Avoiding CRM Failure: How To Plan For Success


Is your company about to launch or reinvest in a new CRM tool?  What is the primary driver for this effort? Many companies need to migrate for sales-related reasons or for reporting metrics. Maybe your company needs better database accuracy or marketing and lead tracking enhancements, or the benefits to your customers will help greatly with retention and new/repeat business. 

The common expectation is that, within a few years from starting your investment, you should see the benefits and positive results of your hard work and cost expenditures… but many do not. 

Adoption of any new platform is only as good as the effort with which you start.  There are many causes of slow or poor adoption. However, if you are aware of these issues up-front, you and your company can methodically plan to eliminate as many as possible from occurring. 

Let’s look at some of the causes of conflict and slowed adoption for any CRM install.   

  1. Failure to Plan: Remember the phrase, “You don’t plan to fail, you fail to plan?” Companies thinking about any CRM change should invest a big effort in the initial discussion and planning stages regardless of if it’s a simple upgrade or the bigger goal of launching a new CRM tool.  Expect this stage to be lengthy. Invite discussion at every level with all involved parties and divisions that will be affected by this change.  
  2. No, or not enough, internal champions: Most projects today have a project manager or director leading the journey.  At the heart of launching a new CRM is change…something that is simultaneously feared and rejected by the end user. Anything with the label “new” might encounter an uphill battle. This can be defeated by identifying and wining over a high-level individual or team of individuals who will work together and be the enforcer(s) you need supporting your development/implementation team.  Along the way, you must have agreement with and the backing of someone high up enough in the organization to help influence and support change.  
  3. Undefined vision of success: Success will be even more elusive if you do not define what it is and when you expect to achieve it.  Set your goals, define your solution implementation to have timelines, rollout schedules, adoption expectations, and more importantly cutting the ties to the old solution.  Remember change equals fear, so give your teams the path forward but at the same time highlight from early on when the old solution will no longer be available for use.  If you tell them it’s going away from early on, that expectation will be in their minds from day one. Even the late adopters won’t get a mixed message about the end date so no one is holding onto hope that they can go backward.  
  4. Lack of training: CRM tools can offer a lot of options to enhance any worker’s productivity… if they truly know how to use those tools. It’s not enough to ensure some of your team know what they are doing…all employees need to be following established procedures regularly to maintain data integrity and not encourage the use of shortcuts or undercutting the system.  If you do not train everyone to execute the same steps with detailed procedures, your data and your future users will all suffer. 
  5. Unfocused efforts: The introduction of any new solution sometimes has the effect of bringing in too many ideas and goals.  Once a project gets forward momentum, it can be easily over inundated with even the best intentions; this is certainly true in the CRM world.  These tools today are omnipresent. They have evolved over the past 10 years to effectively work in all areas of your company from accounting, to shipping and receiving, to your customer service and operations teams, and more. CRM today is no longer just a sales tool. While the planning stage can lead to good idea generation or excellent migration next steps, keep your focus where it belongs. Develop and stick to your plan. Set your goals and be ready to navigate the minefield of too much too fast. Set aside the early over expansion efforts until post launch and adoption when you have more time to assess what is working and what needs more work before venturing into too many directions at once. 
  6. Not prepping data: CRM evolution is critically dependent on what you put into it. This becomes a catch 22 if you don’t prepare your data early and verify it often. Keeping your data up to date and accurate is vital to day-to-day usage, adoption of change, and the value you get out of a complex tool like this. Effort must be made by all parties to ensure contacts, accounts, policies, and required fields are correctly populated. Clean up everything you can prior to importing the data into a new database, you will be glad after the fact that you put a lot of effort into this up front. 

Some final thoughts: 

Hire the right team to get you through the initial go live – look around for experienced, CRM-focused specialists.  Just because an existing partner knows software does not mean they understand the complexities surrounding a successful CRM implementation. Ask your CRM manufacturer rep for recommendations.   

This tool can become expensive, but it can deliver quality ROI for the spend – so shop around but don’t pick a solution simply based on lowest cost. The added benefits of some higher-priced solutions can make a big difference for a company with vision and an eye toward future growth. 

Good luck! 

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