WHITE PAPER | PlayMaker CRM Educational Series

7 Habits of a Highly Effective CRM Implementation

Surveys conducted by The Gartner Group, Forrester, AMR, and other research entities often do not agree with one another regarding CRM success rates. Their surveys can differ greatly on measuring customer satisfaction. On the high side, you can find numbers stating that 65% of CRM users are not happy after the first year to a low estimate of 25%. Can you imagine 25%–65% of your customers being unhappy?!! Why such a large range? This wide disparity can be explained by the book Mastering the Hype Cycle: How to Adopt the Right Innovation at the Right Time published by Harvard Business Press and written by Jackie Fenn and Mark Raskino. A sample of the Hype Cycle is provided below and accurately summarizes the ups and downs of CRM market acceptance.


When the concept of CRM was introduced in the late 90’s, there was a huge rush on the marketplace. To those of us in the market, it appeared that a company’s need for CRM was second only to their being protected against Y2K…and we all remember what happened regarding Y2K. The CRM Hype Cycle peaked just prior to year 2000, when it began its downward slide in the Trough of Disillusionment. Cumbersome technology, high implementation costs, unrealistic expectations, user pushback, and unnecessary functionality were just a few factors that fueled the downward spiral. However, if such a high percentage of companies were not happy with CRM at that time…why did so many companies continue to adopt the technology? Simple, because those that did enjoy a successful CRM implementation were or became market leaders. The undeniable benefits of successful CRM initiatives far outweighed the risk. Fortunately for those of you who are now considering implementing a CRM solution, the technology is solidly on the Plateau of Productivity. The technology has been proven with an impressive record of success. In fact, one area that surveyors have always agreed on is the benefits enjoyed by successful CRM solutions. Even the most modest results are impressive. A search on the Internet for “CRM ROI expectations” will provide a wide array of positive results. However, the following goals reflect reasonable and modest expectations for your agency.

  • „10% increase in revenues each year over three years „
  • 5% increase in referral to close % „
  • 1% increase in margins each year over three years „
  • 3% increase in customer satisfaction ratings each year over three years „
  • 10% decrease in general sales and marketing costs each year over three years

I touched lightly on why so many companies failed with CRM initiatives. From this point forward I will focus on the characteristics of the successful.

1. Top-down commitment

The partner, the solution, and your agency… which is most important to CRM success? What leg is the most important on a three-legged stool? It baffles me how many companies overlook this vital piece of the puzzle. In fact, the #1 reason for CRM failures is lack of executive sponsorship. CRM defines, enables, and determines how your agency will interact with your contacts, accounts, and prospects. CRM touches many departments within an organization and that requires a sponsor with the ability to make corporate business process decisions. In addition, when use of the system is optional, results are dismal. When system participation is not only endorsed but mandated, the desired results are achieved. I recall meeting a gentleman who wrote infomercials for a living. He stated the secret to a good infomercial is that people must believe that all they have to do is purchase the product to obtain the desired result and not actually USE it! All of us who have an unopened Ab-Roller under our bed understand his message. If you are not committed as an organization to mandating its use, do not be surprised if you are still fat in the middle.

2. Choosing the right partner

I believe this is even more important than selecting your CRM solution. Having a partner that understands your needs, expectations, and business model, as well as the CRM technology, is vital to your agency’s success. Their experience should protect you from cost overruns and enable you to benefit from recommended “Best Practices.” A strong partner can assist you in overcoming a poorly selected CRM application. However, no software will overcome a poorly selected CRM partner. Ask questions regarding their experience in your market space and make sure they understand your business model. The simple phrase… “Customer Relationship Management”… is powerful because it defines your business. How you interact with your customers is what makes your business unique. This customer interaction is monitored, developed, and controlled by your CRM solution. It is imperative that your partner not only share your vision, but can transfer it into your system.

3. Choosing the right software

Not all CRM solutions are created equally. Especially when it comes to serving specific needs. The closer your targeted application is “out of the box” to your business model, the easier your implementation and learning curve. Keep customizations to a minimum by selecting a solution that closely resembles your business model. In the early days of CRM, untold implementation dollars were spent on removing functionality from systems so that end-users would have an easy learning curve. That is similar to purchasing a Ferrari and paying to have it stripped down to a go-cart. Understand your needs. Over-purchasing can be just as costly as under-purchasing. Make a simple checklist of “Must-Have,” “Optional,” and “Not-Needed” to evaluate features and functionality

4. Realistic expectations

In the beginning, make small, easily attainable goals while working toward a realistic ROI. This is where your partner can assist you by providing data from other users to help create project milestones and goals. A 10% increase in sales is excellent, but not if your expectations were 30%! Allow for the learning curve and recognize that change is difficult. Recognizing small milestones keeps the momentum moving forward and initiative alive.

5. Involve team

Keep your team involved in all phases of the project. If your team members come in Monday to an unexpected new system, I guarantee that employee push-back will be severe. “Push-back” can kill even the best solutions. Have members from all levels be a part of your selection team. At the very least, circulate a simple questionnaire that will allow employees to provide feedback and feel some ownership in the process. Create in-house “Super Users” who have the ability to train others. For those who are weak or not using the system, use an old IBM sales trick and assign them to teach training classes. There is always natural pushback to change but you can keep it to a minimum by involving everyone. 

6. Clean customer data

While I was growing up, my family moved a great deal and keeping my room clean was never a priority. I remember unpacking moving boxes in my brand new room and being disappointed to discover the movers packed all the junk I left at the old place. (“Geesh,” I thought, “they would have cleaned it for me,” but no…) Make everyone happy (and more successful) by making a concerted effort to clean your data before importing into your new solution. Users will be more receptive to the system because they will have confidence in its data. Being able to get to the same old misinformation faster will not win any points.

7. Awards. Awards. Awards.

Recognize and award users who are using the system. Salespeople will especially embrace a CRM solution when they see fellow users’ commission checks increase. Until then, use other incentives to reward participation. Consider awards such as:

  • „First person to clean all their contacts „
  • First new contacts entered „
  • Most leads entered into system „
  • Most opportunities „
  • Most creative way to use CRM data to increase business

In the early phases of the Hype Cycle, aggressive companies adopt new technology in an attempt to obtain an edge. During the mature phase, organizations adopt the very same technology in order to remain competitive. Since CRM has moved onto the Plateau of Productivity, the business question becomes not “if” but “when” will your organization adopt a CRM system.

To learn more about how PlayMaker CRM can help you grow your business, request a demo or contact us today!

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