Don’t believe (all) the hype
People get sucked into believing CRM technology is in some way magical. CRM got a lot of attention four or five years ago but unfortunately people jumped on the bandwagon and implemented it for technology reasons. That’s a big mistake, says Michael Burns,

president of Toronto’s 180 Systems, a firm offering technology consulting to mid-size businesses. Burns says companies who thought the software was going to solve all their customer issues didn’t stop to figure out what those issues were. “”They’d get on board without really having a clear idea of what the business case of this technology was,”” he says. And if SMBs don’t understand how CRM can benefit their company, how will they know whether their implementation has been successful? Burns says one of the tasks he recommends before any implementation — CRM or not — is determining a company’s measurements of success. “”You can spend a lot of money, but what other measurements are there? You need a business reason for going ahead with this,”” he says. Fortunately, these problems were more prevalent when the technology was newer and less well-known. And large companies were often the culprits, tarnishing the technology’s image with their mistakes and lack of preparation. “”Lately there’s a general trend toward business being back in the driver’s seat,”” Burns says.

Understand the scope and recognize the workload
Many CRM implementers don’t recognize the effort that will be required to link their back office and front office applications (the front office being primarily CRM and the back office being things like accounting, distribution and manufacturing). “”I’d heard many stories about trying to plug in Great Plains and Siebel, for example, even a few years ago, when Microsoft had said Siebel was a partner. That was crazy. There was tons of work involved. And there’s still a lot of work involved.”” Integration can mean getting information to the CRM system from an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system, an accounting system, wherever customer data is held. Luckily, says Burns, many more “”end-to-end”” products are emerging that include CRM as part of the product from Day 1. “”For smaller guys, we’re starting to see products coming out (in which) there’s no difference between the front office and the back office. They’re both there at any time. So you don’t have to worry about the integration work.””

Try an attitude check
While it has very little to do with technology, to make successful use of CRM, staffs have to want to share customer information with their colleagues. Sadly, to some, knowledge is power. “”Why do I want to share my knowledge of this customer and give away my reason for power?”” they ask. It’s an attitude that goes way beyond technology, Burns says. But if instead everyone shares what they know about customers, other team members won’t make (or repeat) mistakes when dealing with them. Sometimes time is a factor. Staff members are running as fast as they can and now they’ve got to spend time updating some system, says Burns. To be fair, he adds, there’s something to be said for the frustration that comes from spending time putting in reams of detail that nobody’s ever going to look at. The company must have a policy that says what and how much information is required, so that data in the CRM system is valuable and worthwhile. The bottom line is that management has to be clear as to what goes in and what comes out. It’s supposed to save time and generate more business, not waste time and generate more work.

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