No one is using our CRM solutionWe’ve heard it again and again at the beginning of CRM projects:

“We want our customer relationship management solution to be such a good productivity booster for our sales reps, that they will want to use it.”

And, after working with hundreds of companies and investing hundreds of hours into CRM success and failure research, there is one thing we have never heard from organizations that have successfully implemented CRM:

“Our CRM was such a good tool for our sales team, that they want to use it.”

In other words, CRM is not going to be your Field of Dreams.  If you build it, they won’t come – no matter how good it is.

What Differentiates CRM Success From CRM Failure?

The Difference Between CRM Failure and CRM SuccessThat’s a great question and, frankly, not enough businesses are asking it.  Instead they focus on “getting the technology right,” still assuming if they can just get it right, the people will come.  Or, they talk to others who have experienced success – without realizing that sometimes success can look a lot like failure.

It doesn’t matter which CRM solution you use.  We’ve seen success and failure with home grown CRM solutions, with Salesforce.com, with Microsoft Dynamics CRM and with every other imaginable CRM solution.

It doesn’t matter how well you configure it.  We’ve seen success and failure with CRM solutions that have been implemented close to “plain vanilla” and with solutions that millions of dollars have been invested into customizing.

So if the things we think will make a difference don't, in fact, lead to success, what does?  The truth is the list is very long.  But there are some high level trends to keep in mind.  Here are some things to consider – based on our research and experience.  At the bottom of the article are links to a number of additional resources to help you make your CRM project more successful.

Different Teams Have Different CRM Success and CRM Failure Experiences

CRM Adoption Fail Because of Teams Inside Sales Call Center Marketing One important thing to understand: different types of teams have very different experiences with adopting and using a customer relationship management solution.  Teams that are required to use CRM as their primary tool for connecting with customers and doing their jobs tend to experience a very high degree of success.  Call centers, for example, adopting CRM as their primary source of information for handling inbound calls, or for making outbound calls, often experience 100% adoption.  Marketing departments, as another example, using CRM to execute their campaigns and to capture leads for sales, often experience a high degree of adoption.

Inside and outside sales teams attempting to use CRM as an optional productivity enhancing tool are the ones that experience the greatest difficulty.  What can businesses learn from the successes and failures here?

(1) Don’t start with the optional teams.  If you start with teams that must use CRM, you will get early adoption, and those teams often drive value into the system the optional users will find valuable enough to make it worth the time to adopt it.  They will also get more support (and pressure) because other teams are using it well.

(2) Don’t make it entirely optional.  Put something into CRM they must have access to in order to get their jobs done.  Integrating expense reporting, for example, always gets 100% adoption from the sales team.

(3) Recognize that CRM is a collaboration tool.  Think through how your teams will use it to work together better to generate more revenue and create longer-lasting customer relationships.

Leadership and Management Commitment to CRM Success

CRM Leadership Success CRM Leadershp Failure Famous last words: “…and the leadership team is 100% committed to the success of the CRM project.”  A few weeks later, that person signs off on the estimates and project plans to begin to move forward.

Flash forward 6 months: the person who said this (usually a C-level executive, or a head of Sales in larger companies) has not attended more than one meeting on the project, while the team continues to cut corners, and some managers refuse to adopt it because it’s not as easy to use as their old spreadsheet-like application.

Flash forward 2 years: not a single C-level executive ever opens CRM, sales managers require their teams to re-key data into spreadsheets for meetings (if they meet at all), and hardly anyone is using CRM.

Flash forward 1 more year, and the leaders are saying: “Why did we spend so much on this project?  Who is responsible for this failure?”  No one seems to remember how they got here.

The point?

Most people these days think CRM should be a “user tool.”  This is just another variation of “it should be so good that they’ll use it.”  It never works.

Make no mistake – CRM should be so good that people should use it.  But that’s never the reason they do use it.  They use it because that is the clear requirement coming from leadership.

CRM should be a leadership tool first, and a user productivity tool foremost.

If it’s not a leadership tool (a tool the C-level use to make business decisions, a tool managers use to coach their teams, a tool used to run sales meetings), then you will never get the results you want.  But, if it’s not a user productivity and collaboration tool too (a tool reps use to plan their week/month, share information within and across teams, access information when connecting with customers to have more relevant conversations, track leads and opportunities to close more deals faster, and do these things using consistent processes), then all the leadership in the world won’t change the impact the sales team is having.

Here’s one more way to think about it.  A membership to a fitness club is a great thing – right?  It’s pretty hard to argue with the idea of getting (or staying) fit as being a good investment.  Yet very few people are able to remain committed to it.  It takes a lot of personal leadership … or accountability.  The same is true of CRM.  No matter how good you “build it”, just like the fitness club, most won’t come.

Ongoing CRM Support, CRM Training, CRM Coaching, CRM Improvement Differentiates CRM Success from CRM Failure

CRM Failure from bad CRM support CRM training Businesses with a “build it and they will come” approach, are businesses that also think CRM can be setup and then forgotten about.  Like a word processor or their email software.  Sure maybe an upgrade every few years, but for the most part it should work undisturbed while they focus on other things.

But CRM isn’t like other software.  It’s not even like your accounting or ERP software.  In fact, thinking about CRM as software first is one of the problems.  CRM software just helps an organization to streamline processes and collaborate better.  What are those processes and collaboration related to?  Customers.  How long do businesses survive that ignore their customers?  Not long.  CRM helps you serve customers – listening to customers means constantly tuning your business (and the people, systems and processes that serve them) to their needs..

And here’s a helpful hint: the way you support other technologies isn’t going to work for CRM.  The people who use CRM have different needs and behave differently.  The processes CRM supports have a different structure and behave differently.

If your CRM processes, CRM people or CRM technology sit still for long, then you should be nervous.  If your team isn’t demanding changes in order to keep up with changing customers and competitors, then it means your team probably isn’t really getting value out of CRM, and isn’t really delivering value to customers using CRM.

Want to test your CRM support against others?  Download the CRM Support Self-Assessment to measure the gap between where your CRM support is, and where it should be.

Integrate, Migrate, Eliminate to go From CRM Failure to CRM Success

CRM Success depends on integration or you get CRM Failure When CRM users were asked what the biggest obstacle to CRM success is, their #1 answer was “integration.”  Other statistics back this up – the more systems an individual has to use to get their job done, the lower their overall likelihood to use a customer relationship management solution.

Most organizations talk about having a 360-degree view of the customer.  But few achieve that vision.  Instead, tasks that seem relatively simple: assembling a marketing list, finding the last version of a proposal, pulling order history, checking loyalty program points, listing customer complaints, identifying lost customers, sending a holiday card - these tasks require a surprising amount of effort to pull together.

If 10% of your inventory disappeared, you would know quickly and would take radical action.  But if 10% of your customers stopped doing business with you – how long would it take before you even noticed?

The solution is to put more processes and information into a single CRM solution. 

  • Integrate: Means make information gathered in other systems visible in CRM.  Too many IT departments say “well, it’s just one click from CRM to our BI tool – so people can be made to feel like this information is really inside of CRM.”  That approach rarely works.  Make it easy (i.e. consistent with their overall experience using CRM) for your team to find the information they need and, if it needs to be analyzed and filtered alongside CRM information, then it needs to be inside of CRM.
  • Migrate/Eliminate: Look for places where your team is doing things outside of CRM.  Then develop a plan to migrate these these activities into CRM and then eliminate the old way.  The usual suspects include: quote and order entry, product configuration, event management, loyalty program tracking, partner and customer portals, client budget forecasting, project management, and expense reporting.  You may have to kill a few sacred cows here – those applications that the organization spent millions on in the past, or that someone personally developed.

Additional Resources on CRM Success and CRM Failure

There are dozens of practices that separate successful CRM projects from CRM failures.  If you understand and apply the principles outlined within this article, however, you’ll be well ahead of many others.  But there is much more to learn.

And understanding the subtle differences between CRM success and CRM failure is not intuitive.  The marketing hype and blatant misinformation floating around on the internet don’t help matters.  Here are some resources to help you to learn more:

  • Click here to take a self-evaluation on the effectiveness of your CRM project
  • Click here to download the CPR for CRM Research
  • Click here to view an article on CRM support best practices
  • Click here for ideas on how to generate better user adoption
  • Click here to view an article on integrating and migrating processes
  • Click here to download a tool to analyze the gap between your CRM support and the best practices

And, as always, feel free to Contact C5 Insight for help with your CRM project.