Customer relationship management (CRM) plays a transformational role in winning new customers faster, keeping them longer, delivering better experiences, improving satisfaction, and even in improving company valuations through a clear and measurable sales process. But if you’ve ever worked on implementing a CRM system, you’re probably painfully familiar with how challenging it can be to successfully reach the finish line.
Over 60% of the clients who approach my business looking for CRM consultation are struggling to attain expected business growth results. And they’re not alone. Since 2001, research into CRM projects has put the failure rate anywhere from 18% to 90%.
Why do CRM Projects Fail?
A clue into why CRM projects fail can be found in my opening paragraph.
“Implementing a CRM System:” When CRM is viewed as a “system”, it is a technology project. Projects starting with that assumption face all sorts of problems and are almost certain to fail. CRM is about the heart (and even the soul) of your business. It is about improving the results and processes in sales, marketing and customer care. Technology plays an important and supporting role – and so should your IT department. But the project should be owned by the business leaders who engage with customers and prospects every day.
The good news is that CRM success isn’t as difficult as the numbers suggest. Organizations that focus on doing 4 things better through their CRM project are consistently more successful than others.
1. Listen to Customers
Any good relationship starts with listening and remembering. CRM projects help businesses to listen at scale. The CRM database becomes your corporate memory. Every touchpoint with the customer is the ears and eyes of the organization.
This means that CRM users need to form new habits capturing important information. It also means that other touchpoints (such as accounting) need to be integrated with the CRM system so a complete picture of every customer is available in one place.
One place for a full picture is important. When employees are forced to access multiple system to serve the customer or, worse yet, are forced to key information into multiple systems, it not only slows their ability to respond to customers, but it causes a drop of over 15% in employee job satisfaction.
2. Understand their Preferences
Stephen Covey said, “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” The same is true of most CRM projects – they are built around broadcasting messages, and they miss the benefit of more deeply understanding the customer and building a partnership.
Listening means remembering things in the corporate memory. Understanding means knowing how to think – it’s the analytics step. Analytics ranges from a customer care rep being able to look at a customer record and provide a faster problem resolution, to a marketing analyst building artificial intelligence (AI) models to deliver the best leads to the inside sales team.
Analytics is only as good as the available data. Most businesses don’t take the time to fully integrate all of their customer data into their CRM solution. And, even when they do, 53%-79% of it usually ROTII (data that is redundant, outdated, trivial, inaccurate or incomplete). If half the data you’re using to make decisions is bad, then your decisions aren’t going to be very good.
Good understanding (analytics) always starts with good listening (data). Clean data requires processes and policies to keep data clean (known as master data management or MDM).Business intelligence and artificial intelligence solutions work with good data to generate better decisions, customer experiences, and business results.
3. Create Better Connections
Connecting is where the action is. But it’s not what most organizations expect.
Connecting is about turning decisions into action. And it’s about taking the most effective habits of customer-facing employees and institutionalizing them across the organization. In other words, connecting is really about process.
Organizations who are successful with their CRM projects do 3 important things with regards to managing their processes:
- They get proactive with time management. Failed CRM projects often promote a reactive view of user time – they look at what users did in the previous week. Proactive time management means that the business and reps use CRM as a proactive time planning solution. In other words, successful businesses manage through the front window instead of the rear-view mirror. This is a critical process and it can take time to change the way business leaders and users think about time management in order to make this happen.
- They know what business processes CRM will help them to improve. CRM solutions include a lot of built-in processes such as pipeline management, marketing campaigns and service issue management. It can be easy to try to use these out of the box without realizing that your business may have more important processes (such as order entry) to focus on first.
- Armed with the understanding of their critical processes, they focus on configuring their CRM solution to fit their processes. This is a bit of a delicate dance – sometimes the business should bend a little to adopt the best practices that are available in the CRM solution, other times the CRM solution should be bent to accommodate the needs of the business.
4. Know and Improve Results
A customer relationship management solution opens the doorway to a whole new set of ways to measure yourself. The most successful companies make sure that everyone has a number that can be measured, analyzed, and improved upon. And they create a culture of learning and give everyone a voice in defining the numbers and improving the numbers.
Measuring and improving results requires a great deal of discipline. It needs to be stitched into the fabric of your regular team meetings (you do have those, right?). It needs to be accepted from the top down. CRM needs to be a solution that helps leaders and managers be better at their jobs every bit as much as it needs to make sales, service and marketing personnel better at theirs.
Powered by LUCK
Together, those four habits create an easy-to-remember acronym:
Listen, Understand, Connect and Know = LUCK
Successful CRM projects are Powered by LUCK™.
A customer relationship management solution doesn’t do those four things for your business automatically. It takes planning, process, discipline and changing the behavior at all levels of your organization to realize the transformative power of CRM.
In the 20 years I have run a CRM consulting and implementation business I have found that organizations Powered by LUCK (even if they don’t call it that) are significantly more successful with their CRM project than those who are not.
About the Author
Bestselling author and international keynote speaker, Geoff Ables is a thought leader on digital customer and employee engagement. Geoff’s most recent book, “The LUCK Principle,” delivers fresh insight and inspiration into creating people-centric digital workplaces. His firm, C5 Insight, has twice been named an Inc 5000 company, advises clients on customer and employee engagement, and implements Microsoft Dynamics 365, SharePoint and the Power Platform projects.