Tips for Using CRM Successfully

By: M. Danny Estrada, Net at Work CRM Practice Director

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New York (February 1, 2009) – As a long time CRM vendor, I can tell you that the less time customers spend learning how to use their systems the happier they become. Over and over again I get called into board rooms and go round and round about how systems are cumbersome and yet companies feel like they can’t be competitive without them. Invariably, I hear comments like, “Isn’t there a system more advanced than basic contact management but less complicated than CRM?” The frustrations of sales and service people, their managers, and many business owners is understandable because most CRM systems have five times more features than the average user needs. The bottom line is that CRM should improve and streamline any team’s activities and reporting, not hinder productivity with unnecessary bells and whistles. So how do users get past the frustration? Besides focus and patience, here are some methods for winning over your team by implementing a successful CRM program in your organization.

Crawl, walk, and then run. Put a lot of scrutiny on what is and isn’t required in your systems and err on the side of caution with a modest start. The benefits of starting with a simpler approach are that you have the ability to focus on specific areas of need and get people acclimated to a new system with a high likelihood of success. While you want to make sure that the set of technology tools you select can handle your vision for the future, do not get bogged down in the opinions of management with no input from the users. This top-down approach has killed many, many CRM projects because people on top may want certain information captured that makes it harder for the “man on the street” to do his job. The spirit of the CRM development process is that you don’t have to have all of the answers on Day 1. You will ultimately have the right system with the right amount of modification after people have some experience and they feel like there is the same degree of input at all levels of the organization. Your CRM implementation is an ongoing process. There is nothing wrong with starting slowly and building over time.

Get feedback from users. If you are building a system to benefit your customers and your employees, don’t forget to get their feedback. If you own or run an organization, there are specific ideas that you have about visibility, and specific data that you want to collect. It is a two-way street. The system also has to make a day in the life of your employees and your customers better. In an ideal situation, the management of an organization can see how the design of the system helps them meet their strategic goals (better service, faster call resolution, increased cross-selling). But, like any solution, everything comes with a price tag. Find out from users what the system doesn’t provide for them or how it makes it more difficult to fulfill their job description (difficult order entry, difficulty finding customer invoice history, cumbersome screens, or complex rules). Lastly, survey customers and find out their common frustrations regarding discussions with sales and service people (not having order status, inability to see payment history, no single place to see both sales and service issues).

Buy more face time for the sales reps. As a 3rd generation salesman, I am passing down advice my father passed to me, as his father did for him: People buy from people who are sincere, and people appreciate service from a “real” person. If your initiatives don’t buy you more face time or phone time with a customer then what is the point? Most outside sales reps work 50 weeks per year. Most reps spend up to two hours each week at their desks coordinating and updating activity logs and pipeline spreadsheets. When the right CRM structure is deployed, these two hours a week evaporate because all reporting is done in real time and can be done remotely. Reports can be pulled on demand by management. It creates a much more dynamic sales team and also frees up sales people for about another 100 hours of selling time each year (50 weeks X 2 hours per week). Imagine the impact of another 100 hours of selling time for each rep.

Where do you work? Today we can do everything on our smartphones. If you can’t use CRM on your smartphone, then you are actually punishing your sales staff for being out in front of the customer. The challenge of using hosted or in-house systems that don’t work out in the field is that they force your employees to be at their desk instead of visiting customers and prospects.

If you have more than two customers and more than two employees you need CRM. If you already have a CRM program or are in the process of getting one, put in a feedback loop so that you can constantly evaluate what is going right and what is going wrong. If you are able to consistently evaluate feedback from the users, and even your customers, then you will be able to modify, enhance, or eliminate functions in CRM so that the technology is always in alignment with your operational needs.