Enterprise Software

CRM: How to avoid falling down during implementation

A lot of organizations have tried executing CRM, and a lot have failed. Here are the pitfalls to avoid.

A lot of organizations have tried executing Customer Relationship Management, and a lot have failed. Here are the pitfalls to avoid.


There are many aspects of Customer Relationship Management but only one origin: The need to service our customers better. Just like the old TV show Cheers, where everyone knew your name, there is something to truly anticipating your customer's needs. Somewhere where they feel well taken care of and they feel they are getting some value for their money.

About eight years ago, CRM systems were positioned smack in the middle of "The Peak of Inflated Expectations" in Gartner's hype cycle. Just before it pitched itself into the "Trough of Disillusionment." As with many technologies, the idea was great, but it always fell down during execution.

The challenge with implementing a successful CRM was that there was a ton of data but no information. Data was all over the place. There was a sales database for instore sales, one for online sales, another database for support, etc. And even the support database was broken up into channels with one for e-mail support, one for phone support, and one for snail mail support. To add additional complexity to an already complex environment, they were all in proprietary databases.

Then when it came to marketing, you had a bunch of marketers saying "trust us, all the money we are spending on mass marketing and pretty graphics is driving sales." What you had was a department that operated low on the metrics side, but pretty high on the squishy, qualitative side.

Bringing all that data together needed a lot of design work. As time went on, a lot of sophisticated Extract, Transform, and Load (ETL) tools hit the market to do all kinds of data merging and data cleansing. Millions of dollars and gallons of sweat later, CRM is now on the "Plateau of Productivity."  All of the stand-alone CRM packages have been gobbled up by big ERP vendors and many of the advanced ETL functionality has started to migrate into database management tools.

But the question remains, can CRM know that when Norm walks into the bar at Cheers he drinks the full-flavored beer and not that light swill? Not only that, but can CRM know what stool he always sits in? Can it lead the rest of the bar in the "Norm..." chorus when he walks in the door?

In the next few posts, we'll start looking at where CRM is and discuss some of the main opportunities that will help us truly know "who Norm is." We'll explore customer lifetime value, e-mail and snail mail marketing, call center support, e-commerce, order fulfillment, and product development.


I think a huge issue with unsuccessful implementations is that so many companies just throw the technology at their customer and say 'ok, here you go! Enjoy' The customer is left staring at their new technology and left to their own demise to figure it out - which usually doesn't work out so well. There's a whole process that needs to happen. The company providing the technology needs to KNOW you, the customer, inside and out. They need to listen to your needs and wants, then design a system especially for you - no one size fits all. They need to train their customers on how to get the most ROI out of the CRM system. Both the luddites and the early adopters need to be able to use the CRM system. Upper management needs to buy-in, if they buy in so will those below. In all, if companies just took a bit more time to sit with and listen to their clients intently and to train them in person, no matter the cost - that level of specificity is quite possible. And think about it? Though it's an initial investment, your company now knows that "Norm sits at the 4th bar stool in from the door every Friday night and that his friend Barbara refuses to drink anything but Miller Lite" - how much more successful will you be with that level of customer knowledge at your hands!

coffee junky
coffee junky

Ask any sales person ? do you want to share your book ? - as soon as salesmen comprehend their book of accounts is now available to management - accounts can be moved. One of the many interesting features of CRM it is able to keep results from every phone call, build a huge phone book of all contacts, persal info & track results typically much more than ACT or Goldmine. A CRM was Implemented when I was at Qwest Communications, very quickly their account managers comprehended and put into the system as little as possible - no more than what was need to fullfill the order and have it provisioned. Everyone had their own personel system from act & goldmine to using franlin covery notebook or an online version. Sales people tend not to be lifelong 50 year employees - typically under 7 years and their book of accounts is one of the key item that separates them. When Qwest closed my office, and moving us to its midtown location -keeping on only its top 5 salesmen out of 40, they turn to them and handout accounts of exiting people. Curious - their top 5 found No prospective accounts only - implemented and a few had said to me - they could of been cut except for some big deal pending - fortunately they didn't update the CRM. Everyone I know - who left and joined a competitor was able to reaquire their accounts, CRM sounds great !,but beyond provisioning/order management and post custumer service - salesmen rarely fully cooperate.

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