Introduction

Effective customer engagement, acquisition, and sales are unquestionably vital for most organisations. Even organisations funded primarily by the government/donors often need to nurture and engage customers and stakeholders.

As we move forward, customers and stakeholders are often becoming more sophisticated and knowledgeable. Furthermore, competition is growing, and consistent engagement is essential. The more personalised your engagement is with customers, the better retention rates you’ll have. Customer Relationship Systems (CRM) have become more popular due to the increasing complexity of the business world.

With the vast array of information to track and capture during customer engagement, it’s no wonder that organisations have an appetite to implement better software. CRMs are often seen as the answer. In 2019, a study showed that 91% of organisations with over 11 employees use a CRM, and 50% of companies with ten or fewer will also use a CRM (business.com).

Due to the broad recognition of the importance of CRMs, and the many pitfalls that organisations face, I share the following points in this post:

 

  1. Learn from low CRM success rates
  2. Avoid overconfidence in ‘big named’ CRM vendors
  3. Don’t overlook important CRM vendors
  4. Focus first on your requirements
  5. Do you need a CRM?

Learn from low CRM success rates

Beware. While at first, you may think that CRM software is a wonderful idea (and it is, but there’s a caveat), many CRM projects have incredibly high failure rates. Failure rates of CRM implementations are estimated to range from 18% to 70%; that’s a huge range and not many companies feel confident about taking a risk on, and understandably so. But, that is as high, if not higher, than Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system implementations!

An article in Harvard Organisation Review highlights important information about CRM failures:

“In 2017, CIO magazine reported that around one-third of all customer relationship management (CRM) projects fail…. The numbers ranged from 18% to 69%. Those failures can mean a lot of things — over-budget, data integrity issues, technology limitations, and so forth. But in my work with clients, when I ask executives if the CRM system is helping their organisation to grow, the failure rate is closer to 90%.” (HBR)

But don’t be disheartened. Instead, keep reading to learn about how CRMs can be implemented more successfully.

In my experience, the main reasons for low success rates are:

  • Essential features are not provided by the CRM (refer to the heading below).
  • Overconfidence creates blind spots in the software vendor. (We zero in on this issue in the next section.)
  • Users and other stakeholders aren’t taken on the journey, and their mindset is not adjusted to suit the new way of working.
  • Data quality is inadequate.
  • Systems aren’t integrated, staff need to double-key data, and it’s not readily available during customer engagement.
  • The software is not aligned with the way that staff need to work.
  • The software can be prohibitively expensive and difficult to justify long-term, especially when limitations persist.
  • Projects are underestimated, with all of the above issues further exacerbating the problem.

Let’s talk about overconfidence in what ‘big named’ CRM vendors can do.

Avoid overconfidence in ‘big named’ CRM vendors

A handful of CRM vendors dominate the marketplace in terms of success and usage. Sometimes people are aware of a few prominent CRM vendors and are oblivious to numerous other vendors that offer solid solutions. One of the downsides to this is that it’s easy to limit our thinking of what’s possible by what the prominent named vendors provide.

Ask yourself – ‘What CRM vendors do I know of?’ Then, see how many you can list….! Did you list Salesforce, Microsoft Dynamics CRM, HubSpot, Adobe? Unfortunately, some of these vendors are missing important features or prohibitively expensive and complex add-ons. At a certain point, this outweighs their value and can put you in the negative for ROI. That’s not what organisations want or need.

Don’t overlook important CRM vendors

Noteworthy CRMs that you shouldn’t overlook are listed below. Perhaps solutions like this can provide more features for a lower cost. Don’t overlook these CRM vendors:

  • SugarCRM for a comprehensive set of capabilities across CRM, marketing, communications, and integration. This powerful software is suitable for a whole range of organisations. Note that Apple recently implemented SugarCRM globally and replaced Salesforce with it. That’s got to mean something. This CRM is not to be overlooked.
  • ActiveCampaign for a capable software solution that provides a whole range of features in a single solution. This easy-to-use and flexible software is suitable for many small and medium-sized organisations.
  • Zoho CRM and other Zoho solutions such as SalesIQ, SalesInbox, Campaigns makes this a relatively easy to implement CRM. What it lacks in some more advanced features, it makes up for with ease-of-use.

My point is that there are many great options available beyond the ‘big names’.

However, it’s most healthy to primarily focus on your organisation’s requirements rather than be distracted by what a specific software vendor offers.

Focus first on your requirements

Before deciding on what’s best for your organisation, it’s a good idea to focus on what your organisation requires before settling on a solution. Of course, not all CRMs are created equal, and that’s a good thing. However, it would be best if you got clear on what it is precisely your organisation needs to capture and how your staff will access it before you can begin to consider weeding out current marketplace CRMs. Knowing what you need, and don’t need, are two sides of the same valuable coin for purchasing a CRM for your organisation.

Perhaps various integrated systems will do the job if you don’t have a CRM, or a CRM may be best. 

Either way, ensure that your organisation’s requirements can be met in the following areas:

  • TRACK ENQUIRIES AND SALES: Many organisations need to track leads, enquiries, referrals, and deals. If this main activity is overly complex, there’s lots of duplication and lots of opportunities for things to fall through the cracks, you’ll need to think carefully about what is required. Each customer/client/contact/stakeholder should be easy to find, information about them and their enquiries should be accessible, and a variety of staff should be able to move enquiries and deals forward without barriers.
  • TAILORED CUSTOMER JOURNEYS: The customer’s journey needs to cater for their needs and preferences. The CRM should cater for each customer’s scenarios and requirements and apply the relevant customer journey path on a case-by-case basis.
  • USE A RANGE OF COMMUNICATION CHANNELS including email, SMS, phone calls, chat, social media, postage during interactions without working super hard.
  • TRACK ENGAGEMENT WITH OTHER STAKEHOLDERS: In some cases, more than customer data needs to be updated. In some organisations, secondary decision-makers, partners, suppliers, and (possibly) employees are relevant to the CRM. Sometimes the CRM is the best ‘relationship’ tool regardless of whether the person is a customer or not.
  • INTEGRATION OF YOUR SYSTEMS AUTOMATICALLY, consider which other systems store relevant data for your customers – Finance/ERP, Service, Filestore, Email, Social media, Call centre software, Reporting
  • DATA STORAGE AND DATA CENTRE LOCATION: storing customer data exclusively in Australian data centres need to be a priority for many organisations to ensure compliance and privacy
  • MOBILE-ENABLED CRM, allowing staff to move around and not be restricted to their desk.
CRM requirements

Do you need a CRM?

Does your organisation need a CRM? Ask yourself how often you need to capture customer data, how much data you’re capturing, and what types of data you’re capturing. Once you have a detailed list, you have a better idea of what you may or may not need. There is a chance you don’t need a CRM, and it would only be an added and unnecessary expense for your organisation. In this case, move on! However, if you need one, there are some things to consider for upgrading or switching your CRM software.

If you already use a CRM, I encourage you to rate its performance in the following areas. Perhaps various integrated systems will do the job if you don’t have a CRM, or a CRM may be the best path to embark on.

The questions that I would suggest are:

  • Can staff achieve what they need with customers, enquiries, and deals without needless frustration?
  • Does customer and sales information exist in other systems, and are these systems effective?
  • If systems were integrated and data flowed between them, how much would that improve the situation?

Decide what’s best and take the action required to make life easier for staff and customers. Carefully consider CRM options, weigh up pros and cons, take advantage of trial periods, and leverage the experience of implementation partners and people with first-hand experience. Before rushing into any decision, work closely with staff and CRM vendors to determine which solution works best and provides value-for-money before moving forward.

CRMs are worth their weight when they easily support core business functions, staff enjoy using it, and the value far exceeds the cost!

Conclusion

Regardless of what is best for your organisation, I can guarantee there’s room for improvement!

Improvement to processes, staff training, data, system integration, communication channels, customer service, and IT systems. CRMs are an excellent added benefit for many different industries. It can make or break your organisation and customer retention rates. Be sure to always do your research before purchasing a new CRM.

Whatever your priorities and requirements, Emergent can assist. We can help you streamline your business, define business requirements, identify the CRMs worth looking at, select software, support system integration, implement software, manage change, and support the realisation of benefits.

I’d be delighted to hear from you. Don’t hesitate to reach out.

Anthony Butler