Customer relationship management (CRM) is the fastest-growing software market, according to research firm Gartner. That doesn’t mean all those companies implementing CRM are optimizing it — or are even using it wisely.
Only 45 percent of companies with a CRM use it to store lead and customer data, according to Hubspot. So, it’s no surprise that less than 40 percent of companies that use CRM have a coveted 90 percent adoption rate, CSO Insights found.
When you take steps to get the most from your CRM, not only will you increase its ROI, but you’ll also have an advantage over competitors that aren’t optimizing their CRM. Improve these nine areas to deliver maximum impact from your CRM:
1. Know what you can actually achieve
Some executives implement CRM in their company without fully understanding its capabilities. There’s a common misconception that CRM is a contact management tool. Although that’s its most common use case, there’s much more that a CRM provides. Take the time to learn how you can use CRM to increase customer retention, innovate service and customer experience, build collaboration among teams, help run the business, etc. You’ll be better able to set your short- and long-term plans if you know all the ways CRM can impact your operations.
2. Clarify your strategy
CRM is first and foremost a strategy and secondarily a technology. So, to succeed with CRM, you need representation at the highest level to ensure that its importance pervades the organization. And, you must align your CRM goals with your overall business goals. Customers are your lifeblood, which means CRM is the heart of the business. It’s vital that you link your CRM strategy and system to your business strategy and systems to ensure that it supports the business and isn’t just a digital Rolodex.
3. Consider CRM as a strategic investment
CRM is not an expense, it’s an asset. Companies are valued higher when CRM is well integrated into the business. So, use the whole platform to help drive revenue. Connect processes across teams such as marketing, sales, service and customer insights; remember, CRM isn’t just a sales tool. Make sure your CRM is available across devices. Augment the solution with partner apps that will round it out to fully meet your business needs.
4. Ensure you’ve implemented the right product
If you have to over-customize or overengineer your CRM system, if people aren’t using it because is it’s too hard or it’s not aligned with their workflow, you might not have the right tool. That said, you also have to make sure you can tailor your CRM to the way you work and to your methodology, not the other way around; otherwise, you’ll waste money and time because the processes will be too manual. Other costs of getting CRM wrong include creating poor employee and customer experiences and hampering processes.
5. Invest in oversight
You don’t just “plug in” CRM and it works. It needs an administrator, or a team of admins for an enterprise implementation, to run it. Experts who oversee your CRM should be responsible for finding ways to get more out of it and evolve it over time, recommending when to upgrade, tailoring it by role, and the like. You also need someone who can translate the strategic to the tactical, develop and evolve your CRM strategy and KPIs, and build and execute a plan for gaining adoption. Often, that “someone” is a consulting firm with expertise in those areas.
If CRM isn’t having the impact on your business, follow these 9 steps to get the most from your investment.
6. Integrate data from across the organization
Data powers your CRM. It should be clean, validated, and relevant so you can understand the customer journey and make informed business decisions. To have all of that, you need to integrate your CRM system with accounting software, product management and order management tools, ERP, etc. This integration helps support activities such as visually representing the data to simplify decision making, predictive analytics and other types of machine learning and AI, and shared data entry.
7. Measure what you want managed
What KPIs are you using to ensure usage and performance? Create a rewards system for CRM usage and model the behavior you want. Activity management, for example, is a core element of CRM, so how are you measuring that? Additionally, it’s critical to conduct a quarterly audit of how CRM is being used to uncover any improvements or obstacles in performance, processes, use cases, and the like. If you uncover any issues, tune the platform to make improvements.
8. Make training an ongoing activity
One week or day of training isn’t going to give users enough expertise to change their habits; nor will it help build adoption. Develop and deliver educational programs for onboarding new employees and for training existing ones that educates them over time. Breaking training into pieces is more effective than trying to convey everything CRM has to offer all at once.
9. Think of CRM as a continuum
Take a “crawl, walk, run” approach to getting the most from your CRM system. Use pilot projects and mission reviews as part of a continuous cycle of improvement. Keep moving forward and improving because there’s no hard stop. Your implementation is never “done.” In fact, if you don’t do anything, you’ll actually be going backward; your system and data will become out-of-date and a hindrance to productivity. Commit to the long race; it’s not a sprint. Build a roadmap that looks ahead about 18 months and update it yearly.
About 65 percent of companies say that CRM is “impactful” or “very impactful,” according to LinkedIn. If CRM isn’t having the impact on your business that you’d like it to, follow these nine recommendations to get the most from your CRM investment.