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Customer relationship management (CRM) implementation is the process of centralizing, unifying, and harmonizing all communications between a company and its customers. Achieving a successful CRM implementation takes a healthy dose of thought and effort.

So, if you’re contemplating deploying a new CRM system for your business or think your existing one could do with some improvements, this article is for you.

Before we get started, here are a few inspiring statistics that speak to the value of getting this endeavor right:

Yet, the path to CRM implementation is all too often littered with failures and false starts. According to Meta Group, Inc.,55%–75% of CRM implementation projects initially fail.

So, what can you do to ensure that your CRM implementation program is a winning one?

Choosing the Right CRM

Before even thinking about implementing a CRM system, you need to do some homework to ensure you select the right one. Selecting the right CRM platform for your business is as, if not more, important as the rollout process.

So, what do you need to consider when evaluating your CRM solution options? The best place to start is by asking yourself what business outcomes you hope to realize from your implementation. Some good questions to ask yourself include:

· Which of our core business strategic objectives are we hoping our CRM solution will help us achieve? These could include:

      • A more granular understanding of existing customers and prospects
      • Better collaboration among teams
      • Enhanced cross-selling opportunities
      • Productivity and efficiency gains
      • Faster and more comprehensive customer support

· What level of time, human, and financial resources are we willing and able to invest in our CRM solution and implementation?

· Will we need to make any internal organizational changes?

· Is an on-premise, cloud-based, or hybrid solution best for us?

By answering these questions, you’ll be able to refine your search and evaluation of potential vendor solutions.

7 CRM Implementation Steps

Once you’ve pinpointed the business outcomes that you seek from your CRM solution and made your vendor selection, it’s time to roll up your sleeves and get started with the rollout. Here are our top 7 steps to CRM implementation success:

1. Get Management to Set the Tone from the Top

Research indicates that a lack of support from senior executives is the primary reason that CRM projects fail.

Implementing a CRM system is a step-change for any business and affects many users. It’s vital that your senior leadership team isn’t just involved – they need to be seen and heard championing it.

This will motivate people to explore the tool and give the implementation initiative the credibility it needs to succeed.

So, why not get your C-suite to talk about the solution in your next Town Hall meeting or quarterly business update? Better still, ask them to use and showcase the tool itself as part of these sessions.

2. Don’t Underestimate the Importance of Project Management

Whether you’re rolling out a greenfield solution, upgrading, or even entirely replacing your existing one, you need to be organized. That’s where the role of a seasoned project manager comes in.

Think of an orchestra. If all the musicians start playing their instruments randomly, all you’ll hear is noise. Your project manager acts as the conductor, ensuring that all the notes unify into a harmonious whole.

In filling this critical role, look for someone with experience in similar projects, commitment, an eye for detail, and a passion for the end goal.

3. Engage Your End Users

If you hope to get your employees using and loving your new CRM tool, you need to give them a voice in terms of how it works for them in their day-to-day roles. So, why not establish a pre-launch forum for continuous feedback from a select group of users?

You’ll need to invest effort in interviewing, observing, and co-designing your CRM solution with your users. Take time to speak to people. Ask them what they like and dislike about the new solution. Invite suggestions and constructive criticism. Then, set time aside to work together and address any issues with the model.

Setting up online user committees is a great mechanism to garner ongoing user feedback and input. Also, consider sending out surveys – these will offer users the opportunity to share their feedback anonymously, which can elicit higher participation rates.

4. Keep it Simple

The most common barriers to CRM tool adoption are encountered when companies configure their tools with dozens of required fields. This can make users feel intimidated.

Keep the mantra of “simplicity first” top of mind as you refine your CRM tool's functionality and processes.

Of course, many CRM tools come with a range of intriguing “bells and whistles.” But before you start considering all the customizations you could create, take a step back and review the standard “out-of-the-box” technology – this is likely a good place to start for your initial implementation.

5. Go Live

It’s a great idea to make the launch of your new CRM tool a special occasion! If possible, look at coinciding it with your company anniversary, end-of-year party, or the day you announce your year-end results.

Work with your internal marketing or corporate communications colleagues to make the launch a memorable event. They’ll likely come up with some creative tactics to support you, such as making a splash on your intranet, putting up posters, distributing desk drops, or handing out t-shirts.

6. Don’t Forget Training

If your users aren’t adequately trained on how to use the system, there’s a good chance that they’ll use it incorrectly – which could result in inaccurate data making its way into your system. Worse still, people could end up not using the new tool and revert to tried-and-trusted – yet antiquated – methods to input data and perform their jobs.

Work with your HR team to set up and schedule user training sessions – in person, virtual, or a combination of both. As part of this process, consider the different learning styles that might exist within your user groups and design different training materials and methods to accommodate them.

7. Keep the Feedback Loop Open

Once you’ve deployed your solution and trained your end users, it’s no time to sit back and tick off the implementation task as “done.” Every business’s strategy will change over time, as will market dynamics, customer profiles, and end users. So, keep that regular feedback loop with your users open and regularly reassess whether the tool is still serving you as well as it could be.

Also, be mindful that CRM tool vendors regularly enhance their products and features. Be sure to explore these so you don’t miss any opportunities to improve your users’ experience and adoption levels.

How Long Does CRM Implementation Take?

In WayPath’s experience, this is a frequently asked question. But unfortunately, there’s no clear-cut answer. The timeframes will ultimately depend on several interconnected factors, including:

  • The size of your business, the number of users, and the volume and complexity of your products and services
  • The scope of the CRM deployment (new, upgrade, or rip-and-replace)
  • The role that the solution has to fulfill
  • The size of your customer base
  • Whether your solution is on-premise or cloud-based

Of course, these should be considerations that you factor in when planning your deployment and ones that your project manager will oversee and communicate to all stakeholders.

CRM Implementation Costs

As per the above point, the costs associated with your deployment will vary depending on the size and scope of your business and your deployment. But as a general rule of thumb, here are some of the fixed costs you can expect to incur:

  • Licensing or hosting costs (payable to your vendor and/or cloud service provider)
  • Implementation, service, and support costs (the cost of in-house resources and/or your vendor’s professional services fees)

Over and above these, you’ll also need to factor in the following variable costs:

  • Adding or removing new users
  • Data migration
  • Customizations
  • Training
  • Any premium additions

3 Common CRM Implementation Mistakes to Avoid

Throughout our years of assisting clients with their CRM implementations, we’ve identified the following most-common mistakes to avoid:

1. Neglecting to Identify Clear Goals

Before you set out on your journey, be sure to identify all the areas of your business that will be impacted by the new CRM software and set clear and achievable metrics for each.

2. Running Before You Can Walk

As we mentioned earlier, don’t be overly ambitious in rolling out all the new features and functionalities – engage your users and give them time to get used to their new environment.

3. Neglecting Training

Invest time and resources in hosting training workshops so your people have a chance to get accustomed to their new CRM software in a safe environment. Use these sessions as an opportunity to garner feedback and input from your users as to how the solution could be improved.

Successful CRM Implementation is Within Your Reach

While the benefits of a robust CRM platform can’t be understated, it’s a project that requires careful planning, commitment, and organizational-wide cooperation.

At WayPath, our team stands ready to help you navigate the choppy waters of CRM planning and implementation.

Whether you’re a small or medium-sized organization looking to efficiently manage and access customer or prospect data or a large enterprise wanting to improve customer interactions – WayPath can build a tailored CRM solution for you.

Our services include design, implementation, integration, and customization of your CRM solution. We also create powerful customer service strategies so you can build differentiated customer experiences across every touchpoint.

If you’d like to learn more about how we can help you accelerate your CRM implementation and customer relationship management ambitions, get in touch to speak to one of our team of experts.

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