Implementing customer relationship management (CRM) in your business is an effective way to increase customer satisfaction and speed employee productivity. Done properly, CRM will allow you to respond more quickly and more effectively to customers at every point in the sales process – from initial contact to after-sale support. Like any major change in your business process, however, implementing CRM requires planning and consideration before you roll it out in order to maximize the rewards you reap. A rule of thumb in the CRM industry is that each dollar you spend on pre-planning will save you at least seven dollars during the deployment. If you were building a new building, you wouldn't have the contractor begin work until the architect was finished drawing. The same principle applies to CRM.
Do Your Planning Before You Choose Your Software
You want software to fit your needs; you do not want to find yourself fitting your business to the software. Before you start looking at individual software packages, plan out your company's requirements.
This is particularly crucial in the CRM arena because different CRM solutions often look quite similar, even if they're very different below the surface. Quite a few CRM solutions were originally made for a single job (generally sales management), and they've evolved over time to take on different tasks. Though they have features which allow them to support certain areas, they still remain much stronger in their original competencies and weaker in other areas.
Start out by planning how you see CRM helping your business. Decide what you’d like to do:
- Increase sales to an existing customer base.
- Integrate your customer support and marketing efforts with your sales department.
- Boost customer satisfaction.
- Create a single overview of customer relationships.
CRM packages exist which can do any and all of these, however you won't find the software for you unless you know ahead of time what you expect from it.
Work Out in Advance Who Will Lead the Roll-Out
Who in your organization will be responsible for choosing the CRM solution and implementing it?
Answering this simple question can save a great deal of trouble down the line. In medium-sized and larger organizations, this person will need the support of others. Choose the team – including the leader – early, and aim to bring on board team members who have broad support in their areas of the firm.
Plan Out IT Interfaces
One of the most common requirements for a CRM implementation is integration with your company's current applications, such as supply chain and accounting. The planning stages are when you should be listing out which applications you want your CRM solution to support, what information will be exchanged, and the data formats which will be used.
It's not necessary to fix everything in stone at this stage of the process. That will come later on. In the planning stages, you want a general picture of what you want.
Decide If You'll Need Outside Help
If your CRM needs are at all complex, you'll likely need some help from an expert who understands the details of CRM and has been through the implementation process several times. For medium or large organizations, this person is usually a CRM-package specific consultant, who you'll hire on after you choose a solution. Smaller companies have the option of bringing on a value-added reseller, or VAR, who knows their way around several different CRM solutions.
CRM is a tremendously powerful business tool, but takes some planning to implement correctly. Avoid being blinded by the technology, put the needs of the business first, plan everything well in advance, and get input from all the stakeholders. Provided you follow these simple steps, you can see all the benefits you expected, and likely a few more.