According to Sir Arthur C. Clarke, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”
“CRM is the only science of business that attempts to reproduce an art of life -- human interactions and relationships." – Paul Greenberg
In less than 20 years Customer Relationship Management (CRM) has revolutionized the way businesses operate and changed the commercial landscape in ways few could have imagined at its inception. In that short time, CRM technology has evolved from a rudimentary digital Rolodex into a powerful and essential business tool. When leveraged effectively, it can transform an organization’s capabilities by reducing operational efficiencies, eliminating data silos, and catalyze collaboration across multiple departments.
Long gone are the out-of-the-box, one-size-fits-all CRM solutions. Today’s most advanced and successful CRMs are highly customized, robust ecosystems of third-party software platforms supported by a foundation of classic modules, that together form a bespoke business solution offering competitive advantages, streamlined processes, and improved customer experience.
Advances in this space include portals, third-party integration plugins, ERP integration, location-based services, social media intelligence, relationship intelligence, supply chain management, eCommerce, cloud computing, marketing automation, and document management solutions. Admittedly, this is a dizzying array of options, but the important thing to realize is they all can be integrated into CRM to provide one system log-in and make your organization work smarter, not harder.
The most important decision you will make is identifying the specific pain points that your organization currently faces and creating a system that will solve those specific problems. This will determine the ultimate success of your CRM. Exposing inefficiencies and identifying areas of improvement are often overlooked--and are absolutely crucial to creating a more compelling case to decision makers and champions. All too often organizations make simple mistakes in the architecture and design phase that can sink a deployment before it ever gets off the ground. The most common mistakes include:
Anyone of these oversights can spell doom for your CRM deployment and result in an expensive, underutilized, divisive tool that can become an obstacle to your company’s success. The easiest way to avoid these mistakes is to engage with a trusted partner who can guide you through this entire process from start-to-finish (including consultation, architecture and design, development, integration, deployment, training, and support). There are simply too many variables, too much at stake, and too many potential pitfalls for one to face alone. Organizations all too often underestimate the value of a trusted team of experts that can ensure the end result is a solution that meets all of their needs and is embraced by their entire organization.
Usually, it is not the fault of the organization when it underestimates the difficulty of a smooth and seamless CRM deployment or migration. We live in a complex world, and many businesses operate in complex arenas, making it difficult to identify their true obstacles and articulate their needs in a concise manner. Helping with this is the true value that an expert consultant can offer you on this journey.
When done properly, the upgrade of a current CRM (or investment in a new solution) with the assistance of a trusted advisor will make the process much less stressful; it will result in a solution that solves your problems, is embraced by employees, vastly improves the experience of your customers, and offers predictable total cost of ownership (TCO). It will result in maximum ROI that improves every facet of your day-to-day business. It’s not a question of whether you can afford to work with a consultant, it’s a matter of whether you can afford not to. History is filled with examples of once dominant players in their respective verticals that have been vanquished by a combination of poor decisions that led to their demise. CRM is simply too important a factor in the future viability of any organization to leave its successful outcome to chance.
The very nature of CRM is also shifting from a view of “systems of transactions” into a “systems of engagement." It’s important to understand the difference and inherent advantages of the latter while also taking into consideration the internal cultural change of your users involved in this migration. This is why it is incredibly important to engage with the end users of CRM within your organization to ensure you are addressing their current pain point and simultaneously securing buy-in at all levels and creating evangelists of the new normal. By forging a group of champions at multiple levels the benefits of the entire project can be better articulated to all decision makers and financial stakeholders across the project continuum. A trusted partner can ensure effective, early communication to all stakeholders about the rationale and scope of the project, increasing involvement, ownership, and ultimately success. Enlisting the input and feedback of end users, customers and champions can create a more benevolent, agile cycle when building towards a culture of engagement. When this iterative model is deployed against an equally flexible and expansive CRM, the propensity for success only increases further. By aligning the right internal people, modeling the ideal processes, and leveraging the right technology and external experts shifting to a culture of engagement need not be a herculean task for even the largest of organizations.
One thing is certain, CRM is here to stay and organizations that use it effectively have a distinct competitive advantage. For you, this could mean the difference between meeting your goals or exceeding them.