How to Avoid the Pitfalls that Derail CRM Deployments

2015-10BlogIn a previous post, we discussed how customer relationship management (CRM) systems deliver value to small businesses, from integrating data into a single platform, to automatically triggering workflows, to accurately measuring performance. That explains why seven in 10 small business owners are either very satisfied or somewhat satisfied with their CRMs, according to a 2014 report from Software Advice.

Of course, you can’t just flip a switch and expect to take full advantage of a CRM. Different departments and individuals often use different tools and follow different processes for collecting, storing and updating data.

In many cases, culture needs to be addressed before technology. Everyone needs to recognize the value of the CRM, from the C-suite down. Everyone needs to understand the business goals for using the CRM. Everyone needs to be committed to using the CRM. Everyone needs to consistently follow the same data management processes.

Business processes may need to be overhauled or at least clarified to get everyone on the same page and ensure that the right data is being collected. But there’s no getting around the fact that buy-in across the organization is essential if you expect to maximize the return on your CRM investment.

Once you’ve rallied the troops, it’s time to tackle the implementation process. Again, you can’t just flip a switch. Data needs to be integrated from disparate sources and systems, and the CRM needs to be customized to align with your business processes and goals.

This is when most small business owners realize that using a CRM is not a do-it-yourself project, and some abandon their CRM initiatives completely. In fact, the Software Advice survey found that the biggest challenges of CRM implementation are data integration and system customization.

Has your CRM been integrated with key data sources and business systems? Are there redundant client entries? Are you using too many fields or checkboxes? Have field validation rules been properly configured? How are rules and workflows being defined and automatically triggered?

What metrics are being used to measure key performance indicators? How are reports being generated? What insights do you want to be able to extract from your data?

I’d love to be able to say that you can easily figure out this stuff on your own, but I can’t. It’s complicated, especially if you’ve never set up a CRM before.

Security and regulatory compliance are also common hurdles for small businesses. Is private customer data being protected according to regulatory standards? How are access controls being defined and enforced? When data is no longer needed, how will you ensure that it is properly discarded?

These and other questions can easily stump and frustrate the heck out of someone who doesn’t specialize in CRM implementation and customization. Without the proper expertise, your CRM can disrupt operations and drag down productivity before you even get started. When you finally get your CRM up and running, it becomes nothing more than a glorified database and address book.

On the other hand, when a CRM is professionally implemented and customized for an organization that’s committed to using it properly, customer data becomes a strategic, revenue-producing asset. You minimize risk and improve operational efficiency, collaboration, and the customer experience.

Which outcome would you prefer?

To learn more about how to make your CRM implementation as seamless and stress-free as possible, email