CRM Software Selection Advice
The Link Between CRM Software Selections and Broken Business Processes
I've often written about ways to fix broken CRM processes and simple steps to developing a CRM shortlist. Those may seem like disparate topics, but they have something important in common. Perhaps more than any other business software system choice, Customer Relationship Management applications require a high degree of self-awareness on the part of the business. If you don't understand how your business handles customer data and customer relationships now, it will be very difficult to make decisions on how to improve data and relationships in the future.
The mismatch between what companies think they do and what they really do helps doom some CRM software projects before they ever start. Likewise, deciding on a CRM software product is infinitely more effective when you know what about your business works, what doesn't and what you want to improve.
So why the continuing problems? It's because in many companies today, there seems to be a great fear of admitting you don't know what's going on. Many staff see that admission as a career-killer, so instead of engaging in some introspection and investigation, they create assumptions, often based on an alternate reality that favors their particular job circumstances. For example, many sales people, when asked why they're having a tough time with customers, describe a problem that emphasizes the failings of marketing. There may be a nugget of truth to that, but it overlooks other issues that should be fixed and which sales more readily controls.
Creating an alternate reality also keeps you from truly understanding your problems. And when you don't understand your problems around customer data and customer relationships down to a root cause analysis, you reduce your chances of being able to make effective decisions around CRM software or strategy to fix those problems. I'm sure the occasional shot in the dark may pay off sometimes. However, the vast majority of decisions around CRM made in an "intelligence vacuum" fail to deliver forecasted results.
The introspection and investigation process is key. If you're tuning up your CRM software or processes, how have your customer issues changed since you previously implemented your solution? How have your customer facing business processes changed – for what reasons – and how have those changes affected your ability to work with customers and satisfy their needs? These things constantly evolve, and without a periodic reviews you can turn an existing CRM software solution obsolete in short order.
If you're looking to implement CRM software for the first time, you know you have business issues to deal with. Do you understand what those issues are, what causes them and how your processes deal with them now? If you don't, you run a big chance of making a bad software choice and getting a CRM system that doesn't aid your problems. Then, you'll have two crises to work on – the original one hampering your company, and the new one of managing a balky CRM investment.
This process requires an executive sponsor or CRM champion to sit down and map out business processes, problems and people and make accurate assessments of how CRM software can help improve them. It can't be done by someone assigned to the task who then takes the findings to someone else for implementation; there needs to be a deep understanding of the issues and accountability in order for real action to take place. It also requires you as a business leader to admit that your house may not be in order – if it were, you probably would not be looking to make a CRM software decision. Boldly admit you don't know everything that is going on – it's the first step toward learning that critical information.
If you can't bring yourself to do that, or if you discover that the map you start drawing begins to look like a maze, consider asking for help from an outside consultant. Good consultants have helped companies with similar problems and can provide an outsider's eye toward helpful solutions.
It takes a confident person to say 'I don't know' when it comes to his or her company, but a small bruise to one's ego now is much easier to deal with than a bungled CRM investment made from a position of ignorance later.