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Five Steps to Successful CRM Software Implementation
November 21, 2008
 
By Susan J. Campbell, TMCnet Contributing Editor
Customer relationship management (CRM) solutions can deliver significant value to the organization, but in order to extract that value, the company must be able to properly implement the solution.
 
A recent VendorGuru.com article focused on the important role the manager plays in the effective implementation of the CRM solution. Industry analysts stress that managers must be active partners with employees throughout the process in order to extract all potential benefits out of the solution.

To provide managers and companies with the right roadmap for successful implementation, the VendorGuru.com piece referred to five specific steps that can make the biggest impact on CRM success, while also improving the overall customer service experience.
 
Step 1: Use CRM to Clarify and Communication Business Goals
 
Industry leaders have found that in instances where CRM implementation failure rates are high, managers tend to hurl a CRM software package at employees without actually addressing the company’s underlying issues. Problems are caused when employees are required to use the new tools, yet are provided no training or management leadership as to why these tools are necessary and how they will make their job easier.

In successful implementations, managers have used the process of new CRM software installation as an opportunity to evolve into a new way of business, thereby creating expectations that can be tracked more thoroughly with CRM tools. In addition, employees more readily adopt new systems when managers blend commitment to serving customers with the tools necessary to deliver on companies promises.  
 
Step 2: Integrate CRM Tools into Communication Systems
 
Customer service environments benefit greatly from CRM software. Such solutions can have a major impact on employee performance, as long as the new software integrates fully with phones, e-mail and other essential communications tools.

Mangers must be careful not to mix a small business CRM application with an enterprise level communication platform. This is an area where expert opinion from trusted solutions advisors can ensure that the company selects the best solution to meet the needs of both employees and customers.
 
Step 3: Offer Routine Training on CRM Software
 
No user will buy into a new solution if training is not offered, for even the most intuitive CRM software can present its own challenges. The level of training offered can make the difference between a successful implementation and an underutilized resource.
 
Effective CRM software training addresses different ways in which employees tend to learn. Not all employees will fall into the hands-on or visual learning categories, so both must be offered to accommodate differences.  
 
Step 4: Leverage Hosted CRM Tools for Improved Work/Life Fit
 
Hosted CRM solutions are opening up a world of flexible possibilities, often allowing employees to connect from any broadband Internet connection. This enables employees to work offsite without compromising access to customer or their data. Industry experts can help managers to determine the correct strategy for implementing a hosted solution that meets the needs of the company and its employees.
 
Step 5: Benchmark CRM Success
 
Too often, managers focus on the challenges of CRM implementation and fail to keep talking about the solution after installation is complete. This lack of communication can divert employee attention to other topics. Managers must instead build regular benchmarks for CRM success into each fiscal year. Reporting on these benchmarks and setting periodic goals will help keep everyone engaged in the CRM initiative.  

Companies of all sizes can benefit from following these five steps. Managers must be able to effectively lead the CRM implementation for success or risk failure. When employees and customers are placed as the core focus for CRM software implementations, the resulting support will lead to a successful implementation.
 
 
 
 
 For more, be sure to check out the CRM Software channel on TMCnet.

Susan J. Campbell is a contributing editor for TMCnet and has also written for eastbiz.com. To read more of Susan's articles, please visit her columnist page.

Edited by Stefania Viscusi

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