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A CRM Implementation Checklist...for Failure

From the CRM projects I've worked on, evaluated, proposed, and completed, I've seen a handful of common denominators for failure. I call these "The Seven Deadly Sins of CRM." Consider the sins a checklist of what not to do if you want to enter the pearly gates of CRM nirvana.

Sin Number 1: Failure to define a CRM strategy. Simply defining what CRM means to your company is difficult enough without gathering consensus on a corporate-wide strategy. Companies routinely misinterpret business requirements and thus underestimate the complexity of CRM (remember the four quadrants in Figure 7-6?). Even if gathering consensus on what CRM means to the business and what it should deliver takes longer than you would need to simply begin development, take the time. It'll save you time and money in the end.

Sin Number 2: Failing to manage staff expectations. Many firms apply rigor to planning and development but forget about deploying the CRM system to the business. The CRM rollout in which an IT liaison sends an e-mail to sales staff announcing training for the new sales-force automation package is doomed before it's even delivered. Business users must be stakeholders from the inception of the CRM project, from planning through development and through to deployment. Anything else risks alienating potential end users, an irrevocable situation.

Sin Number 3: Failure to define success. What is CRM success and how do we know when we've achieved it? Even CRM business sponsors who understand the differences between CRM's various applications don't differentiate between increased cross-selling and improved profitability. I'm always surprised when I hear seasoned marketing execs refer to customer loyalty, customer value, and customer profitability as synonyms, as if expecting to achieve all three of these objectives with the first CRM release made sense. Define discrete success metrics—they'll be different for increasing customer profitability than for improving customer satisfaction—and then measure against them. If you don't, there could actually be business successes that aren't rightfully attributed to CRM.

Sin Number 4: Hasty ASP decisions. Companies haven't yet sorted out the advantages and disadvantages of the ASP model. Large companies assume ASPs serve only small markets and dot-coms that lack significant IT infrastructures. Small to mid-size firms assume ASPs are too costly, despite potential cost savings. Many companies are even underestimating their in-house resources and skill sets and jumping blindly onto the ASP bandwagon. Don't be one of them. Understand the pros and cons of the ASP model, and make a decision based on your business and functional requirements.

Sin Number 5: Failure to improve business processes. The proverbial mistake of "paving the cowpath" applies here: CRM should not simply overlay archaic corporate policies. It should instead formalize and automate nimble, customer-focused business processes. Be willing to drastically modify and continue to refine your business processes, and make sure your CRM technology incorporates these process modifications. And don't fall into the trap of hoping your new CRM tool will do this work for you. Processes should be defined from the customer's perspective, not the technology's.

Sin Number 6: Lack of data integration. Chapter 6 painted the picture of stovepipe CRM systems and the danger they can lead to if allowed to perpetuate. Effective customer-focused decision-making means understanding each customer across her various touchpoints and beyond your immediate knowledge of her age, income, preferred channel, or sales territory. The difficult truth is that customer data exists in multiple systems on a variety of technology platforms across your company. Finding, gathering, and consolidating this data isn't easy, but it's absolutely crucial.

Sin Number 7: Failure to continue socializing CRM to the enterprise at large. Companies who have delivered nothing less than revolutionary customer-facing improvements via CRM often rest on their laurels. CRM is an ongoing process, and success breeds success. Consider establishing an "internal PR" job function to communicate with executives and decision-makers who might determine ongoing funding, as well as to the various lines of business who might leverage the functionality and data to further their own customer focuses. Proselytizing CRM successes should not only be practiced but should be formalized and updated via regular newsletters, status meetings, or an internal Web site. Don't be shy about initially promoting CRM. If your customers experience improved service and your sales and marketing staffs generate more effective leads, it won't be long before CRM starts promoting itself.

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