Any successful customer relationship management (CRM) implementation is the result of careful planning and a balance between business and technology. Finding the right mix of business strategy and technology applications for your organization is crucial to CRM’s success. “CRM is harder than you think and more difficult than you can imagine,” said Gartner analyst Scott Nelson. (TechRepublic is a subsidiary of Gartner.)

During a recent TechRepublic discussion on CRM, many TechRepublic members said that too much emphasis on CRM technology could doom CRM initiatives. But ignoring the technology in favor of a business strategy also sets an organization up to fail at CRM.

This article highlights the advice TechRepublic members have offered on how they make CRM work.

Start with a solid business strategy
Organizations must devise a structured business strategy around CRM before CRM applications are implemented to ensure that CRM is a success, according to TechRepublic member Raghuram Sarangan. He suggests that “…the organization should be clear in its goals first. A transformation in the business process towards being customercentric has to happen for a successful implementation.”

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While the methods organizations use to track customers’ buying habits and service requests are changing, taking care of customers has never gone out of style, according to several members., for example, suggests that that all businesses should focus on customers.

“Everybody seems to know that getting a new customer costs around ten times as much as keeping the old one,” wrote. For that reason, keeping good customer relationships and expanding them is seen for most companies as a strategic issue. “CRM software just smoothens that process…”

Implementation advice
Once a CRM business plan is established, it’s time to address the technology’s ability to collect the customer data that forms the foundation of your relationship with your customers. TechRepublic member Subir offered several suggestions for a smooth implementation:

  • Choose a project manager that has technical, functional, and interpersonal skills.
  • Implement CRM in phases.
  • Avoid customization. It costs money, delays product rollouts, and makes future upgrades difficult.
  • Follow a proven implementation methodology.
  • Have a good project plan and follow it closely.

Don’t let CRM collect dust
It’s easy for an organization to feel that CRM is finished once an application is installed. However, according to Subir, the CRM really begins after the implementation.

CRM, which is designed to collect customer data every time a customer interacts with an organization, is a waste if the data is not utilized, according to Subir. He notes that, “…people alone have to harness the CRM to get the results. CRM can only place the information before you, but people will still have to act upon the information.”

What about the customers?
Discussion participants also pointed out that it’s easy to lose sight of the customer in the commotion of devising strategies and implementing technology. Take the time to refocus your attention on what CRM is—catering to customers.

Rrosenberg offers this warning to other members: “People seem to have the mistaken notion that they will replace good customer relationship management with a piece of software that will meet all their client’s needs. Good CRM has and always will start with people.”

write2adam_elliott even suggests that CRM is not dependent on technology or even business desires but solely on customers. “It must be reiterated that CRM is a strategy driven by customer needs and not necessarily what the business would like to see.”

Other suggestions?

Do you have additional advice for your fellow TechRepublic members? Don’t hold out on us! Share your CRM strategies you are using and what applications are important to you by dropping us a line or starting a discussion below.