The Five Things You Must Do Immediately To Succeed With CRM


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Although millions of people remain out of work, the economy has clearly thawed and organizations are returning to investing customer-facing business process with a vengeance. Client inquiries and advisory work on CRM topics is going through the roof here at Forrester. Our most recent forecast for global IT purchases of business software anticipates a healthy 9.7% increase in 2010, after brutal decline of 8.0% in 2009. And, Social CRM is all the rage in the blogosphere.

If you are watching the Olympics, you know that the figure skaters spend years practicing to hone their fundamental skills before trying advanced patterns. And, they never stop practicing their elementary figures. My latest report on the key trends driving CRM technology adoption spotlights flawless execution will continue to separate successful CRM initiatives from losers.

We surveyed 58 business and IT professionals to identify the best practices for getting more value from CRM technology projects. These five fundamentals were the key to success before the economic meltdown — and they remain so today:

• Best Practice No 1: Double efforts to increase user adoption. CRM initiatives can grind to halt when they run up against NIH (“not invented here”) attitudes of users who feel like they have not been consulted about their needs. A good example of how to bring users into the fold is a multi-national bank with over 3000 CRM users that invited 84 users to participate directly in the CRM vendor selection decision. These users attended video conferences to review vendor solutions and then voted for the one that best fit their needs. This was followed by series of webinars where users from around the world viewed and critiqued prototype solutions developed by the CRM team. Finally, the end solution was tested in pilot programs in four different countries. This process built a strong user constituency who eagerly embraced the final solution.

• Best Practice No. 2: Focus on underlying business processes. It is important to define the correct business processes before deciding on the technology that is most appropriate. For example, a water utility facing public criticism for its poor customer service formed a customer service process “re-engineering team” comprised representatives of all departments: clean water, waste water, customer service/call center, service contractors, IT and an external consultant. Once this team had completed its work of redesigning business processes, they sent an out an RFP to tender for a technology solution — and insisted that any software purchased fit their new process vision.

• Best Practice No. 3: Rethink approach to executive sponsorship. Employees pay close attention to executive behavior, so it is important that senior leaders are visible in CRM initiatives. Senior managers at a telecommunications firm we spoke with wanted to improve customer satisfaction, and recognized that customer service reps were not effectively using a new CRM application to monitor and resolve customer problems. In a bold move, executives moved their desks to sit among customer service agents to better understand how they used the system and what steps needed to be taken to increase agent productivity to enhance customer service.

• Best Practice No. 4: Reinvent data management capabilities. Inconsistent customer data from diverse sources is the Achilles Heel of CRM applications. A financial services organization was challenged by over 250 million customer records across diverse product lines. To achieve a true “360 degree” customer view, they implemented a program of data standardization across the lines of business. The company also implemented more robust customer data management tools to cleanse and de-duplicate their customer records prior to loading information into their CRM transaction systems. Access to “clean” and up-to-date customer information is now the foundation for executing more effective marketing campaigns.

• Best Practice No. 5: Define and track the right metrics. Avoid vague and goals like “our company will become more customer-driven.” Define concrete measures to track you rate of success. For example, a global manufacturer decided the right measures for sales processes were: improving the prospect-to-sale conversion ratio and decreasing the length of the lead–to-order cycle time. For marketing, boosting campaign response rates and accelerating the lead maturation time (the time from when a customer shows interest, to the time they request a sales call) were most important.

William Band
Bill Band is a vice president and principal analyst at Forrester Research. He is a leading expert on CRM topics, having helped organizations define customer-driven strategies to achieve distinction in the marketplace for his entire career. Click here to download free related research from Forrester (free site registration required).


  1. Bill, this is a great post. It is interesting to know companies who overlook these key fundamentals and just want to “do.” How can you “do” anything unless you know what you are looking for and what is important to the overview vision of the company.

    Again, nice work!

    Ja-Nae Duane


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