valuable asset. And how you manage customer relationships is vital. So of course you need to implement systems to help you standardise and manage this… But we see countless CRM projects that fail, systems that are mis-used, under-used, or never used at all.

So why is this the project that fails most often? Why do we meet so many CEOs who despair at their company’s attempts to make this work?

Why is this project the one most likely to end up as a car crash?

This CEO’s briefing explains what a CRM system is, why companies use them and presents 10 golden rules in avoiding a CRM project car crash!

Let’s start at the beginning…

What is a CRM system? Why do companies use them?

A CRM system generally aims to support all or part of the customer interaction. Typically the scope can include everything from prospecting, through the sales process, to ongoing support.

These days there are a host of small, low cost or free options for CRM, for example Really Simple Systems, Zoho or OnePageCRM. At the other end of the spectrum, most ERP products have their own CRM module like SAP and Oracle. There are products targeting digital marketing like Hubspot, and products targeting particularly industry types, like Bullhorn.

And of course, there are the “usual suspects”: Microsoft, Salesforce, Sage, Sugar CRM/Access.

These products and their heavily incentivised salesmen generally promise you the following:

• Standardise processes
• Support for complex marketing campaigns
• Bring all data into one secure place
• Improve reporting on different channels, products, markets and people
• Eliminate dependence on key individuals
• Allow customer-facing staff to be more focussed and responsive for customers
• Integrate different processes and systems to avoid rekeying, wasted effort and errors

So, just choose the best product. Sign here, sir. Prepare to be amazed!

Why does it all go wrong?

There are 2 fundamental reasons why CRM systems so often fail…

• People issues – systems are built by people and for people, and the most common cause of failure is also people. CRM systems have particularly difficult people challenges which need particular care.

• Complexity – a simple vision can gradually become complicated as the project progresses and this can lead to overruns, unresolved process or data issues, or a system that ends up difficult to use.

The 2 issues combine uniquely in CRM systems to form a toxic mix.

So, how does a heady brew become a poison pill?

What are the people issues?

Sales people are notorious for their thick-skin and focus. This is no accident as we often recruit them for these traits. We often want sales people to be single-minded, focussed on winning and many organisations forgive or even expect some selfishness. It’s part of the traditional sales culture. Observance of rules and process, attention to details and admin are not.

And, from the salesman’s point of view, the benefits of a CRM maybe for the rest of the organisation or for the management.

Often central administrative staff and management define the system in order that it collects data they want for reporting and analysis, but the burden of collecting this falls on front-line staff who see no benefit themselves.

Many users of the CRM system may be thinking: “There is no benefit for me in this CRM thing.” They may pretend to be onboard, but really they are not.

And where does the complexity come from?

There are 3 underlying sources of complexity

Firstly the scope of a CRM system may be very unclear and it’s very tempting for the scope to be expanded. Many CRM products are extremely flexible so (for a price!) they can be configured to support a huge range of activities across the business. They can manage workflow, provide a framework for task management, announcements and reminders, and they can integrate with other systems. The scope can expand to be
everyone and everything but all these features can be complicated and can get bogged down if multiple suppliers and internal experts are needed.

To continue reading, download the article above.

If you find this CEO’s briefing relevant, you might also find another recent article from one of our sister businesses of interest. The Marketing Director’s view on CRMs written by The Marketing Centre.

Freeman Clarke is the UK’s largest and most experienced team of part-time (we call it “fractional”) IT leaders. We work exclusively with ambitious organisations and we frequently help our clients use IT to beat their competition. Contact Us and we’ll be in touch for an informal conversation.