As the CEO of a customer relationship management software company, I’ve seen thousands of successful CRM installations over the past 10 years. Given that about a third of CRM projects fail, however, I’ve also seen the obstacles that halt CRM users on the road to successful adoption and usage.
Even if you’ve chosen the perfect software for your business and dedicated plenty of time to planning and developing a usage strategy, it’s still entirely possible that you or any other CRM user on your team could misstep in daily usage. The good news is that CRM mistakes are rarely catastrophic. The whole purpose of the system is to make your life easier, after all.
Mistakes are a simple fact of life, so the best course of action is to familiarize yourself with the most common CRM stumbles and know how to tackle them if they do occur. Here are five I often see:
1. Deleting old contacts and data: After seeing the sheer amount of data a CRM system collects, analyzes, and organizes, it can be tempting to start cleaning out your cache by deleting info and contacts you no longer find useful. Not only is this unnecessary — most platforms have more than enough storage room for all your data — but you can end up deleting data that might be helpful one day.
You can’t predict where your company will be in a few years (sometimes even in a few months) and deleting a contact is like burning a potentially important bridge. The contact you didn’t find useful last year could become your biggest and most important client two years from now — unless, of course, you toss all of his or her information away. Then, that person will become someone else’s hugely important client.
Do this instead: Organize old contacts into pipelines and groups so you can stay focused and retain your data. If you’ve already deleted some data, establish a policy to prevent further data deletion. Work with your team and customer support to come up with customizations that will keep everyone organized around that policy.
2. Obsessive organizing: The temptation to “Marie Kondo” your data is the same one you may feel when you first start importing data from an old system. You put every detail into its own custom field for every single contact. You may even get lost in creating pipelines for the tiniest of processes. Resist the urge!
Overorganizing your data can overcomplicate the software, making it increasingly more difficult to train for and use. Implementing a new CRM system isn’t just a software change — it’s a process change. Your goal should be to keep it a manageable one. Simplified data mapping will be key to that sustainability.
Do this instead: Talk to your customer service team about coming up with a simple, flexible data organization plan that focuses only on the data points you need right now. You can always re-evaluate your setup further down the line and broaden the focus to accommodate future projects and needs.
3. Forgetting to follow up: If you’re used to using spreadsheets to collect and store data, you may be more likely to overlook your new CRM software’s ability to remind you to follow up. You won’t have to remember to reach out to or follow up with clients if you remember to utilize the platform’s built-in features, like letting it run your schedule.
A CRM solution’s purpose is to improve your company’s relationships, and following up is vital to truly managing them. The sale doesn’t stop at the register. Even if you don’t delete old contacts, they may delete you from their lists if you let those relationships go stale.
Do this instead: Build momentum in your relationships by creating new customer pipelines and building follow-ups into your existing ones. In your CRM policies, ask everyone to thank customers and set follow-ups after every interaction. Salespeople should also check their CRM calendars every day for appointments and calls.
4. Thinking you can set it and forget it: In most other areas of your business, it’s important to continually test what works and what doesn’t. The same is true for your CRM software. Simplification is the goal, and while the software can automate some things, relationship management as a whole isn’t one of them. You don’t want to set the system up, then fail to revise it.
That also means you don’t have to set everything up perfectly the first time around, which takes some of the pressure off your initial installation. However, you’ll need to continue improving upon your CRM setup — as well as your sales process, customer support, and product or service itself.
Do this instead: Schedule a task or meeting to evaluate your CRM system usage at least once a year. Stay on top of new features as they roll out, consider how those features will affect workflow, and loop customer support in for advice.
5. Changing your software but not your business processes: In the early stages of CRM installation and adoption, you must structure your mindset not just around adding new software, but around creating business process changes, too. If your staff members adopt a new CRM platform for daily use but fail to change any other aspects of their workflow, they’re likely going to end up doing more work, not less.
Let’s say you have a policy in which salespeople must email you information on every sale they close. When you adopt a new CRM platform that organizes that information after salespeople input the data, that policy becomes unnecessary. If you don’t remove or modify it, you’re just doubling the data entry — and the amount of work your sales team members have to do. The CRM should be removing the work, not adding to it.
Do this instead: Make sure you are aware of the CRM’s role in your employees’ day-to-day tasks. Ask for input on what parts of their jobs the system has changed; then, adjust your business processes to avoid duplicate work.
Learning and perfecting new software usage is a hard game — no matter the size or scope of your business. Like any other business process, CRM usage is a skill that will require work and creativity to master. But if you do it correctly, adopting a CRM software will be more than an add-on; it will be the new and improved way your company does business.
To find out more about how to avoid common mistakes with your CRM, download your free copy of Less Annoying CRM’s e-book “CRM Bootcamp.”