Software for managing customer relationships is used in nearly every industry vertical and in both B2B and B2C contexts.
Customer relationship management (CRM) software is not only one of the most frequently purchased genres of enterprise software, its rate of growth consistently exceeds that of other types of software. CRM is becoming must-have software for businesses of all kinds.
But the CRM software market is not only expanding—CRM software use cases are spreading across department lines. CRM functionality is expanding into other business units.
Advantages of a company-wide CRM implementation vary, but major benefits include:
- Instilling a “customer-first” culture throughout the organization
- Efficient sharing of information between departments
- New collaborative processes to increase operational efficiency
- Less complex IT and software infrastructure that’s easier to maintain
- Better volume discounts when purchasing software licenses
- Improved end-user and customer experiences
This article offers suggestions for implementing a company-wide CRM. We’ll explain what points to consider at three stages of the software selection and implementation process and give tips from users who’ve succeeded in their implementation.
Here’s what we’ll cover:
Tip 1: Pre-Purchase Research Is Critical for CRM
While the claims that “CRM implementations have a 50 percent failure rate” are exaggerated and often taken out of context, they still contain a grain of truth. CRM implementation failures do happen, and they’re time-consuming and expensive.
As with any software investment, it’s critical to find CRM software that matches your company’s existing workflows. This is the best way to ensure sufficient adoption.
If your company is changing its software usage strategy and introducing new workflows, then you might feel you have little precedent to gauge new software’s effectiveness.
This is often an indication that more research of internal processes will be required before creating a shortlist of products.
This is advice that comes up frequently, not only in our conversations with buyers, but also in reviews left by experienced CRM users, such as this one:
“Make sure that you check with your engineering team before buying. Switching CRMs can be time consuming, so make sure you are looking to your long term goal.”
Adam Donovan of Riskalyze
If you expect difficulty getting some departments to use a cross-company platform, then look for one that can be customized on a per-department, or even a per-user, basis. One very satisfied user of Pipedrive CRM said in her review:
“This software was easy to customize and easy for office personalities (engineering, accountants, sales) to learn and adapt to their uses. We adapt it to track job quotes through engineering presale/quote/proposal/pre-production/production/close and billing cycles.”
Judy Conibear, Hydrospace Group Inc.
Tip 2: A Friendly UI Is Not a Substitute for Training
You can’t force employees to use CRM systems. Encouraging all employees to adopt a new company-wide CRM platform can be challenging, no matter how user-friendly or intuitive it is.
Selecting a user-friendly system is very important, but it’s not a replacement for proper training. Consider this review of Really Simple Systems:
“Make yourself aware of the customizable features of this software—it’s easy to overlook the utility of a product like this for your business without realising how extensively one can tailor it to suit their needs almost entirely. You will get much more back from this product if you use it to its full capacity and put lots into it, train your staff or users to use the software constantly to a strict set of guidelines and you can’t fail.”
Thomas Pike of Another Answer Ltd
Many CRM platforms allow for a degree of UI and process customization, which can be helpful for improving adoption across departments. However, customization is an ongoing process.
Buyers should be careful that they don’t select a CRM system with the expectation that the various departments will spend time customizing it to fit their needs. A smarter approach will have stakeholders from each department involved in the selection process.
Andy Bernatovicz of ASI summarizes this well in his review of Mothernode: “Get all people on board early in the process. Spend time each week training.”
Tip 3: Improving CRM Collaboration, Within and Between Departments
While CRM solutions were originally designed to help sales teams keep track of their pipelines, they’re now helping entire companies refocus their efforts.
A company-wide CRM is, in many instances, the most useful tool for enacting a corporate cultural shift that will ultimately reap the rewards in the marketplace.
Collaboration and cooperation are improved by choosing a CRM that can get an entire company—including employees and departments with different goals and priorities—all on the same page. As reviewer Bethany Bernatovicz says of Mothernode CRM,
“All information [is] at [our] fingertips for all departments of the company. There is one entry [per client], and everyone can know what is going on.”
One major advantage to adopting a company-wide CRM platform is that customer interactions can be better anticipated, planned for and managed. Imagine, for example, a company that wants to use social media for product messaging and lead generation.
With this goal in mind, they buy a social media monitoring tool and give their marketing department exclusive control of it.
But try as they might, companies can’t always control the conversations that happen on social media. How will the company in this example respond if their social media accounts start receiving technical support questions?
Will the marketing department handle them? If not, how will the customers be directed to the correct support channel? How will these unplanned requests affect the company’s original goals for social media—to spread a positive message and drum up interest?
Customer experience management (CEM) platforms are the next step in the evolution of CRM, though the distinction between the two systems is often unclear.
While most CEMs are designed primarily for large enterprises, the CRM systems offered at the small and midsize business (SMB) level often contain many comparable applications.
For example, social media integration, survey and feedback tools and basic customer interaction analytics (tracking and reporting) are CEM tools that are increasingly found in CRM systems for SMBs.
Customers today have more choices than ever before, and this means they’re looking more critically at how product and service providers handle their relationships. Satisfied customers feel that they have the attention and support of an entire company, not just the momentary attention of whichever customer service rep happens to answer their call.
CRM implementations that extend customer management functionality to all departments, and have the flexibility to support each department’s workflows, will help preserve and improve the customer’s experience. Pre-purchase research, sufficient training and concerted collaboration will all help ensure that you maximize the ROI of your CRM implementation.
Pre-purchase research happens to be our specialty at Software Advice. Browse through a list of popular CRM solutions and read reviews from users by following this link. Or, call us at (844) 852-3639, and we’ll help you create a shortlist of products tailored to your needs in a free 15-minute phone consultation.