Customer relationship management (CRM) software has become a standard tool in modern business. Industry experts such as Gartner have tracked consistent growth of CRM adoption across many industries for the past several years. Businesses turn to CRM solutions to gather data and streamline tasks for every department that can benefit from improved customer information processes.

The desire to implement CRM strategies quicker than the company can handle, however, will cause severe issues. Performance reports from Gartner, Forrester, Butler and other analytical firms have found many companies fail to implement CRM technologies in a successful manner. The numbers vary wildly from 30 percent failure rates to 70 percent. Most numbers indicate about half of companies don’t see the results they want from CRM solutions.

The sharp difference in findings may be due to the problems individuals have defining CRM solution success. Many companies employ technology with broad goals that can’t be measured. Surveyed employees stated they began implementation without knowing what to expect. Problems also stemmed from a lack of inherent resources, project management and vendor selection.

How to prepare for CRM implementation
Companies that decide to purchase CRM software need to be ready to implement the new technology. Here are some suggestions for how to prepare your business for customer data restructuring:

  • CRM technology is not just a simple tool for sales and marketing. Improved customer data affects the entire company. The business should create a software selection committee made from each department with investment in the software’s success. If possible, an executive sponsor should weigh in on decisions to show complete company involvement.
  • The committee has to answer the following questions: What does the company expect from CRM solutions? How can we measure success? What key drivers are absolutely essential? Their answers can’t be vague and they should be ranked by importance. CRM services could influence communications, analytics or ordering procedures, so it’s vital to determine which is most important to start with.
  • The committee should send out requests for information to numerous vendors. The messaging must include particular features the business is looking for and what software resources and capital is available. There should also be information on current customer strategies.
  • Evaluate the responses and create a list of a few potential CRM partners. From here, the committee should arrange demonstrations and in-person meetings.
  • When meeting with suppliers, the committee needs the make the most of the time. They should describe what functions they’d like the software to perform in a two-hour demonstration window. Choose specific tasks, like automated data collection or order creation.
  • Once the candidates have been narrowed down to one or two options, invite them to your business so they can audit the operations themselves and make suggestions. The committee should be well aware of the current tech capabilities of the office and where the product is most needed, but suppliers may offer further insight.
  • During the final review, the committee should feel free to schedule further meetings or demonstrations. The company will want a timely decision, but it’s better to seek out information before settling rather than being surprised during implementation. Schedule plenty of time for evaluation.
  • When the committee makes a final decision, every part of the business must know which product and supplier was chosen. Deliver all pertinent details that went into the decision to stakeholders so the whole organization is ready for implementation.

Finding the right partner for your business
A company searching for a CRM product is also searching for a business it wants to work with. Here are some factors your CRM selection committee should keep in mind when exploring options:

  • Your CRM service needs should be unique. You want to find a company with experience in implementing the specific features you are looking for. Companies can’t have broad goals for software success, so your CRM partners should have experience working with your particular requirements.
  • CRM data collection services work with a variety of systems. Your customers use social media, mobile devices and many other tools to engage with your company. A CRM supplier should offer a variety of products so you can find the one that works for your technology needs.
  • How does the vendor help companies implement solutions? This should be one of the first questions you ask. Remember, they’re not just selling software, but a methodology of success.
  • The CRM business should have educational materials that demonstrate best practices for implementation. If you want to learn more, they should also have public demonstrations and chances to connect with other users so you can get some real-world examples.
  • As the selection committee meets with suppliers, it should get a feel for overall corporate culture. A CRM partner should present plenty of resources and employees ready to assist you. The people you talk with should be friendly and encourage you to share every bit of information you’ve gathered. An open, supportive and engaging partner benefits your CRM implementation from start to finish.