Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems are valuable assets in modern companies, helping sales teams and business owners manage customer interactions, data and communication efficiently.
I've worked on several CRM projects in my career. A few were straightforward, but most had missteps to learn from. (In fact, one was so complex that it is still being refined years later).
It's common for CRM issues to derail business operations. Issues I have encountered that stalled growth include:
- Low user adoption.
- Implementation challenges.
- Poor data quality.
- Integration problems.
- Limited functionality to grow with the business.
Unfortunately, these areas are related and aggravate each other. Bad data quality or a hasty implementation plan can weaken the confidence of key users and limit adoption.
Similarly, a lack of employee buy-in can weaken team productivity as siloed departments insist on sticking with old technology with limited integrated functionality with your new system.
Let's run through each challenge and discuss how they can be addressed.
1. User adoption
The primary cause of technology failures is employee engagement. If your team don't use it, then you will never achieve those magical returns on investment you were promised by your sales rep.
Most importantly, low or lazy adoption rates influence poor-quality data. Ultimately, you buy CRM software to better understand marketing efforts, sales cycles and customer service. However, buying software without incentivising a change in habits will lead to sloppy or inconsistent data.
2. Implementation challenges
Common issues faced during implementation include
- Tools are hastily bought without considering key stakeholders, existing tools or how they will be adopted into business strategy.
- Lack of leadership buy-in and the CRM is an afterthought in strategic planning.
- Scope creep increases implementation costs or time overruns. Typically, this occurs when the budget, specifications and requirements are not clearly defined.
- Limited resources are allocated to the project, leading to a mediocre rollout and/or employee burnout.
3. Bad data quality
Maintaining exceptional database hygiene is crucial in CRM systems. Inaccurate, duplicated, inconsistent entries can lead to communication errors, missed opportunities, and poor decision-making. Apart from anything, it will waste time and discourage user adoption.
Related to data quality is the subject of security and compliance. In an age where data breaches are prevalent, ensuring that your CRM has robust security measures is vital. A breach can cause financial loss and tarnish your reputation. Regularly update security protocols, and consider encryption and multi-factor authentication to enhance security.
4. Integration difficulties
Data quality is closely related to the integrations needed to make your project successful. Ideally, you want to have a single source of truth with accurate customer records. However, it is common for companies to use multiple systems and need to stitch them together.
Common challenges I have encountered include
- Different CRMs used for marketing, sales, recruitment and finance. Each needs to be carefully orchestrated to ensure consistent levels of customer service.
- A crucial element of the tech stack is unable to integrate. For example, older software may not have a functional application programme interface (API). In this instance, essential data may need to be manually entered into other systems.
- No dedicated data infrastructure team to manage the growing list of tools the business uses. This can be even harder to control when shadow IT creeps in, and departments buy a piece of technology in silo without considering the entire company strategy.
5. No scalability as your business grows
The system you buy today needs to accommodate your future growth.
- Is the platform cloud-based? If not, you may have difficulty accessing real-time and meaningful data.
- Will the additional licence costs strain your budget if your marketing team increases its headcount?
- Would hiring more sales reps make it harder to maintain consistency and performance?
- Is the platform available in multiple languages? This could put a dampener on any plans to expand to new locations.
- Will there be added costs to customise the technology at a later date?
How to address common problems and improve customer relationship management
Getting and maintaining buy-in should be your main priority when planning CRM projects. This should be carefully managed before and after your go-live date.
Consider the key stakeholders involved and engage them early in the software implementation process. That means they should be consulted well before you have selected a software provider.
- Ensure they represent crucial business functions in your company. This includes back-end teams like finance and revenue teams with solid customer relationships. It is essential to break down organisational silos.
- There will likely be a mix of champions and blockers, so tailor your messaging to each group differently.
- These stakeholders are vital to gathering insights into key capabilities, integrations and functionality required. By involving them early, you are more likely to secure buy-in ad support during the implementation phase.
Communication and collaboration
Communication is a crucial element in improving adoption.
- Establish a clear agenda for how the CRM platform should be used in daily operations.
- Set realistic expectations and goals for user adoption, keeping track of progress through regular reviews.
- Offer incentives and rewards for those who actively engage with the platform.
- Use analytics and feedback to identify areas for improvement and adjust your CRM strategy accordingly.
After launching the platform, you must provide continuous training and support. Adopting a new CRM system means adjusting to new business processes, which can be challenging for your team.
- Learning should not be a one-size fits all solution. Consider the different levels of confidence with technology and skill levels.
- Training should also be tailored to different learning styles. Visual learners may prefer to watch a video online, but tactile users will need practical ways of learning.
- Encourage your team to ask questions and share their concerns, and give them enough time to learn and adapt.
- Regularly reassess and update training materials to accommodate changes in CRM features or company processes.
- Additionally, maintain open lines of communication between your team and your CRM provider to address any challenges that may arise.
Data governance and consistency
To ensure data quality, you should:
- Regularly review and update contact information.
- Establish clear standards and naming conventions.
- Train staff on proper data management practices.
- Implement measures for catching duplicates during data entry.
- Carry out regular audits to identify duplicate and inconsistent records.
- Utilise tools for identifying and merging duplicates automatically.