For small businesses, great customer service is the lifeline of the business and the path to profitability. Small to medium sized businesses that do not use a focused approach to CRM significantly reduce their overall chances of success.
Customer Relationship Management can be a time consuming and tedious process. Yet, all business owners know that the customer relationships are a critical part of keeping an organisation in profit. Thanks to new technologies and CRM solutions, Customer Relationship Management no longer has to be difficult.
Regardless of whether or not your business is small or medium sized, all types of businesses handle a mass of emails and data, accounting records, to do lists, clients, leads, suppliers, projects, and other business logistics to maintain. This is where a CRM solution is a worthwhile investment that saves you time and money while strengthening customer relationships and boosting profits.
What is a CRM Solution and what are the Benefits?
The modern CRM solutions are software applications that provide advanced tools for managing all aspects of Customer Relationship Management, including those we mentioned above. The difference is, CRM solutions are more efficient and intuitive than conventional Supply Chain Management (SCM) and Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems.
CRM solutions are designed to accommodate specific needs across a broad range of industries and are fully customisable. It is not a software application that provides you with a set of one-size-fits all tools. Instead, CRM solutions are comprehensive platforms capable of meeting all of your business requirements, and then some.
To provide you with an idea of the benefits CRM solutions can deliver, here is a general overview of some of the capabilities you will find in a quality CRM application.
First, it is important to understand that a CRM solution is made up of multiple modules that integrate with one another to create a comprehensive platform. Because the modules integrate with one another, information that is entered once is automatically entered in the appropriate location across all modules. This saves time and increases data accuracy.
Additionally, information is entered in real-time which keeps everyone on the same page regardless of the module they are working with. The typical modules include, but are not limited to:
The sales module is designed to enhance the performance of your sales team. The sales module provides automated tools and other advanced components that allow your sales team to effectively manage leads, analyse project performance, generate reports, manage contacts, receive customer feedback, work with customer profiles, organise sales data, make accurate forecasts, and much more. It also allows the team to collaborate on projects in real-time.
The marketing module provides intuitive tools that assist you with managing all marketing campaigns, regardless of the type of campaign you are running such as newsletters, emails, advertisements, etc. A CRM solution is capable of handling any marketing efforts by your organisation to generate sales leads, product inquiries, communications with marketing executives, and more. This module is capable of managing any type of data related to sales and keeps all of the information organised where it can be accessed by everyone in real-time.
CRM software purchasing modules create more transparency when it comes to supplier relationship management. This module provides tools that support your business in every step of the procurement process. The tools included in the purchasing module help you to manage supplier addresses, select the right suppliers, automate task generation, maintain communication with suppliers, and view the complete activities of payment trails associated with purchasing.
The management module typically provides an overview of all outstanding tasks to date in real-time to keep everyone on schedule. You can also view reports and mapping of the latest forecasts, projects, and figures to determine where changes need to be made. This module also provides tools for comprehensive project management, including precise data and information that helps you to evaluate each phase of the project. An intuitive alert system sends staff members alerts when deadlines are coming up to ensure a project stays on schedule.
CRM solutions provide you with complete control over stock and inventory. Like the other modules, the information is entered in real-time to enable everyone in the organisation to stay on the same page with product supply. This includes employees running the Point of Sale Systems, warehousing, re-ordering, and more. This module in a CRM system ensures you never waste money on overstocked inventory or under purchase inventory which results in backorders and customer frustration.
CRM solutions are very intuitive when it comes to reporting across all modules. The reporting module is packed with tools that allow you to customise report generation according to the individual needs of your organisation and the specific information you want to view. This prevents you from wasting time sifting through a sea of information and expedites decision making processes.
Contacts and Customer Service
CRM solutions help you to enter information for all contacts and customer data to keep the communication lines open, identify customer purchasing habits, increase sales, and identify new opportunities. The module integrates with CRM other modules in your CRM solution so the information can be accessed organisation wide in real-time. The end result is improved communication and personalised customer service.
CRM solutions provide many more different types of modules. The ones we have mentioned above are just to provide you with a general idea of CRM capabilities. Additionally, you do not have to implement all modules, just the ones that are pertinent to your daily business operations.
The Importance of an Effective Implementation Plan
Implementing an effective CRM implementation plan does not have to be a headache, as long as you know how to go about it in the right way. Many SMBs have reservations about adopting a new CRM solution due to the stories that surround failures and problems with staff members adopting the strategy.
However, the bottom line is if you invest the time to plan well, the adoption strategy will be a success. And when CRM implementation is a success, you will find the time investment was well worth it when your business reaps the rewards.
The whole idea of CRM implementation is to create a single system that effectively manages all aspects of your business from one platform. This is why a detailed implementation plan is critical to the success of CRM user adoption.
Before you begin, it is important to identify the objectives for implementing CRM. Then you must be sure they are in sync with what you plan to achieve with the key benefits of a CRM solution. Some of the steps for planning include but are not limited to:
Businesses that are using traditional CRM typically have problems with server sprawl and wasted infrastructure resources. This is why it is important to consolidate as many systems as possible by coming up with a plan which will make your transition to CRM a lot easier. It will also help to simplify training when it comes time for the staff to learn how to use the system.
Before adopting a CRM strategy, you should decide how you want the data to be set-up in a single system. Doing this in advance will make the transition easier and data maintenance less complicated. It will also provide you with easier access to reporting when using the report module.
Guidelines for Key Processes
Identifying and setting rules for key processes within your organisation is essential for ensuring the CRM solution is tailored to the needs of your business. If there is no set of guidelines as to how key processes will be executed, this will make the transition to CRM complex and difficult.
Additionally, you may have more objectives according to the individual requirements of your business. However, ensuring all objectives correlate with CRM implementation benefits, makes it is possible to begin planning.
Planning for Implementation
Contrary to what a lot of people believe, implementing a CRM solution is actually less about the technology and more about determining exactly what your business needs are from the get go. This means deciding exactly what you want the solution to do, who is going to be using the system including those with specific roles, key business processes that meet the needs of your staff, and how the solution can be implemented so that it accommodates future users. This includes tasks such as staffing projects and training system users, including those with specific roles.
Other steps should include:
Information Needs and Business Processes
In order to complete this step in the adoption strategy, you must begin by considering your organisation’s goals and mission statement. Then you must decide how you are going to measure the progress as you move towards those goals.
Think strategically about the different groups such as your sales team and others, and what each group needs to accomplish. This will help you to determine the types of processes and information requirements your business will need to adopt CRM successfully.
Take Inventory of Applications
Organise an inventory of the current applications you are using including software, spreadsheets, databases, and other applications. Identify what data is stored in those systems to determine what and how much information must be moved to the new CRM solution. This will prevent a lot of confusion when you implement the system with the end users.
Meet with Each Department
Invest the time to meet with each department and key stakeholders to learn about the business processes they are currently using. Take the time to discover what is working and what isn’t, in addition to what tools in the new CRM system will make things easier. When it comes time for training, this will eliminate a lot of confusion and encourage CRM users to stick with the new system when they see how otherwise tedious tasks are now being streamlined.
Once you have identified all business processes, it is time to prioritise. This will help you to implement the critical processes that contribute to important daily business operations first. It will also help you start the training on this portion while the lower priority processes are being implemented.
Create a Timeline
Create a timeline that includes milestones for adopting the CRM system. This will keep everyone on the same page and provide clarity on what is happening, when it’s happening and the people that should be involved.
Approach the Strategy in Phases
Implement the user adoption strategy in phases to make adoption more manageable. Remember that it took years for your business to collect all the data you have and develop business processes. It will also take time to develop it into a single system and for your staff to become fully accustomed to using the system. If you try to do everything at once, your staff will become disillusioned and the project will fail.
Begin with Core Processes
Begin the adoption strategy with the core processes that are most critical to your business and how it works. This will help you to immediately reap the benefits of a new CRM solution, instead of working with an outlying process that is not directly relevant to daily operations.
Communicate and Collaborate
A successful way to make sure your users adopt the CRM strategy is through communication and collaboration. Your entire staff needs to feel like they are part of the implementation process and must understand the importance of using the new CRM solution. This means keeping all staff and key stakeholders informed through every step of the implementation process right through to the adoption strategy and training.
The steps we discussed here are the most common. You may want to add your own to this list according to the individual requirements for your business.
The Risk of Failure if the Plan Is Not Implemented Correctly
The main reason that most CRM adoption strategies are derailed is the failure to plan for implementation and the temptation to introduce the system too quickly. The best approach to mitigate the risk of failure is to plan the implementation in detail, introduce the adoption strategy in phases, launch small components gradually, and allow the end users to become accustomed to using the system before you consider any upgrades or improvements.
It is important to remember that CRM is not a one-time instance. If you want to reduce the risk of failure, success is dependent upon a continuous strategy of user feedback and analysis. Only then will you know where improvements can be made to streamline workflows and make the tasks enjoyable and a lot easier for your staff.
That said, the most common causes of CRM failure according to Forrester are as follows
- Process: Poor identification of business requirements and poor planning for process designs makes up about 44 percent of CRM failure cases.
- People: Poor planning for implementation and adoption makes up 42 percent of the reasons why CRM fails. This is because it results in slow adoption by the end user, poor training policies, inadequate change management, and a poorly designed solution that does not fit in with the business culture.
- Strategy: Failure to establish clear objectives in addition to poor deployment and governance practices make up 40 percent of CRM adoption failure cases.
- Technology: CRM solutions that are designed with poor usability, data issues, and poor system performance make up 35 percent of the adoption failure instances. This is because bugs in the system and complexities make the system frustrating for the end user.
If you are aware of the main causes of CRM failure and the risks associated with it, you can plan better in an effort to mitigate the risks.
Developing Training Processes
The final step in an adoption strategy is the development of training processes across departments and end users with specific roles. If you have planned correctly, created a user friendly design and simple interface, the training portion should go relatively smoothly.
Some of the ways training should be implemented include:
Virtual vs. On-site Training
CRM training is often delivered in a virtual environment or right on the premises by a qualified trainer. Depending upon the complexity of your CRM solution, you will need to assess the needs of your staff and your business before deciding the best route to take. You can also enlist the help of professional CRM trainers to help you decide which is the best way to go.
Organise Training by Department
If your SMB is operated with multiple departments, the best approach to training is to train each one on the specific parts of the CRM platform they will be using. For example, if one department only handles customer service, it does not make sense to train them on analysing marketing data. The goal is to reap the benefits of using a new CRM as quickly as possible without rushing the process. Learning the other functions can happen over a period of time.
Implement in Phases
As we mentioned earlier, make sure you implement the training process in phases to avoid overwhelming the end user. It is better to gradually expose them to different features than have them disillusioned by the process from the very beginning.
Use Real Life Examples
Training on a new CRM solution is more effective when you use real life examples. This helps the end user to understand how a specific process will apply to their daily responsibilities. For example, if an employee is in charge of setting appointments, you can use a real life situation and apply it to the appointment setting tool. Then show them how the data syncs with existing contacts and the online calendar.
Provide Ongoing Support
Regardless of the type of training strategy you choose, providing ongoing support is critical to the success of your training program. It is also the determining factor for how your staff feels about using the new system. This means providing your staff with multiple options for acquiring support to ensure problems to not disrupt daily business processes. This helps you to get the results you seek without wasting time and resources, and frustrating the end users as well.
The information we have provided in this article should provide you with the basic foundational information you need to know in order to create a successful CRM adoption strategy. Although nothing is 100 percent foolproof and there will still be risks, you can take control over those risks with a detailed implementation plan that is executed well and a strong training strategy. This will ensure the success of a CRM solution that will add tremendous value to your business over the long term.
About the author
Our CRM is a UK based software development company. We provide small and medium size enterprises, in London and the surrounding area, with the original CRM software application for Microsoft SharePoint. All images used in this article are property of their respective owners.