Five Things You Need To Do Immediately To Succeed With CRM

Although millions of people remain out of work, the economy has clearly thawed and organizations are returning to investing customer-facing business process with a vengeance. Client inquiries and advisory work on CRM topics is going through the roof here at Forrester. Our most recent forecast for global IT purchases of business software anticipates a healthy 9.7% increase in 2010, after brutal decline of 8.0% in 2009. And, Social CRM is all the rage in the blogosphere.

If you are watching the Olympics, you know that the figure skaters spend years practicing to hone their fundamental skills before trying advanced patterns. And, they never stop practicing their elementary figures. My latest report on the key trends driving CRM technology adoption spotlights flawless execution will continue to separate successful CRM initiatives from losers.

We surveyed 58 business and IT professionals to identify the best practices for getting more value from CRM technology projects. These five fundamentals were the keys to success before the economic meltdown — and they remain so today:

  • Best Practice No 1: Double efforts to increase user adoption. CRM initiatives can grind to halt when they run up against NIH (“not invented here”) attitudes of users who feel like they have not been consulted about their needs. A good example of how to bring users into the fold is a multi-national bank with over 3,000 CRM users that invited 84 users to participate directly in the CRM vendor selection decision. These users attended video conferences to review vendor solutions and then voted for the one that best fit their needs. This was followed by series of webinars where users from around the world viewed and critiqued prototype solutions developed by the CRM team. Finally, the end solution was tested in pilot programs in four different countries. This process built a strong user constituency who eagerly embraced the final solution.
  • Best Practice No. 2: Focus on underlying business processes. It is important to define the correct business processes before deciding on the technology that is most appropriate. For example, a water utility facing public criticism for its poor customer service formed a customer service process “re-engineering team” comprised representatives of all departments: clean water, waste water, customer service/call center, service contractors, IT and an external consultant. Once this team had completed its work of redesigning business processes, they sent an out an RFP to tender for a technology solution — and insisted that any software purchased fit their new process vision.
  • Best Practice No. 3: Rethink approach to executive sponsorship. Employees pay close attention to executive behavior, so it is important that senior leaders are visible in CRM initiatives. Senior managers at a telecommunications firm we spoke with wanted to improve customer satisfaction, and recognized that customer service reps were not effectively using a new CRM application to monitor and resolve customer problems. In a bold move, executives moved their desks to sit among customer service agents to better understand how they used the system and what steps needed to be taken to increase agent productivity to enhance customer service.
  • Best Practice No. 4: Reinvent data management capabilities. Inconsistent customer data from diverse sources is the Achilles Heel of CRM applications. A financial services organization was challenged by over 250 million customer records across diverse product lines. To achieve a true “360 degree” customer view, they implemented a program of data standardization across the lines of business. The company also implemented more robust customer data management tools to cleanse and de-duplicate their customer records prior to loading information into their CRM transaction systems. Access to “clean” and up-to-date customer information is now the foundation for executing more effective marketing campaigns.
  • Best Practice No. 5: Define and track the right metrics. Avoid vague and goals like “our company will become more customer-driven.” Define concrete measures to track you rate of success. For example, a global manufacturer decided the right measures for sales processes were: improving the prospect-to-sale conversion ratio and decreasing the length of the lead–to-order cycle time. For marketing, boosting campaign response rates and accelerating the lead maturation time (the time from when a customer shows interest, to the time they request a sales call) were most important.


I agree especially with best

I agree especially with best practice 3 and 5. If employees see firsthand that executives are heavily interested in CRM, they will use it. If executives see firsthand how employees are using CRM, they will tweak the strategy accordingly.

Also, tangible goals really do need to be applied to a CRM strategy. There is way too much fluff when it comes to the subject (your example of “we need to be more customer-driven" is right on), so hard metrics should play a role. After all, isn’t that the whole point of a CRM implementation? Make the real goals known and reward users for meeting them.

In terms of the first point, I struggle with whether the involvement of those 84 people in the vendor selection process really can be considered effective. Sure, it makes the process more democratic and makes the implementation a team effort across all offices, but does it really equate to achieving user adoption in the end? Those 84 people represent less than 3% of the users… I think the point that should be driven home when it comes to user adoption is that CRM helps sales reps close more deals and saves time and effort for marketing and support personnel. I think that’s all the other 97% of the users at that bank really care about, to be honest. People tend not to use CRM, because they are lazy and they don’t think of it as a shortcut. Help them understand how it is in fact a brilliant way to save time and they’ll be more apt to take it seriously. I think it is important to be realistic and speak to the users in a way that truly resonates with them.

As a CRM consulting firm, we take user adoption seriously. We just published a whitepaper about the subject, which we hope will help our clients succeed with their implementations.

3% of users builds a peer-to-peer adoption

I think the key lesson that my client was telling me about the usefulness of getting the 84 sales people involved in the selection process was that it help to build peer-to-peer recomendation of the system to other users. The 84 became the advocates who promoted that the CRM system was, indeed, useful in helping them do their jobs more effectively.

William, I understand what


I understand what you're saying. I can see how those 84 sales people would definitely help overall adoption. I bet they kept the vendors on their toes!

re: Five Things You Need To Do Immediately To Succeed With CRM

CRM is essential for growing businesses, but it is important to carefully select your CRM partner. This blog article “Don’t Make a CRM Buying Mistake : 7 Points to Consider Before Selecting Your CRM Solution” has advice on selecting a CRM solution. » Commence CRM Blog