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Karen Schwartz Change Management | The Not So Secret Ingredient to CRM Success

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 By Karen D. Schwartz

The Nebulous But Necessary Ingredient for CRM Implementation Success

It’s Marketing 101: If you want to close a deal, tell your customers how your product or service will improve their life in some meaningful way.

You would think that C-level executives would have learned that lesson over and over again in the years it took them to climb the corporate ladder. In part, of course, they have if they have green-lighted a CRM initiative within their organization, but the vast majority forget to sell the concept internally — something that can make or break the implementation project.

For a customer relationship management (CRM) effort to succeed, the company’s culture must change. No longer, for example, will customer service representatives be able to interact with customers in a variety of inconsistent ways. That means they must change their thinking along with their day-to-day processes — and that’s not easy for many, especially without preparation and a proven CRM change management approach.

Here’s another example: The new business processes might require sales and marketing divisions to work together more closely and in different ways than ever before. Traditionally, the marketing department has focused on longer-term projects such as the results of a campaign or success in delivering a volume of prospects to the sales department. In contrast, the sales department has shorter term objectives, often making sales quota by the end of the month. With CRM as part of the mix, salespeople are being asked to build longer-term relationships that take on more of a marketing flavor, while marketing must work more closely with sales in order to better gauge marketing effectiveness. In effect, marketing and sales must align more closely in terms of objectives and approaches. That’s a major change in the way these departments are used to working, and it won’t succeed without preparation.

Yet failing to prepare and fund organizational change as part of a CRM initiative is commonplace, says CRM expert Paul Greenberg. Greenberg says that change is seen as intangible (i.e., unmeasurable), and therefore not relevant.

But it’s critical. Every company’s culture is unique and shaped by its management, interactions with employees over the years, and the rules and practices it has in place. But in general, it’s key to focus on how the role of each division, and even each person in some cases, will interact with the customer as the company engages in CRM. It’s at that point that executives must determine how best to make employees understand these changes, and incentivize them to do it, and do it gladly.

In this case, incentives aren’t bribes — they’re just good business. By nature, people have a “What’s in it for me” attitude. Whether it’s new software automation to rid laborious manual processes, a salary boost, incentives for bonuses or even the threat of losing their jobs, do what it takes to drive the point home. Or risk failure, both internally and externally.

So it comes down to two things: education and incentives. On the education front, focus on how the change will benefit employees’ professional lives, tailoring your presentation to the specific department you’re addressing. This may include using more automation to work fewer hours or improve sales success and pocket more sales commissions. Also let them know how much you appreciate their help during this transition, and that those who make an effort will be rewarded.

Consider implementing a change management program which begins with a communication plan and an approach to respond to those most resisting change. Staging your communications in a logical order will help prepare staff and slowly erode change resistance. Plan to over communicate and implement activities to spot those individuals that will resist. These are the individuals to address in one on one sessions and seek additional assistance from their peers and supervisors.

If all of this seems too difficult, time-consuming or touchy to handle yourself, there are plenty of consultancies out there who will do the difficult work for you. These companies, which consist of both CRM consultants and change management consultants, have made careers doing this, and they can guide you through it or do it with you.

As user adoption is a frequently cited contributing factor to failed CRM implementations, a change management program can literally make the difference between success or failure. End

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Successful change management programs come down to two things - education and incentives. On the education front, focus on how the change will personally benefit employees’ professional lives, tailoring your presentation to the specific department you’re addressing. This may include using more automation to work fewer hours or improve sales success to pocket more sales commissions.

 

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