A Guide to CRM Implementation
January 18, 2011
By Neil Saviano
The creation and implementation of a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) program is tantamount to the creation and implementation of a strategic marketing plan. As with any strategic marketing plan, a CRM program needs to include not only the rationale for implementation, but also a clear set of objectives along with the sales and marketing and software considerations needed for success.
The reasons for implementing a CRM program in any industry have become obvious and don’t require much space here. In a nutshell, CRM is a strategy to learn more about customer needs and behaviors to be able to develop stronger relationships in order to enhance both new customer development and current customer penetration and retention.
Creation and implementation needs to begin with a realistic timeframe. Some programs can be fully implemented in as short a time as three months, but for some one year or more is a realistic timeframe. A logical starting point for a company should be centered on what it wants to achieve – a clear set of objectives. Once objectives are set, a company must examine its customer centric processes currently in place and decide what’s working and what isn’t and what needs to be changed. A company also needs to look at what customer information needs to be stored and processed, what levels of customer contact are needed, and how is the contact to be monitored.
The planning portion of a successful program needs to involve the company personnel that will be directly involved in the program. This usually includes sales, customer service and sales and marketing management. However, all other customer-facing personnel need to be considered, such as those in accounting and in the warehouse. Sales and customer service, especially, are the personnel “in the trenches” with customers on a day-to-day basis and have a real sensitivity to customer needs as well as what’s working and not working in customer interactions. And above all, they know what most likely needs to be changed in order to enhance customer relationships, customer contact and overall customer problem solving. Historically companies that involve their personnel in the planning process have a much higher rate of program success. Involvement results in far less “fighting” of the changes that programs such as CRM bring to a company. Sales people, especially, resist change most, but are always key players in a CRM program.
Once objectives and processes are in place, software, technology infrastructure and training considerations need to be thoroughly evaluated and decided on. A look at each piece:
The key considerations for a company in choosing a CRM software package are:
• Does the software have the features and functionality to implement and drive the processes and overall program objectives?
• Will it be an on-premise CRM package or will it be an on-demand (hosted) package?
• Is the software easy to learn or will it be a learning curve that could lead to discouragement and less then desired adoption?
• Does the software vendor have adequate support after installation and training?
A look at each software consideration includes:
Software features and functionality should include the capability to automate sales and marketing processes. This aspect is referred to as Sales Force Automation (SFA). As an example, if within a customer penetration or prospecting process a series of events such as emails, printed documents and scheduled calls can be automated a company gains a high degree of sales and marketing efficiency and process refinement. Another key consideration is, can the software be connected to the company’s accounting system, or to an external sales intelligence software program, and what is the ease in doing it. Lastly, the software must have a strong reporting system allowing a company the capability of monitoring customer and prospect contact.
CRM software that is easy to learn should include commands that are in “people language” and not technology terms. Also, the information must be easily accessible and contain as few screens as possible. If sales and marketing efficiency and productivity are (and should be) key program objectives, then having to spend time jumping around for information will be counter productive.
Quality and quick software support after installation and training is paramount. It is important that a company choose a software vendor that not only has a team of support personnel, but a quick turnaround time for issue resolution. This is critical immediately after training. As with all software training programs, trainees can be brought to a good baseline level of knowledge but issues and problems afterwards are inevitable. It’s important to choose a software vendor that provides quick resolution to issues and problems. This helps to sustain the confidence in the software and helps to continue to drive a successful CRM program.
This is a critical piece of a CRM implementation. Since almost all CRM software installations are in a network environment, a company either needs to have technology personnel very competent at the network level, or contract with a reliable outside network company. It’s also essential that the technology personnel can work well with the software vendor’s technical support people. In a typical installation many software packages need to work together, including any back-end software. This requires technology personnel who have an understanding of how different software packages interact in a network environment.
A major consideration here is deciding whether training should be done by a company’s own personnel, outside consultants, or both. A combination of the two seems to work best. Since a company understands their own processes best but may lack the necessary teaching skills, working with consultants to “bring the message” is usually more effective. And since CRM creates many changes around business process, the changes are usually tantamount to paradigm shifts, especially for sales people in working with customers and prospects. Teaming with outside consultants can help bring more objectivity and credibility to the training environment.
Another key training factor to consider is the number of personnel being trained. In large companies, large classes could result in fragmented training; in this case it is recommended that a pilot group representing a valid cross section of the sales force be formed and train-the-trainer sessions conducted. Subsequent training can then follow to smaller groups and results in better trainee retention and faster effective usage of the software. Almost always on-site training at a company location is more effective than Internet or CD – based training. On-site training creates an environment where trainers can experience intangibles such as, company culture and are better able to address individual learning differences.
The topics presented here address the key considerations in the planning and implementation of a successful CRM program. A key point to think about is the “marketing plan” analogy at the beginning of this article. A CRM plan, like any marketing plan, assesses the situation and the need for a new strategic focus and works with all necessary factors for a successful implementation.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: A sales and marketing veteran with more than 30 year’s experience, Neil Saviano is the president of CRM International www.crminternational.com - a CRM and Sales Force Automation consulting organization. Neil is also a featured speaker on CRM at industry conventions and is published often in national publications. CRM Boston helps companies create and implement successful CRM and Sales and marketing automation programs, working with GoldMine and other related software packages. He can be reached by phone at 800-782-1534 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.