Friday, May 20, 2011

The 3 First Steps to Implementing CRM

When implementing a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) approach to your business you need to plan carefully what you're wanting to achieve. If you make an error early on, it can likely set you seriously off-course further down the track.

As with all things, planning is crucial to the overall decisions made regarding developing a model for successfully managing customer relationships.

Before you commence your planning, factor in these three items:

1. Be Honest About What Isn't Working

Few of us like to have our failings talked about or mentioned. Yet usually when it comes time to consider implementing a CRM approach to our customers it's because something isn't working. At this time, you need to be brave and realistic in assessing what needs to be addressed and deal with it openly.

This may require dealing with egos, particularly if it has involved problems being hidden or not discussed. If you are going to look at a technology solution, this is important to ensure the underlying assumptions and business rules you establish are based on truthful assessment.

Ensuring their is honesty at the start is crucial, so if you find that your team is unable to achieve this, look to a third party who can assist with an impartial view of the situation.

2. Don't Rush to a Technology Solution

The very core of CRM is about relationships. It's not just about technology.

While technology will be able to assist in delivering the information you need about a customer at the time the customer needs it, or at the time you wish to start a conversation with them, it is still only a part of the overall picture.

Building relationships by their very nature requires interaction in many forms. It involves people, processes and technology – in that order.

So before jumping on the technology bandwagon, you need to assess how your business works, look at its processes and importantly how your people use them. Once this is done, you can look at the applications which improve on these.

This evaluation will likely identify ways to do things better and then when you're looking for software, identify what you need that software to do. It will also provide important business rules which all of this operates under.

3. Lock In Your Goals

When you complete your assessment it will deliver a list of goals and importantly the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) by which to measure the success of the implementation.

It's essential to lock these goals down, as this will help minimise the moving of goalposts as the project unfolds. I would also recommend that you use a phased approach – break the implementation down to manageable elements, implement them over time and ensure they are functioning as expected before implementing the next. One of the main reasons for this comes back to people. Your staff need to be able to adapt to the new environment and understand how to effectively use it. This takes time and if you put too much onto them at once, it can be overwhelming.

The way technology is evolving to assist business in managing their customer relationships is truly awesome. Keeping it balanced with the realities of people – both customers and staff – will ensure it delivers on your expectations.

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