If you’ve decided to start using customer relationship management (CRM) software in your business, one of the most important parts of the process is the initial implementation. Ensuring that you’re well prepared for the project will allow you to get the most benefit with minimal disruption to your business.
This CRM implementation guide should provide all the information you need for an effective roll-out with as little disruption as possible.
What Are the Success Factors of Implementing CRM?
If you’re spending time and money on new CRM software and asking your staff to migrate over to an entirely new way of working, it’s pivotal that you get the entire process right the first time.
Here are some success factors to focus on to reduce the chances of problems arising:
1) Assemble the Right Project Team
Before going ahead with the CRM implementation process (and preferably at the beginning of the project), it’s vital that you have the right people involved.
Here’s a rundown of who we recommend asking to join your CRM team:
- Someone at senior level: It’s incredibly helpful to have executive buy-in. Asking someone at a senior level to be involved from the very beginning will set you up for success.
- A good project leader: Someone who will act as a champion for the new CRM system, keep the project moving and help to ensure that deadlines are met.
- Heads of departments: It will be especially helpful to your CRM implementation project to involve people who are going to be using the CRM software the most and have an understanding of how each part of the business works. Heads of departments can also act as advocates of the new system and help any members of staff struggling to get to grips with the new business processes.
2) Select the Right CRM Vendor
Choosing the right CRM vendor is vital, which means a lot of thought and research should go into this before you start planning the implementation.
You should be clear from the start about what exactly your requirements are. You may want to ask yourself the following questions:
- What functionality do you require now?
- What functionality do you think you’ll need in the future?
- Can you easily add functionality and users to your CRM platform alongside business growth?
- Do you want a hosted, true cloud or on-premise solution?
It’s also a great idea to ask any CRM vendor you contact to provide references from customers they’ve worked with in your industry.
You could also ask industry colleagues, insiders or competitors what they use and their opinion to gauge which CRM systems may be the right choice for you.
3) Set Flexible Deadlines
It’s good to have an ideal deadline for the completion of the project – it gives you and your CRM implementation team something to aim for. However, the deadline shouldn’t be set in stone and viewed as the be-all and end-all.
If you do have an immovable deadline you should aim to finish your CRM implementation process at least two weeks beforehand to allow for some contingency.
If there are key parts of the implementation that haven’t been achieved by the deadline we highly recommend pushing it back until you’re in a better position to launch.
It’s very easy to underestimate the scope of a successful CRM implementation process. But never try to cut corners to reach your deadline. A more flexible approach is always better.
4) Select the Right CRM Partner
The supplier you select to provide the right CRM software for your company is important. So is the partner you select.
A partner will oversee the CRM implementation process and be on hand in the long term after successful implementation to help you get the best business performance out of your system.
Again, it’s beneficial if the potential partners you speak with can provide references from customers in your industry.
5) Cleanse Your Data
Part of the implementation process (which we will discuss further on in this guide) will involve preparing your data for migration to the new system.
Your software can work wonders for your customer management, but if the data is incorrect, out of date, or duplicated, then you simply won’t be able to use it to its full potential.
You must ensure the data in your existing system is cleansed to ensure it adheres to the business logic and field restrictions in the new system.
One of the most common setbacks we see is companies not allowing enough time to cleanse their data ready for migration into the new CRM system.
If your data is in the wrong fields (e.g. there’s text in a phone number field), or isn’t consistent across all departments then the data migration will not work and can slow down the implementation significantly.
We’ve published advice on the data migration process that you may find helpful:
6) Prepare Your Team
A new customer relationship management system could drastically improve performance on the ground. Your staff are a big asset and can help ensure that the implementation of your CRM system is a success.
It’s important to ensure that all of your employees understand why you are making this transition and that they don’t just see CRM as a sales tool – it’s so much more than that!
Take the time to make sure every employee who will be using the system understands how the new CRM software will help them in their own roles as well as the business as a whole.
Here are five of the best ways to achieve employee buy-in:
- Provide high-quality training – some CRM solution partners offer this as part of their service.
- Make sure you fully explain the benefits for each department.
- Task your project manager to motivate the whole team.
- Involve key staff members in the decision-making process, who will then act as advocates.
- Listen to employee feedback and adapt accordingly.
We’ve helped numerous clients gain employee buy-in and have created a guide you may find useful:
7) Organise Training
This will help not only with maintaining employee buy-in but it will also allow everybody to hit the ground running with the new CRM system.
Sometimes, when people have been working the same way for a long time, it can be a challenge to get used to new internal processes.
To get the best results from your investment, in-depth training for your employees is a must. It may even be worth organising follow-up training a few months after the implementation process so employees can highlight areas they are struggling with and your training provider can go over it again.
Focus on these success factors and your CRM implementation strategy will be a hit.
How Long Does it Take to Implement a CRM System?
The size of your company and the number of departments currently in operation all impact the timeline for CRM implementation.
Additional factors that may have an impact on the rollout of your chosen CRM solution include:
- The software you select,
- How many third parties are involved,
- The amount and quality of business data you need to migrate, and
- Whether you opt for a phased implementation process.
As a general rule of thumb, we’d recommend small businesses set aside up to three months to ensure proper CRM implementation. The larger your business, the longer it will take. For a more accurate estimation, it’s worth speaking with a reliable and trusted partner.
Remember though, that all timeframes should be flexible in case any unforeseen issues arise.
How Do You Implement A CRM Strategy?
When crafting a successful CRM implementation plan, there’s a tried and tested method.
We’ve discussed the importance of assigning project managers and obtaining employee buy-in.
Here are some additional focus points when deploying CRM software:
1) Understand your Key Business Processes
It’s not unusual for larger organisations to be segregated, with no one person having a clear understanding of every single process.
Before you implement your new CRM software, make sure you have a clear understanding of the business processes that will utilise the system.
2) Take the Opportunity to Improve your Business Processes
Sit down with key members of staff to review how things work, and then streamline and improve any cumbersome processes before everyone gets started.
Make sure that you discuss with your solution provider how your business processes work currently and how you want them to work.
It might be that they could offer a solution that you hadn’t thought of, or there may be a more appropriate use of the technology you have chosen.
3) Set Goals
Once you have updated your processes, consider what you want to get out of a new CRM platform.
Write down some micro and macro targets for your business in the short and long term and how your new CRM software should help you towards achieving those goals – and what features and functionality you’ll need.
4) Find the Right CRM Software, Vendor and Partner
We’ve covered this in more detail in this guide. This is a vital step in any CRM implementation plan so it’s worth setting a fair amount of time for this task.
5) Consider CRM Implementation Phases
Depending on the complexity and size of the project it may be advisable to break the CRM implementation plan into phases.
This will make the project a lot more manageable. You can tackle multiple phases at once if you prefer, as long as there’s a clear structure and timeline in place.
6) Allow Additional Time for Data Migration
It’s extremely easy to underestimate the amount of time needed for data transfer to the new CRM system.
Existing data could include information from spreadsheets, handwritten notes, or existing CRM data from an old system. It’s important to allow plenty of time for this; you should go through and clean your data first to ensure it’s up-to-date and free of duplication.
You must also ensure that the right information is in the correct fields and syntax for migrating to the new system. For example, there shouldn’t be ‘same as above’ written in a phone number field, or other similar inputs.
7) Schedule the CRM Implementation Process
When it comes to migrating your data and implementing your new system, make sure you choose the best time for your brand.
Opt for a quieter period if possible, or at least a time when you have plenty of key staff available to help if needed. (This may require you to block out a period of time when staff cannot take holidays.)
Making the transition during one of your busiest times will be stressful for everyone involved, and you will likely see more resistance from your staff.
Proper CRM implementations positively impact the business in the long term but can cause some disruption during the transition. This is why it’s vital to consider the timing when upgrading to CRM technology to ensure the smoothest experience possible.
8) Provide Training for your CRM Users
Learning and adapting to an entirely new CRM system can be incredibly daunting, so providing ample time for your employees to learn how to use the software is vital for improved customer service, streamlined processes and more.
9) Carry Out Testing After Implementing a CRM System
Even the most successful CRM implementation will have a few snags. It’s worth scheduling a ‘testing period’ where your CRM users can highlight any issues they are finding with the software that you can bring up with your partner and work to find a solution.
Once the new CRM system is in place and user adoption is complete, you’ll be ready to start reaping the benefits.
What Are The Main Reasons CRM Implementations Fail?
Earlier in this post, we discussed specific factors associated with successful CRM systems upgrades.
The most common CRM implementation mistakes arise when:
- CRM implementation companies with no experience in your sector are selected (this refers to both vendors and partners).
- The communication strategy for staff is insufficient and comprehensive training isn’t organised, usually resulting in low CRM adoption rates.
- All your data is moved onto a new system without cleansing it, removing duplicate data or archiving outdated information that is no longer useful.
- The wrong people are selected for the CRM implementation team.
- Team support during the CRM implementation process wanes.
- The timescale for the customer relationship management system to be upgraded is inflexible.
- The entire customer relationship management process is overcomplicated.
- The goals you’re focused on achieving (that directly influence the CRM functions you request) aren’t going to benefit your business.
Additionally, CRM projects fail when the incorrect system is purchased. Remember that CRM platforms are designed for improved customer communication, a streamlined sales process, secure customer data storage, marketing automation and more.
CRM tools should work for you and not against you, which is why selecting the right system is crucial to success.
NoBlue is an award-winning company focused on helping businesses develop and implement solutions that positively impact daily operations.
We are NetSuite partners and can help you source the best CRM solution for your brand and business goals.
We can also assist with CRM implementation to ensure there’s minimum disruption but maximum advantages.
While we work with businesses in any sector, our specialism lies in:
- Fashion and apparel,
- Software and IT,
- Professional services,
- Wholesale distribution,
- Media and publishing,
- Food and beverage.
Whether you’re a large or small business, if you’d like any assistance with your CRM implementation we would love to help.