CRM Implementation: Best Practices

Customer relationship management (CRM) puts the customer at the heart of your business. Today, with the help of CRM software, companies can leverage a 360-degree view of their target market to improve the quality and satisfaction of every customer. A CRM solution can be implemented at the enterprise level to optimize all customer-facing business processes, or a company can choose a smaller initiative and limits the scope of its CRM functionality to any customer interactions, such as marketing, sales, and service. Following CRM implementation best practices is a very important process, and should not be taken lightly.

Even with CRM software from the top CRM vendors of 2010, the actual implementation of the software is a crucial step for any company, and a successful deployment will help develop a relationship with all customers that encourages their satisfaction and repeat business. Poor service quality and response has been selected in numerous surveys as the main reason customers leave vendors, and it is the most frequent topic of any unfavorable word of mouth passed to family and friends. Clearly, CRM implementation best practices involve all levels of a company, from top management all the way down to customer service functions, and using the right practices and strategies will help serve, satisfy, and retain customers for maximum profitability.

CRM Implementation: First Steps

To increase the likelihood of a successful CRM implementation, there are a number of steps to rolling out a new CRM system based on best practices. First, sponsorship and support from top management is essential and their support for the strategy must trickle-down to employees on all levels. CRM implementation best practices require cooperation across many different organizational boundaries and the breaking down of old boundaries and attitudes. In many cases, the difference between a successful CRM implementation and a failed one is the backing it receives from upper management.

One of the CRM implementation best practices is to build a competent CRM team before any software or strategy is ever purchased. The most successful CRM implementation teams are composed of top management, accounting, and customer service staff members in addition to those from the information technology department. Next, the project’s business objectives and strategy must be very clearly defined.

The CRM implementation team should next identify who your customers are. In large companies that operate in distributed markets, identifying a customer profile is not always simple. In the automobile industry, for example, the marketing department may see the dealers as a customer where customer service people see the buyers from those dealers as the customer; therefore, many successful CRM implementation best practices differentiate the company’s customer segments to identify high-value and high-potential markets. Finding out what each segment wants and how to reach their decision makers is a primary benefit of the CRM solution.

Finally, a business will want to carefully define its customer experience goals. Identify which business processes affect the customer service experience, and then look for areas in which those processes can be improved. Of course, focus on areas that offer the greatest potential returns. After process improvements have been identified and their CRM solutions developed, the last CRM implementation step is to standardize the data definitions and formats across departments in preparation for the CRM implementation.

CRM implementation best practices involve everyone in customer process management, from the very top of the company to the people in the trenches dealing with them on a daily basis to achieve the best possible results.