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A CRM project is complex and covers many business units and stakeholders. If you want to prevent failure, you have to take common pitfalls into account. Our Swiss CEO Martin Stadelmann explains in this guest entry, how to overcome or completely avoid the biggest challenges.

According to a recent study by CMX Consulting, companies were disappointed with their CRM systems after implementation (PDF in German). Many where especially dissatisfied with the expectations/results-ratio for usability, performance, automation and added value.

To blame CRM in itself would be too easy (and wrong). It’s therefore important to look at the reasons why a CRM project might yield underwhelming results.

  1. Expectations lack clarity and realism

If management did not reflect on the feasibility of their goals and the consequences of a CRM project, the risk is high that the perceived advantages miss their mark.

What can you do?

  • Connect your CRM strategies and goals with your company strategy.
  • Establish that CRM is an initiative that has strategic importance and reaches across the whole company.
  • Offer the necessary resources (personnel and other) to realize the project with enough know-how and a solid roadmap.
  • Make sure that your management is behind all CRM activities.
  • Rate the milestones and successes of your CRM activities to stay flexible with your processes and strategies.
  1. CRM gets watered down to a marketing and sales issue

Often enough, topics that impact the whole company get delegated to individual business units. This usually diminishes the opportunities and possibilities of a CRM project if it is reduced to smaller effective areas.

Customer relationship management doesn’t just affect marketing and sales. This reduction causes a lack of overview and misses the opportunity for one seamless operation.

What can you do?

  • Include all relevant business units. This does not just include units close to the customer like marketing, sales and service but also those areas that are necessary to create the customer journey (IT, logistics, product development, etc.)
  • Organize all customer processes across business units and functions to avoid silos and gaps in the customer experience.
  1. The initial extent of your CRM project is too wide

If you want everything at once, the result will usually be rather lukewarm. An ASAP implementation of a complex CRM project takes a lot of resources and heightens the risk in case of any problems and challenges.

What can you do?

  • Prioritize partial projects with the highest efficiency. Which areas and processes profit most from your CRM system and simultaneously can be realized low risk?
  • Use your partial projects as pilots to learn and create use cases for following projects. You can therefore transfer know-how and raise the acceptance and success rate of the project as a whole.
  1. Your employees are not included properly

Even if the CRM project needs to be steered from top (management) to bottom, it needs the input of your employees when it comes to planning, decision making and implementation. After all, your employees are the ones that will use the CRM system and work with the results. If you don’t include them, the risk of low adaption, process faults and disappointing results will be high.

What can you do?

  • Create the solution together with your employees/stakeholders.
  • Use Change Management as a method to get everybody on board from the get-go (especially in bigger projects).
  • Communicate your milestones, be transparent and be open for questions and feedback.
  • Establish a customer centric company culture.
  1. The new software is there to magically solve outdated processes

If you expect the new CRM software to solve all your old problems at once, you’re in for a surprise. A new kitchen aid can’t help your cooking if your recipe is wrong (or if you’re simply not that good of a cook). Quite often, it’s not the technology that’s the cause of inefficient processes.

What can you do?

  • Develop a technical conception before you evaluate, choose and implement your IT-solution.
  • Be aware that business needs trump technical-infrastructural needs (software follows strategy). If your new software is perfect for your infrastructure but cannot fulfil tasks and processes that are in line with your company goals, then it’s not the right software for you.

  1. CRM is seen as an optimization of internal workflows and existing products and services

Quite often, companies reduce CRM to a technical issue, that optimizes simple processes. It is not viewed as a possibility to change the company culture and thinking.

What can you do?

  • Focus your CRM project on the customer’s need. Which advantages does the optimization of singular processes, products or services have for the customer?
  • Show your willingness to change yourself and your company. Be open towards innovation.
  • Align your decisions and activities towards the customer’s perspective (customer centricity).
  • Adjust your concepts and your system design (processes, evaluation, etc.) to changing and external frameworks, for example customer needs.

The company’s management needs to be behind the CRM project and all of the aforementioned points, this includes: Being at important meetings (kick-off or go-live events), living the new customer centric strategy and using the provided tools of the CRM-system. This is incremental to lend the CRM project credibility.

Find out what we can do for your company to find, implement or improve your CRM-System. 


Martin Stadelmann ProfilfotoDr. Martin Stadelmann is CEO at the ec4u (Swiss). He consults companies regarding strategy development, organizational anchoring and realization of extensive CRM projects. He co-founded and lectures at the CRM-Executive Master-program at the Zurich University of Applied Sciences (ZHaW) and leads the Swiss Expert Forum.

Verknüpfen Sie sich mit Martin Stadelmann:

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