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Best Practices for CRM Success


Best Practices for Driving CRM Success from an expert with 150 implementations.

“75% of CRM users just wished their CRM system worked better.” *


CRM systems such as Microsoft Dynamics 365 and Salesforce continue to enhance their products with new features, which can offer substantial value to an organization. Why do so many users feel that their CRM doesn’t perform well?  How can you avoid this pitfall in your CRM engagement to ensure a successful delivery?

Through my 15 years working with Microsoft Dynamics and Salesforce on over 150 consulting engagements, I have come to rely on a handful of simple philosophies.  Following these Best Practices should help you create a more successfull CRM.

Best Practice:  Keep the CRM Simple for Best Success 

Successfull CRM applications have one commonality: high user rates.  The key to achieving high user adoption is to keep the CRM both simple and intuitive to use.  CRM designs can become overly during the design process.   Stepping back to ask “are we over complicating this” is a step that should be incorporated throughout a CRM development project. Users ask for bells-and-whistles because they are flashy.  Success comes from providing value, simplicity and useful tools. Keeping the flashy stuff to within reason has proven more successful in my experience. Focus on eliminating manual processes wherever possible, but do so without adding excessive complexity such as too many clicks or uneeded custom code.


Best Practice for CRM Success Requires Involved Users

A best practice for a successful CRM is to make sure users and key stakeholders are invloved early and often during the design and development of a CRM.  A successful CRM needs users who buy into the process, product and the need for the CRM.  Users are sometimes forgotten during the implmentation process. Management knows the business needs, but users work with the product every day.  Bringing users into the design process from the get-go makes sense.  They know what is needed and what works. They know what is helpful and what is a hindrance.  Rolling out a CRM without user involvement is a sure sign for a failed CRM.


Best Practice for CRM Success Requires Use of the Native Toolset 

Many CRM products such as Salesforce have powerful out-of-the-box, native toolsets.  Using these to the greatest extent possible during development can drive successful CRM outcomes.  A CRM’s toolset enables faster development, simpler long term maintenance and improved user adoption.  By using this toolset accompanied with configuration, a CRM can be easily modified to meet many users’ needs. This approach makes long term CRM maintennace easier, faster and less costly.  The end result is a flexible CRM, which can meet ever changing business needs and processes.

Best Practice for CRM Success: Use a Phased Implmentation Approach when Possible

When releasing a new system, a best practice for CRM success is to keep the design and implmentation simple. Focus on alleviating areas of the business that have current pain points to drive up the value of the CRM.  Users often ask for the world during design. What we have found is that users often ask for more than they will use.  A best practice is to reign in all these requests balancing what is truly needed as versus what would be nice.  Another common occurnence is that new users often ask to have additonal features added after the CRM goes live.  Rolling out the CRM in phases mitigates this issue by allowing the CRM to mold to the users’ needs and small changes with subsequent releases.  This directly drives CRM user adoption upward as well as the CRM’s value to the business.

Best Practice for CRM Success: Avoid User Frustration After Go-Live

Users are human. They may forget to ask for a feature or need a change after rollout. Plan for this by setting aside some of the development budget for unforeseen changes.  Having this budget enables you to make changes to quickly address users’ concerns before they become frustrations.  Being responsive to your users’ needs helps improve adoption rates while minimizing frustration.  A task or workflow may have been structured per user requirements. However, if this requirement was misstated or in reality does not work well, this budget will come in handy for implementing post go-live changes quickly and effectively.


Best Practice for CRM Success: Drive Up User Adoption with Exceptional Training 

Building a CRM does not drive CRM success.  High user adoption is critical and depends on excellent training. The best designed systems can fail if you don’t adequately train. Whenever possible, do hands-on, in person training for best results. Spend time analyzing what types of training materials work best for you team.  Spend plenty of time developing training materials, reviewing them and perfecting them. Have test subjects to provide feedback. Train your users as close to go-live as possible so that they don’t forget how to use the system once it’s live. Lastly, one training class is never enough. Follow-up with refresher training or workshops to aid users as they become more sophisticated.


Best Practice for CRM Success: Provide Adequate Support after Go-Live

After taking a CRM live, make sure that adequate support is provided to drive successful CRM user adoption. Every CRM needs its champions, which hopefully are the key stakeholders who were part of the development effort.  Your Champions are important resources, who can be readily available to quickly and accurately answer questions.  Avoid user frustration by communicating realistic expectations from the project start through training.  Let users know what to expect, when and where they can go for help.  Offering a hotline, that users can dial into for a few days after go live, works well to provide direct access to help.

For more more information on how to achieve high user adoption, see Antero’s blog CRM User Adoption Best Practices at http://anterocrm.com/crm-user-adoption-best-practicesuccess/.


*Statistic from Capterra, http://blog.capterra.com/top-crm-statistics-2014/.


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