failureIt’s safe to say that no one really enjoys failure. But a failed CRM project can not only be a money loser, it can be a morale destroyer!

Sadly, we’ve seen it time and time again. Organizations started with the best intentions when they launched their CRM solution, but over time, unforeseen events took them off the path of success and down the path of failure.   According to our CPR for CRM study, which is also confirmed by Merkle Group Inc.’s 2013 study, CRM projects have up to a 60% failure rate. In other words, when you launch a CRM project, the chances are that it will end in failure!

At C5 Insight, we’ve seen this trend directly translate to the type of work we are asked to engage in with new clients.  When we reviewed our own pipeline, we found that 59% of the new projects that C5 Insight is asked to quote on involve a request for "CPR" to turn around a failing CRM project.

After a recent webcast discussion of CRM failure, we were asked to engage with a company who had started off strong, but after a few years, they were struggling. After consulting my coworkers and asking some questions, I realized the issues they were experiencing were typical of many other companies that we work with. See if these symptoms sound familiar to you:

1. Our CRM Project is Off Track

CRM planning

"We started with a good plan - but no one has looked at it in over a year," was how the conversation started.

They had started right. A lot of companies don't take the time to think through the vision for their CRM project, and the long-term roadmap for reaching that vision. But they had. Unfortunately, the plan almost immediately got filed on a bookshelf and never consulted (let alone updated) again.

We can see Ben Franklin’s wise words ring true in this instance.  Although this company had put in the time to develop an initial plan, they did not revisit this plan or reevaluate if it was serving its original purpose.  They planned once, and did not plan again.  CRM solutions are living, breathing, evolving organisms in a way.  Because of this dynamic nature, plans should be reviewed after each phase, revised, and then executed.  This is part of the ebb-and-flow of good CRM strategy.  The problem was that this job didn't really sit with anyone - and so no one took the initiative to review and revise the plan.

2. Small Things Became Big Things

Wasting time on CRM"Our users keep getting hung up on things that seem like they should be simple to do ... or simple to fix if they're not working right.  We're wasting a ton of time and aren't getting much support."

CRM applications are not trivial "apps". In fact, they can be overwhelming to new non-technical users.  

I confess: I'm new to CRM myself as the newest intern here at C5 Insight. So I can speak from recent experience. As I’ve personally worked with CRM applications, I have experienced a few times where I have gotten caught up in the smallest hang ups, and its kept me from moving forward in my task.  Isn’t that the worst? So often we see this happen. We’ve seen our clients have small issues that have overwhelmed teams and kept them from moving forward because there was no one around to give them the support they need.  

Maybe they were hung up trying to find a way to efficiently plan future activities in the CRM solution. Maybe the Outlook integration was acting up and they couldn't get the help they needed quickly.  Maybe they were searching for that one bit of information that they knew was in CRM, but it took way too much time to find.

In any case, the result was the same. A huge amount of time was wasted. The frustration level of the user went up. IT was too backed up with higher priority issues and couldn't help right away.  And someone who has a lot of urgency around serving customers decided that CRM wasn't going to help them - so they turned elsewhere to solve their problem, and developed new workarounds to get their job done. And they didn't want to use CRM any more. Because CRM users are often at the bottom of the IT priority list (and rightly so - when other users do things like process invoices and sign paychecks), but CRM users often have the lowest level of patience with technical problems.

3. Our CRM Isn't Integrated: CRM Users Have to Use Too Many Other Systems

CRM team is using too many systems

"We thought CRM was going to make our jobs easier. But we're still using all of the same applications we were using before - and CRM is another application that we have to use now!"

Instead of integrating and eliminating many of the existing systems that were in place, we’ve seen clients continue to use too many systems. They invested in CRM thinking it would speed them up and instead they found themselves slowing down!  

Think about how good it feels to clean the clutter out your house. You're more efficient because you don’t have to spend the time sorting through all of your junk to find what you need. That is exactly what we see that we need to do with many of our clients.  Many of their systems could either be integrated or removed so that the data they need to get their jobs done can all be found in one place.  

For many companies, however, CRM can become one more “thing” on top of all of their other systems.  More clutter.  More junk to wade through.  Less time to get the important parts of their jobs done. CRM Inefficiency.  CRM Confusion.  CRM frustration.  Poor CRM adoption.

4. We Are Lacking CRM Leadership

"Our leadership bought into CRM as an important project.  I know they did.  I sat in the room when they committed to the project.  But they've all moved on to other priorities now," our new (and very frustrated) client continued.

On these types of projects, leadership is one of the most important facets that an organization needs for success in their implementation. But most leaderships teams don't really understand how to lead a CRM project, and how this is different from the other projects that they lead.  

Most often, a leader or leadership team is put in place at the beginning of the project.  They are excited and have a big vision for the project.  And over time it falls apart.  Unlike many other projects, CRM projects don't stop needing leadership.  But the nature of how leaders engages changes over time.  And the investment of leadership is a good one - because CRM continually generates an ROI as long as leaders know how to lead it.  

Here's another way of thinking about it: you'd never say "the sales project is done - we don't need sales leadership anymore."  Or how about this, "I've lost 50 pounds, so I can stop working out and eat donuts for breakfast every day again."  CRM isn't a piece of software.  It's a part of running your business.  Eventually, it transitions from being a project, to a tool that everyone should be using to make your business more effective.

The problem with CRM projects is that the leadership team needs leadership.  They need coaches and mentors to help them transform their own thinking so that CRM becomes an invaluable tool for running the business.  And when leadership either disengages, or is transferred to IT, it virtually always spells eventual failure for the CRM project.

5. We Aren't Getting Enough CRM Training/Coaching

CRM support and training

"The initial training was good.  But we've forgotten so much.  And there's so much more that we know CRM can do for us.  But no one is giving us the training we need.  IT tries, but they don't use it every day and don't really know how to train us.  Honestly, we feel like losers," he concluded

This last point is so important.  People who have to face the customer every day have a higher need to see results than others in most organizations (that's why they're so good at their jobs).  

No one enjoys playing a sport until they’re reasonably good at it.  Improving skills comes with practice, coaching, and training.  If someone handed you a baseball and said “Go play” without giving you coaching or instruction on how to play baseball, why you need to use a baseball bat at times, what all of the different positions are, and how you win – you would inevitably fail to play baseball well.  You need someone to show you the ropes, explain the game, and provide opportunities for you to practice with instruction to grow your skills.  The same principle applies with CRM projects; this is why training and coaching are so important.  If we were to hand over a CRM solution to you and say “Go use it” without providing proper chances for training and coaching, we would not be serving you well.  Training and coaching are incredibly important to make sure that every user has a general understanding of the system, what they can do with it, and how it can help them.  By doing this training/coaching, user acceptance gets boosted and implementation is overall much more successful than it would be without any help. 

Like I said earlier, I'm really new to CRM myself.  But in my brief time here, I've been really surprised at the number of organizations that contact us for training.  In essence, they seem to be saying, "I have a group of highly skilled individuals.  And I purchased a complex set of tools for them, called CRM, that can take them to the next level.  And for some reason one day of training didn't seem to be enough for them."  People at the top of their game spend years getting there.  And although CRM is a tool set for an already skilled set of people, businesses should still expect that it will take a fair amount of training, coaching, and practice, to develop new skills (not just for the users, but also for their managers).

So What Do We Do About Our Struggling CRM Solution?

You've read this far.  So I'm guessing that some of this sounds familiar.  Just understanding the five signs of failure above may give you some ideas for how to address these.  We have a few other resources that can help you take your CRM project from zero to hero.  

CRM fail support1.  Do you feel like you need to diagnose the holes in your CRM solution? Do you feel there are issues but you need help figuring out exactly what is going on and how it is affecting your organization? Our Support Gap Analysis helps you define where you are and look towards where you can get to in the future.

2. Need to take the pulse of where your CRM project?  Do you feel like your CRM system may be on the verge of failing but you aren’t quite sure where you stand? Our free CRM Effectiveness Self-Assessment offers a way to gauge where your project is at and if you could use some outside help.

3. As always, you can Contact Us with any questions.  We offer unique support and project re-start strategies to help get get you back on track.  You might say that we specialize in failure - we're get excited about serving clients who want to improve how they serve their customers!