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How companies can make a CRM implementation work..
These days, every organisation appreciates the fact that a CRM system can help its business
immensely, be it in enhancing its revenue per customer or in increasing the productivity of its sales
force. There used to be a time when the costs of implementing a CRM system were so high that it
was hard to assess the return on investment. With the advent of ‘Software as a Service' (SaaS)
models, the investments have reduced so significantly that the benefits clearly outweigh the costs
involved. However, there are still many failed implementations out there. These failures can be
attributed to many reasons, but one of the key issues is the lack of organisational support. Some
simple steps can help convert resistance to support — and enhance the chances of success
Don't avoid employee fears, address them
People are always uncomfortable with change and having to learn a new way. The first challenge,
therefore, is to convince them that moving to a CRM system will help ease their work. Many
companies spend time convincing people of the business benefits of the system, but employees
don't necessarily care about that. What they care about is what new they will need to learn and
whether the new system will increase their work.
Many organisations choose to overcome this issue by phasing their implementation. In the first
phase, they essentially automate the existing forms — warts and all — with some simple process
improvements. This helps in many ways. The employees are familiar with the formats and they see
the benefits of the process improvements. In the next phase, these companies start tweaking the
forms, enhance functionality and improve processes further. Is this the ideal implementation
sequence? No. But we find that it helps get the system off the ground.
The other roadblock faced by most organisations is that employees start feeling insecure about
the ownership and the usage of their customer's information.
There is a (justified) feeling that a CRM system shifts customer control from the employee to the
company. This concern exists in both small and large companies. Rightfully, that's the way it
should be — customer control should be with the company — but that's another story! In order
to get employees to shift their data onto the system, a company often has to provide assurances
to the contrary.
This includes simple things, such as providing access controls to customer information, and
streamlining the incentive structure to prevent misuse. In fact, one can also create incentives for a
sales person to be the first to log a particular customer's information.
An important requirement for any change initiative is to create visible organisational excitement for
the project. Having the CEO's backing is an important step — it communicates the importance of
the project to the employees. If the top management is ambivalent about CRM, the
implementation will almost certainly fail. Handpicking an implementation team of star performers
furthers that perception.
This team can receive visible benefits — special trainings, a superior work environment, meetings
with the top management and mentions in internal communications are some of the possibilities.
We find that some of the softer benefits can be quite important for employees and can act as a
A failed pilot is something that a company can ill afford — for it sets off a wave of pessimism in
the organisation. It is therefore imperative to ensure that the pilot is successful. Using star
performers for the implementation is one step in this direction, as is top management support.
Critically, the system must be thoroughly tested before the pilot is initiated. Unfortunately, testing
is a weak area for many vendors. Therefore as a client, one needs to over-invest in this area.
Typically, there are several questions that employees have during the pilot phase, and hence
vendor support must be available for trouble-shooting and refresher training. We find this an area
that companies often neglect — their contracts with vendors often give lip-service to change
management. Unfortunately, many vendors have limited capabilities in this regard and are happy
to ignore the subject altogether.