A post listing ten areas where most CRM implementations are failing.

If there are two acronyms you don’t see together often enough, it’s CRM and ROI. Often the issue isn’t with software choices, but with the way they were implemented. Management buy-in, employee training, the pain-in-the-behind factor, or (sadly) vendors who didn’t get it. Check this list to see if your CRM rig has room for improvement.

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1. It’s supposed to empower people, not impose on them

By far the biggest issue in the success of CRM is the mindset of the people using it. How bought in to CRM are they… really? Was it enthusiastically received as the answer to their problems, or groaned at?

Write it on your forehead: people are the most important term in the equation. Better still, your IT and Marketing people’s foreheads.

2. It’s a Marketing tool seen as an IT project

CRM is supposed to empower the Sales & Marketing team. But – as you know all too well – complex software projects frequently get dumped on IT’s shoulders, who are supposed to work out the KPIs and CSFs themselves.

CRM is an S&M success factor. If you’re the IT bod tasked with rolling it out, make sure your Sales and Marketing directors know precisely how much input you need from them.

3. It’s supposed to be a Single Version of the Truth

The best uses of CRM flow when it’s everywhere: on every desk and department, the go-to place to store customer details. Far too often, it sits alongside or on top of other databases, including the humble Excel spreadsheet. With data forking more times than the Florida Turnpike.

Integration is a difficult job, but it’s critical to CRM success. Never forget that integration with other sources of info is at least half the job.

4. It sticks in the Sales silo

CRM is often sold as a tool for Sales. That’s true – but with social CRM, campaigning plug-ins, and even financial data capture, it works equally well for Marketing, Finance, Management, and countless other vertical functions.

So if CRM is known only to a few insiders, try introducing its features to people outside the sales function. If everyone at C-level has problems gathering accurate data (they do) show them a dashboard. If your Accounts people have trouble matching Purchase Orders to costs, demo some plug-in apps. CRM can take a lot of the leg work away.

5. It should let you act, not react

Social listening, e-CRM, the blogosphere… some CRM partners don’t think the world beyond your office matters. Yet a hotline to the mass subconscious – the Tweets, the Posts, the reviews and reputations created when people talk about you not to you – empowers your colleagues to take action (corrective or otherwise) early.

Most switched-on business people have an idea of what CRM does. It’s worth opening your non-techie colleagues’ eyes to the other things it can do.

6. It should create opportunities, not bog you down

There are many uses of CRM… but sometimes people get mixed up in the administrative aspects, blinding themselves to what that dull-but-essential work enables.

It’s hard, but keep your data policy (or equivalent document) short and simple, so people aren’t turned off by entering the details of a new client accurately. (Or worse, outsourcing it to a temp.)

7. It’s supposed to build relationships

Ideally, each campaign or customer communication should be part of a “conversation over time” – each mailing learning from how that customer behaved last time. Yet countless campaigns are launched treating long-term customers like fresh-found prospects.

Have a chat with your colleagues and see if they’re using CRM more as a list than a network. Then show them the power of what it can really do.

8. It should provide real business intelligence

Your CRM database isn’t a static list. With a few thousand names and activities recorded, it becomes a useful tool for predicting and testing.

It can be as simple as: do customers respond more when contacted on a weekly or monthly basis? It’s surprising how many companies don’t know these simple metrics. If you’re in a position to share these findings, shout them from the rooftops.

9. It’s supposed to replace things, not add to them

CRM can extend into many areas of your business. Yet often it just adds to what was there before. Creating numerous troubles in the IT dept, who usually get the raw end of the extra work.

So if you’re doing a feasibility study, see where CRM could simplify and replace other systems, driving costs out of the whole business. Especially legacy apps that are costing too much to support.

10. It’s supposed to make life easy!

A final note: CRM should improve your business, not hamper your people. For every task and requirement on the list, see whether the CRM rollout you’re planning will make the item easier (less time, less effort) or harder.

To sum up, make sure everyone who matters thinks of CRM as an enabler, not a  technology. Your job may – just – get easier because of it.


  • CRM needs buy-in from everyone, not just Sales
  • Remember, it’s there to enable better business, not take up time
  • For everything it adds, see what you can take away

Discover why  CRM projects are affected by slow user adoption in this guide: ‘The Ultimate Guide to why Slow User Adoption Affects 49% of CRM Projects’.

This post first appeared on the Redspire blog.