Implementing a Customer Relationship Management System in Your Organisation

There are many Customer Relationship Management systems available.  But CRM is not just software or automation of business processes. It is  really a culture: a way of thinking within an organisation which is focused on the provision of top qualty customer/client service through intelligent communications and a holistic, person-centric view of your clients. 

Choosing and successfully implementing one requires multiple processes:

Understanding the benefits of CRM to your organisation

  • Build and strengthen the relationships with your clients
  • identify and provide value-added services to meet the needs of your clients
  • improve your ability to identify and respond to needs
  • increase staff awareness of client needs
  • Resolve client issues more quickly and efficiently
  • make beter decisions through a single view of the client


Understanding the requirements and processes of your organisation

Analyise your business processes.  Document who does what and when, tracking how information (probably paper documents) move from desk to desk and department to department.  Draw diagrams and look at where there is duplication, dual entry and movement of paper.  You should begin to see how information moves about the organisation and where efficiencies can be made.

Agreeing shared goals and vision for the CRM in the organisation

Ask everyone in the organisation what they want.  Compare this to your analysis and then ask them again what they actually really need.  Concentrate firstly on the outreach staff: those who are frequently out of the office and interacting with people.  Whilst support staff are generally quite comfortable with automation and systems, outreach staff often do not see their roles involving any such thing, so you cannot take their cooperation for granted.  A truly successful CRM system will have to meet the needs of the outreach staff.  It will have to be useful to them and easy to use.  Office staff will be able to fit in around that.  Remember that the office staff are the prime beneficiaries of CRM, but the outreach staff make it a success.

Articulating the benefits of CRM to key individuals in your organisation

The strength of CRM is that anyone in an organisation can access the history of a given client at any time to review the status and update it.  When a client calls, they then get the "VIP feeling" because the client feels that every employee in the organisation is aware of them and their issues.

But CRM is not just software or automation of business processes. It is really a culture - a way of thinking.

Get senior management to embrace the idea of CRM first.  They need to champion the adoption of it if the organisation is to engage in the cultural shift necessary for successful implementation and reap the rewards.  Work similarly with someone from the outreach staff and someone from the office staff, each of whom is respected in the organisation.  Their opinions count, so the system will need to make them happy.  Once they have been convinced of the benefits of CRM, they will influence the opinion of and ultimately the adoption of the system by other within the organisation.  These key stakeholders must be seen to use the system as their prime information source when it is being implemented.  These influential people will influence the behavior of everyone else.


Engineering a culture of CRM within your organisation

Internal systems need to be sold to staff.  Without their buy-in, you are throwing money away.  The implementation of CRM needs to be planned and rolled out in a managed fashion.  With the support of senior managers and key staff of influence, you can begin to demonstrate the effects and benefits of CRM, but it is necessary to stay supportive and encouraging in order to win the hearts of the staff team.  Concentrate on what is in it for the staff, just as much as why it is good for the organisation as motivation is as important as understanding.  Training is absolutely necessary, and a training session is an ideal time to sell the benefits of the system to all concerned.  People need to have their fears and reservations abated , so that they do not become barriers to adoption.

In Conclusion

CRM is a tool with huge potential for any organisation, and its successful implementation is a serious challenge.  It combines the technicalities of business process analysis with process automation, change management with selling a concept and training and support with an ongoing commitment to ensuring that the right data goes in so that the correct decisions come out.

Good practice needs to come from the top.  Only if the whole management team jointly agree that the CRM system is a key part of meeting the organisation's objectives, and then use it and be seen to use it themselves, will the full benefits be realised.



In addition to The Wheel's own experience in this area, this article draws on knowledge gleaned from the Open IT seminars held in March and April 2008 and from the following publications.