Customer Relationship Management First Steps

Deploying an enterprise-wide Customer Relationship Management system is an ambitious undertaking. See the Customer Relationship Management Overview for the big picture. It requires a commitment to a customer-centric vision by all departments. Attempting such a substantial scheme can cause culture shock as well as sticker shock. Marketing and business divisions are often not patient with the time required for massive IT rollouts. For a successful implementation, the project management choices are as important as the software decisions.

Enculturate Incrementally

Scope out the extended project and its expectations carefully. Then start at the top - make sure you have Board level commitment. Next, create a project team with representatives from each department. This will aid in getting the collaborative atmosphere going. The various representatives can bring to the table some foresight on the types of reporting their group is likely to request.

The team should plan for smaller elements of the plan that can be implemented in palatable stages. The committee will then work with an implementation team either internally or from a CRM software provider. These short-term successes shown by the smaller projects will help create buy-in across the enterprise, paving the way for the larger roll-out.

Schedule extra time. These projects by default require analysis of current work processes and the data sources that will be migrated into the CRM system. Also, plan time to train employees and set up help desk resources for each change in work process. Whether you focus your initial projects by location, department or otherwise, be sure to announce milestones and celebrate whenever shared information benefits business.

Find Your Focus

Always remember that the customer is first. Work toward customer profiling. Find out what your existing, profitable customers want, so that you meet their needs, but also so you don't overshoot the mark and spend more than is necessary.

Once you find the most pressing business needs for the customer, begin to find your focus -- whether in customer service, marketing campaign management, sales order management, call center sales, IVR systems, or field force automation. This focus can be the basis for each of your short-term projects across the enterprise, so that no project exists in isolation.

Mind the Details

It's hard to predict the types of reporting that will be requested enterprise-wide in the future, so a great deal of detail will need to be maintained over time. The best architecture for your CRM base would involve a single data warehouse of customer information. Various data marts, or views of the data could be created from this database. See the CRM Overview for more detail.

Choose the Right Vendor

CRM Software exists for vastly different functionalities. Don't lose sight of your determined CRM focus. It must be the focus of your CRM software as well. Ask the vendors how they will meet your specific, step-by-step procedural needs. How will the software solution integrate with legacy applications in your enterprise? How much access will you have to integration experts from the vendor? What other similar companies to yours has the vendor worked with? Can the vendor guarantee installation by your timetable?

Rinse and Repeat

Always remember that Customer Relationship Management is a process itself. Evaluate your strategy and processes on an ongoing basis to meet the changing needs of your company.

For more information on choosing the right CRM solution for your company, read our Customer Relationship Management Overview.

Go to Bitpipe Research Guide: Customer Relationship Management.


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