October 26, 2020

How to Select the Right Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Tool (Part 3) Planning, Training, and Implementation

There are several reasons why the introduction of a new Customer Relationship Management (CRM) solution does not produce the desired results. Few things are more frustrating and financially detrimental than going through a large implementation process only to see it fail. We hope we have provided the information you need to support the right selection in part 1 and part 2. Now, we move on to some final steps to ensure your implementation process is a success. 

Implementing a CRM system in your company will allow you to better understand your customers and tailor your business to their needs. CRM solutions have various integrated functions that accurately analyze business improvement requirements to maximize your team’s impact with the customer. Use the plan below to ensure you have a high adoption rate of the new system, greater employee engagement and satisfaction, and long-term success with your new CRM.

Strategy and Implementation - Selecting the Right Partners

Most CRM companies offer services to help you with CRM customizations at a fee, usually pricey and paid by the hour. Moreover, this arrangement does not guarantee their long-term support and usually excludes training, which means you will have to train your team on a system that you may not fully understand yourself. Customer service support can also help you with the basics, giving you general answers through knowledge solutions pages, which can be a pain when you run into complex issues. Consider partnering with a professional strategy consulting and implementation company to avoid the troubles of setting up a CRM software solution alone. Companies like ours ensure you’ve got all your needs covered without risking the opportunity cost of dealing with the entire process on your own, often the one and only time your team will be doing an implementation. 

Selecting the right integration partner who has completed this process many times and can support the planning, implementation, and training is essential. A good integration partner should make your life easier and provide managed solutions to keep your implementation on time, on budget, and worry free. Using an integration partner also allows your team to focus on growing your business instead of building the framework. An implementation partner provides ongoing assistance, support and training, and recommends strategies that ensure quick results and long-term successes.

planning, training, and implementation

CRM evaluation, strategic development, and enactment are an implementation partners’ daily focus. After careful assessment of your unique business needs, they make sure every step of the CRM execution process considers and meets your unique needs, saving you time and money on installation, set up, training, management, and system maintenance costs. 

To find the right CRM consultant, you should follow a similar process in selecting the right CRM but adjust the scoring criteria to focus on experience, costs, change management, and customization / development expertise. Most of this information will need to come from a direct conversation with the company and from referrals they give you. Make sure to follow up on any referrals and ask specific questions about how the implementation partner handled issues when something went wrong. No matter how good the company is, there’s always roadblocks so it’s important to know how they handle the good and bad. The feedback you get from the negative scenarios shines a light on the areas where the vendor may need to improve. Those areas of improvement offer a chance for the company to address the changes they made and allow you to assess if it will impact your implementation.

Once selected, your CRM implementation partner will plan out the best solutions tailored to your needs. If you hire them before your final selection, they can help you select the CRM best suited for your business use case (just be careful of any bias towards systems the implementation partner knows best rather than what works best for your organization). They can also offer more advanced suggestions on work arounds when you have specific requirements that are not inherently available in the final CRM setup. Plus they can provide details on how to implement those work arounds enabling you to maximize your new system out of the gate or to prepare for ongoing updates as needed. 

Their expertise in overseeing new CRM instances and roll outs allows them to analyze and manage issues so they are solved quickly without impeding day to day operations. Once implemented, new solutions and maintenance can also often be handled by the same implementation partner. While costly, the benefit is that the people working on the system already have all the details they need to ensure new solutions don’t break or interrupt what’s previously been built. If you prefer to use an inhouse team for ongoing maintenance, make sure they keep / maintain flow charts and other technical documents to keep track of changes over time. That way, if you go back to the implementation partner with larger changes or additions, they will be able to get caught up on the adjustments made since launch and how that might impact their work.

All in all, the value you can gain from an expert is countless and will only increase the success rate of your CRM implementation. We highly recommend working with one or several as needed for the different aspects of implementation: research, strategy, customization, and change management.  

Process Flow Chart and Automation Opportunities

Every Organization operates on a system of processes that make up the business’ backbone, providing the ability to deliver its products and services to market. All companies must therefore establish an efficient, effective, and reliable system to ensure they build, track, and maintain the flow charts that make up their business success. Using flow charts and tracking adjustments over time allows a business to continuously optimize their results to the most ideal at each stage. They can also be a vital part of implementing your CRM. A good implementation partner will take on the process of getting these up to date and even adjusted for the changes the CRM may require before beginning a build. Defining your business processes is an essential first step. 

The process flow chart will help you define automation opportunities by visualizing repetitive or programmable steps of your process. Understanding these processes during the CRM research and build will help narrow the choices to the best CRM solutions for your teams. A process flowchart can provide clear insights on what needs to be done to mirror your process in the CRM and identify gaps in the current system so that you can fix them before exhausting all your implementation resources. Make sure you have planned out your system via process flow charts and reviewed these charts with all stakeholders. This will allow your implementation partner to work on a list of automations as part of your new CRM build or transition them from your previous systems.

Testing Environment, “Sandbox” Build, for Process Issue Identification and Improvements

In order to implement the processes you have outlined, it’s important to set up a testing environment. This inactive environment will allow you to build out all the processes within your flow chart and test their functionality before pushing anything to a live version. It will also allow for a training instance of the CRM so that you can teach and onboard team members without accidentally triggering external communication with clients when using live data. During testing and training, it’s inevitable that issues or unknown process roadblocks are found with a newly implemented system. When a conflict is found, it should be addressed with the implementation partner and potentially with the teams whose processes will be affected. Communicate your concerns effectively to make sure issues are resolved quickly as some issues may not necessarily pose as errors in the system but more as a failure to meet specific business or team requirements. In many cases, there are workarounds or just slightly new processes that need to be put into place to provide optimal results within the system’s architecture as well as for your team.

During the setup and even when you move to production, a team should be assembled to manage issues, report bugs, and resolve them by working closely with the team that was in charge of the project. Since that original leadership team understands and helps maintain the flow charts / decision making process, they will make sure that any subsequent changes don’t negatively impact another team or system. 

Moreover, as the system is monitored, brainstorming and development of new solutions should be a continuous process to cope with changing and growing needs of the organization. The testing environment should be maintained as a mirror of the active system and used to push updates as they are confirmed. Establishing a good system of feedback from your team in the live system is the best way to make sure your CRM is as effective as possible. Once everything is properly set up, your leadership team will have a better understanding of the system and any final changes to be made before a training program is developed.

Establishing Training in the Test Environment

Training is essential to make sure your team is equipped with the skills and knowledge needed to take advantage of the CRM. Without proper training, you might just be heading for a downfall as your CRM system serves as the primary means of getting to your customers efficiently to support your business goals. When you implement your CRM, make sure your employees understand the business processes that the new system will support. If your business process provides the right training for the system, it will be greatly beneficial for your business in the long term. Keep in mind, your CRM is used for a variety of teams, not just the customer service or sales staff. You will be wasting good talent if the problem is simply a lack of training on the different segments and user configuration issues. 

CRM training and implementation

A crucial requirement in the CRM implementation is getting your employee’s support. You definitely want to avoid employees who won’t use the software because they feel it will affect their performance negatively as opposed to enhancing their ability and productivity. This is usually the mindset that occurs when employees lack the training and understanding of the company’s vision for the CRM’s purpose. Always remember to keep them in the loop with updates on the CRM. Furthermore, make sure you have presented the goals and direction of the business clearly as well as how the tool can support those goals. Create an ongoing plan for training your team members and assure leadership provides this to all new employees after deployment. 

Your employees drive the organization’s success and will need the right support and mentors to ensure your CRM system is deployed successfully. If their processes are not included in training, important aspects of their work may not be completed on time or aligned with other areas of the business.

By training in the test environment of the CRM system, you can improve customer relations by ensuring proper cohesion of all teams working within the system. This training process can also help in the development of various new integrating systems and channels based on user feedback. The goal at this stage is for the user to confirm that they can perform the activities when the time comes to move to the live version.

Training in this testing environment allows representatives to take risks and make mistakes. Problematic areas and issues will be tracked throughout the training process and will be included in future training or system improvements so your team is aware of the processes that need to be addressed and resolved.

Roll Out, Monitoring, and Continuous Improvement Feedback Loop

Roll out the new system implementation at an ideal time by making a launch plan during non-peak hours of the business. This will minimize business risks and disruption in normal business operations. Ensure all is functioning well and as expected by testing all aspects of the system with several select employees before launch deploying to the entire team. 

Break the rollout into manageable phases. This is the perfect way to gradually introduce CRM software to a large number of people in your company. Next, you need to determine how much functionality you will introduce at each stage of the rollout. The first stage of your rollout should be an absolute minimum of functionality and should be small and as least stressful as possible. The initial phase often has the greatest difficulties due to the shock from the teams which can occur even with solid training. 

For international or large national companies, the location of employees may have an impact on how the training is received and how confident they will feel with the change. While all CRM implementations begin with extensive employee training, it should also include feedback loops to ensure your teams can work unimpeded while the experts fix issues as quickly as possible. 

After your initial implementation, it’s vital to set a regular and ongoing evaluation of the system. Consistently monitor post-implementation usage and reassess processes monthly, quarterly, or as needed depending on issues that are raised in your feedback loop. Categorize these requests on a priority scale to identify if the issue must be addressed immediately or if it can be updated during a future roll out.

Regularly communicate with the implementation partner about all your concerns and issues with the tool as it is used in the production (live) environment. While some of these issues may be out of scope, the vendor should be willing to work with you for a reasonable rate to ensure your team is happy with the final results. Make sure the team is addressing any immediate bugs or previously unknown implementation or integration issues as soon as possible. It is normal for a team to try new features and fail at full implementation at the first pass. The most important aspect is that issues are addressed immediately. The sooner something fails, the sooner the team can address the issue - ideally before it impacts the customer. Always remember to have a backup of all systems in case the rollout runs into a catastrophic failure and the old system needs to be reinstated to avoid impeding the daily operations of the business.

In addition to standard bug or implementation issues, you should meet with your employees to find out what works well and what challenges they face when using the new CRM. You can use this information to create new workflows for continuous improvement. Collecting employee feedback is critical to full adoption. \

Customer engagement metrics are one of the most valuable components of CRM software, helping companies track customer satisfaction and drop off points at each stage of the sales funnel. Assessing the effectiveness of each customer interaction is another important feedback loop to implement once the CRM is in active use. Your implementation partner is also likely adept at analyzing data from a multitude of interactions and providing recommendations to improve results at each stage.

CRM planning and improvement

Identify the benchmarks in your industry for your sales funnel to ensure that your business processes are aligned with the best in class results. Customer feedback speaks volumes about their experience with your company processes. If you see a larger than expected drop off percentage between stages, it may be due to an internal process that could use further improvement. 

The ongoing updates in your customer relationship management system and ever changing processes for your teams enable long-term success. Companies that continuously adapt and use technology to their advantage thrive, whereas businesses content with the status quo often falter in time. Selecting the right CRM and implementation partner as well as engaging in continuous improvements with your processes will ensure long-term success for your organization no matter what new challenges occur.

Our services

Leaders, Organizations, and Individuals come to Universal Creative Solutions with their WHY - their vision for the world, their company, their product, or their path in life.

We help them plan and achieve their WHY by coupling it with the HOW - a pathway to making that vision a reality. We clarify the concepts or objectives, break down the goals into the required assets, stakeholders, and key results, as well as provide or connect them to any needed resources and consulting services every step of the way.

Whether you need a structured plan or a dedicated partner to help you achieve your goals, Universal Creative Solutions is honored to work towards better solutions together.