By Larry Caretsky
CEO, Commence Corporation
CRM software at the small business level is failing. Industry reports claim that there is as high as a 73 percent failure rate with the implementation and use of CRM among the small business community. Most people would find this alarming, but based on my experience in the industry it is not at all surprising.
CRM can automate the internal business processes that impact sales, marketing and customer service, but this assumes you have the processes in place to automate. Many do not. However, other factors are affecting the success rate of CRM in the small business community. I will be discussing them along with ways to ensure that you can realize the maximum value from the CRM solution you select for your business.
While we hear of a high failure rate with CRM software in the small to mid-sized sector, you rarely hear of a failed accounting system implementation. I wonder why that is. Perhaps if we dig a bit deeper and determine why the success rate of accounting software implementations is so good we can apply what is working in accounting to CRM software.
Three critical components must be in place to ensure the success of any software implementation. Let’s take a look at each one.
Mature Business Processes
When I talk about mature business processes, I am referring well-defined documented internal business processes that are followed and monitored by your staff and management. It’s interesting to note that the accounting department may be one of the only areas where this is already done for you. The federal government has outlined specific processes, procedures, and reporting that you must adhere to by law. If you do not your firm will be assessed a financially penalty for failure to do so. Unfortunately or fortunately, the government has not done this for sales, marketing, or customer service. You must do this yourself – and here lies the problem.
I have been engaged with dozens of companies over the years that simply do not have mature business processes in place. There is no process for tracking and following up on new leads or business opportunities, the sales process is not well defined, and the customer service department operates as a separate entity responding to e-mails and calls that the rest of the company is not even aware of. Some companies select a CRM solution hoping its implementation will address these business challenges, but lo and behold within 4 to 6 months they discover that nothing has changed, there is no measurable impact, and no one is using the product.
The second component to your success with CRM software has to do with the maturity of your staff and management. If we look at the accounting department, we will learn that the staff is highly trained, degreed and often certified in the principles of accounting. Now you have mature well-documented business processes managed by a mature, professionally trained accounting staff. Sales and customer service is quite different. Sales people tend to come from all ‘walks of life’ from young people entering the field, to those making a career change, to others that have been selling for many years. The service staff is often quite similar.
You will also find that accounting solutions have been around for decades and designed to address specific guidelines and reporting. As such, they pretty much all work the same way. CRM solutions, particularly those that are cloud based, are new in comparison. They operate differently, and may not provide the mature functionality you need to automate your internal business processes. This makes the selection of the right company and product important.
The third and perhaps an equally important component to the successful implementation and use of CRM software is management’s commitment to establishing internal business processes, training the staff, and informing everyone in the organization that the use of the system is a requirement of their job. This is imperative and plays an important role in your success or failure.
Your accounting software has been successful because you have a mature documented process in place, a well-trained staff, and management’s commitment to ensuring that procedures are followed and the system is utilized to address financial reporting requirements. This is the reason why there is such a high success rate with the implementation and use of accounting software.
If you agree with what I have indicated then it is clear that you need to follow the same process if you expect the implementation and utilization of CRM software to improve your business.
#1 – Get your internal processes for managing sales and customer service documented.
#2 – Assign an experienced sales and customer service representative to champion the implementation and use of the CRM system.
#3 – Make sure management is committed to this.
Your success depends on it.