Key to CRM Success Found in People, Processes

SMBs need to think about getting their business processes in order and getting buy-in from employees before they start thinking of which CRM package to invest in, panelists say at the SMB Virtual Tradeshow.

Too many companies, including small and midsize organizations, put the cart before the horse when it comes to making plans to implement a CRM package.

They start thinking about what type of customer relationship management software package they should buy or build before they start planning on what they want CRM to do for the company, according to experts who spoke during a panel discussion Thursday during the Ziff Davis Internet SMB Virtual Tradeshow.

In reality, "80 percent of success in your CRM initiative is related to people and process. And 20 percent is about technology," said Barton Goldenberg, founder and president of ISM, a CRM technology and services company based in Bethesda, Md.

Some companies already have elaborate business processes in place to serve customers, he noted. But too often top management teams dont actually get into "the belly of the beast" of their business operations to see whether customers are being properly served by these business processes, he noted.

Companies have to fix their business processes, Goldenberg said, before they decide how they will implement CRM to automate them.

/zimages/4/28571.gifClick here to read why SMBs have a tough time sorting through all the potential choices for enterprise software.

Furthermore, too many companies fail to prepare the way to enable the people to understand what CRM is supposed to do for the organization so they will work with it successfully, Goldenberg said.

Convincing people that CRM will deliver benefits to the organization represents half the effort required to make a CRM implementation a success, he said.

"If you try to force the technology into your organization, you will fail in a CRM initiative," he said.

"If you put into place the right processes and get people to buy into these process changes or process improvements and then use the technology, youve got a better chance of succeeding," he said.

Employees have to be convinced that CRM is actually going to achieve business benefits for them personally, such as "I could sell better. I could market more effectively. I could serve customers more quickly or more effectively," said Goldenberg.

You will know that your employees have accepted CRM, he said, when you discover that if you tried to "take away their PCs and they wont give [them] back to you because they tell you, Listen, thats got my CRM system on it, and Im not letting it go."

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John Pallatto

John Pallatto

John Pallatto has been editor in chief of QuinStreet Inc.'s since October 2012. He has more than 40 years of experience as a professional journalist working at a daily newspaper and...