If you’ve ever witnessed a CRM deployment crash and burn, you’ll be happy to note that all future projects will be drastically more successful if your team heeds the following advice:
#1 Leadership Communication and Setting Expectations
There is an unfortunate pattern for what generally occurs in most mid-sized businesses embarking on their first CRM deployment. Typically, some vague need arises that ends up with a software purchase. Whether it is the sales manager who has a favorite tool that they cannot live without, or the C-level executives who insist on improved reporting and transparency, someone in a decision-making role generally makes a purchase decision and signs a contract. After the initial software welcome letter, the decision maker will most likely assign a defacto “owner,” often from IT, to assign the first user licenses. Whether this newly delegated owner is skilled in CRM administration or not, she must typically embark on the process to deploy the new solution to the best of her ability.
What is most often lacking for the end users at this stage of these projects is any clear communication from leadership on the “why.” While solutions like Salesforce.com excel at being user-friendly technology, no CRM project will be successful in the long term if clear expectations are not being set in advance. Your end users (typically sales, marketing and customer service) must be informed about what types of data will be measured and what types of behaviors they are expected to demonstrate. It is precisely the lack of this communication that leaves CRM success largely to chance. Perhaps if some percentage of your staff are already experienced at using CRM, you may initially experience slightly higher adoption from an enthusiastic few. The majority of the end users however will likely do as little as possible to comply with whatever it is they think they should be doing, leaving your costly investment with little tangible benefit to anyone.
Instead, we recommend that effort is made up front to carefully plan the communications to staffers about your upcoming CRM implementation. Ensure that all team leaders are aware of the purpose of the rollout and what is in it for them. Include the standardized messaging in various formats – on your internal wiki, in quarterly emails, and as part of staff meetings. Ultimately, your sales teams should be told whether they are going to see more leads and where they can find them. Your customer service team should be prepared for the benefits of spending less time on data entry and more time in problem-solving mode. Your finance team should be looking forward to seeing invoices directly after an order closes instead of chasing down deals, etc. Don’t leave a single employee guessing about why you purchased your CRM and what successes you hope each individual should gain by using it.
#2 Focus on the ideal Customer experience
Aside from your own internal use for CRM (yes, we know a few of you are keeping busy sniffing out the sales slackers), try defining what a successful customer interaction with your company actually looks like. While you are centrally tracking your internal performance metrics and building a central customer data repository, don’t forget that the end game of this CRM implementation is to shorten the sales cycle and delight your customers throughout the process. After all, the most feature-rich CRM tool on the market today will not enable your team to close better deals, faster, if you aren’t automating processes that your customers fundamentally appreciate.
Is your product a deeply technical one? If so, your CRM may need to be designed to ensure that your customer understands how to use your product at every step of the way. Automated customer touch points at regular intervals with internal task scheduling may be a good design to build around in this case. What if your product requires onsite delivery and assembly or free returns? Perhaps your overall CRM design should be capturing specifics up front on geography and demographics of your customers with helpful notes to customers about delivery windows. Whatever you are selling, work with your Marketing, Sales Operations, Product and Service teams to design your CRM around what should happen from the time you initially make contact with a prospect to the time that the prospect later receives their customer renewal invoice. Challenge your internal users to always identify and share new ways to delight the customer and then ensure those features are enabled for them as a priority. Everyone wins!
While classroom training is often an option for larger enterprises with enablement staff, small and mid-sized businesses don’t have the luxury of an in-house trainer. Think about how your CRM usage will vary depending on your job role. Additionally, you’ll want to consider the learning styles of your users. Chances are high that you have some who would prefer a self-paced web module, while a number of others must be encouraged to participate in hands-on training that is provided by a third party.
Regardless of the specific training methods you choose, you will definitely want to minimize the amount of time that your users are spending poking around in manuals to figure out how to do their jobs. Encourage proficiency by breaking up your rollout into smaller skillset areas and identifying and rewarding the early adopters. Foster an environment that encourages people to ask questions during the process so that frustration doesn’t build. Finally, continue to monitor adherence to your desired processes, and refresh your training on a regular basis.
As always, if you are looking for expert guidance on any of this, the A2B Apps team is here. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule an introductory conversation.