CRM Best Practices
CRM application best practices are normally categorized or segmented by company demographics, software module and business purpose. For simplicity, we've aligned several best practices below with the CRM life cycle and system evolution. We'll be appending this best practices page periodically in order to continuously increase the list.
CRM Software Selection Best Practices
- In your CRM software system review, always develop a Request For Proposal (RFP) document as part of the software selection project. There is often a temptation or reluctance to bypass this effort and investment, however, the RFP process is extraordinary valuable in identifying and prioritizing the company's most critical business systems requirements.
- Rely on the RFP process to down select two or three software vendors for on-site demonstrations. If RFP scoring determines that two software solutions are far and above the rest of the group, limit your demos to just those two. If the RFP scoring shows a close three horse race, then increase to three CRM software demos. Don't be tempted to incur more than three application demonstrations as it is very likely to overwhelm attendees and cause more confusion than help.
- When it's time for software demos, absolutely do not allow the generic presentations. Give each vendor a detailed demo script well in advance so that the vendor can fully demonstrate the software capabilities which are most important to your company. Some companies also limit powerpoint presentations to 10 minutes in order to reduce coverage on the software company's CEO and permit more focus and time in the application software.
- After the preferred CRM system is selected, be certain to append that vendors RFP response document, as well as any other documentation that was relied upon in choosing that vendor, to the vendor's software license agreement.
- If you are considering a software-as-a-service (SaaS) or hosted CRM solution, get a historical schedule showing all unplanned AND planned system downtime incurred over the last three years. You may want to also ask enough probing questions to determine whether the SaaS CRM provider clouds downtime under the guise of maintenance.
- Also, if you are looking to subscribe to a hosted CRM solution, request an information security briefing by the vendors security team in order to understand and verify the protection mechanisms and safeguards for your critical information. It may be a worthwhile investment to actually visit the hosting company's data center.
- Lastly, with software-as-a-service CRM systems, be certain to get the SLA (Service Level Agreement) in advance. Verify the SLA is not watered down or impaired with "planned maintenance" exclusions and that there are financial credits or penalties for failing to achieve the guaranteed uptime. Surprisingly, it can be a real struggle to acquire a meaningful SLA with certain SaaS CRM vendors such as Salesforce.com. However, other SaaS companies such as Oracle, SAP and Aplicor routinely provide SLA coverage.
CRM Software Implementation Best Practices
- Unless you are experienced with CRM implementations, lean toward a multiple phased implementation approach over the big bang method. While the big bang approach can decrease the total implementation period, it also increases risk.
- A CRM software implementation period is often an optimal time to reengineer business processes and implement business process improvements.
- Be sure to perform a data sampling analysis of your existing data very early in the implementation project. Most companies are not aware of their poor data quality until they reach the data conversion step. This late recognition can put the entire project behind at an early stage.
- Recognize that user adoption is an extraordinarily common CRM implementation obstacle and implement a structured change management program (CMP) early in the planning phase.
- Don't over-customize the CRM application software. Modifying the vendor's commercial application introduces significant risk to the project. If software customization is required, determine whether it can be delayed until after an initial go-live of the unmodified software product.
- Don't under-estimate or under-budget the user training program. This is a frequent mistake that compounds user adoption challenges. Users need more than a single classroom training course before going live with a new enterprise CRM application.
CRM Software Utilization Best Practices
- Recognize that CRM is a continuous journey and not a destination. For sustained success, CRM requires continuous process improvement and constant learning. While the effort is significant, the payback in terms of improved customer relationships and greater contribution to the company's most strategic objectives more than offset the effort and costs.
- Monitor, measure and trend CRM software utilization. Also be sure to take immediate action if utilization unexpectedly decreases (this could be an early red flag indicating a user adoption issue). Timely discovery can lead to a prompt remedy.
- Create a user training curriculum and program for new-hires. Also be sure to offer self study guides and help manuals for users to incur advanced learning on-demand and at their own pace.
- Schedule departmental, line of business or other group training classes after each CRM system version upgrade. These classes focus on new system capabilities and can usually be completed in a day.