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Dick Wooden

Customer Care

Five Ways to Avoid the Pains of Being Orphaned by Your CRM Vendor

Begin with knowing what you need

Published: Wednesday, January 4, 2017 - 11:00

First of all, what does it mean to be orphaned by your customer relationship management (CRM) vendor? In short, it means that your CRM vendor sold you on a CRM product and for one reason or another forgot about you. Are you feeling left behind?

Of course, it’s no secret that choosing the right CRM vendor can be difficult, especially if it’s not approached with a clear strategy. There are so many things to consider. There is determining your own business needs, but there is also the task of figuring out what you should look for in a vendor to determine if they can meet those needs.

Here are five steps you must do before choosing your CRM vendor to avoid being orphaned.

1. Define your vision

It’s not enough to have a general idea of what you want your CRM system to do—you need to have a vision to reap the most value from it. This means defining your strategies and the goals you want to achieve with your CRM system, and how you will measure each success. Here are some questions to ask yourself to get started with developing your vision and turning it into reality:
• Why are we implementing a CRM system?
• What needs of our customers are being underserved and need improvement?
• What are our goals?
• What tools will help our employees provide a remarkable customer experience?
• What do we want to achieve?
• Who within our business will be responsible for helping us achieve our goals?

It’s vitally important that all members of your business who will work directly with the CRM system answer these questions. This helps to ensure that you have a broad view of the needs, concerns, challenges, and even barriers that could affect CRM success.

Once these questions are thoroughly answered, you should have a clear picture of the current state of your business as well as the clarity to develop realistic expectations, which we’ll talk about next.

2. Set expectations so your vision is realized

Expectations are critical. Establishing expectations will reduce or eliminate possible conflicts. There should be a direct correlation between what you expect based on the vision communicated to a potential vendor and the process and deliverables promised by a potential vendor.

Expectations go both ways. The more defined your vision, the easier it will be to articulate your expectations to a potential vendor to ensure that they know what they can expect from you. It also makes it easier to gauge whether a potential vendor has the capability to meet your expectations. The following are five general areas of expectation to consider:
1. The roles that both you and the potential vendor will play
2. The process your CRM implementation will follow
3. The scope of the project and turnarounds
4. Vendors ongoing availability
5. What application and data integrations will be used now and in the future

There will be additional areas to consider in terms of setting expectations such as user and customer experience, reporting, software customizations, and more. Begin with expectations for the type of relationship you and the vendor will have. The plan set forth to meet the rest of your expectations will serve as the foundation for eliminating the possibility of being orphaned by your CRM vendor.

3. Determine the type of documentation that the vendor has

Have you ever gotten a new piece of technology and when it started to malfunction you couldn’t find the user manual? Remember how frustrated you felt? I think you would agree that that’s not an experience you want to have with your CRM system when it affects the entire operation of your business. You must determine if the vendor has written documentation that covers important aspects of the CRM system:
• How was the system set up?
• How was the system configured?
• What is the best way to support users of the system?
• What integrations are tied into CRM such as email, enterprise resource planning, and marketing automation?
• How were the user, sales team, and departmental security permissions designed?
• Where do I find printed, video, and online help along with FAQ’s?

Understanding of these kinds of core aspects makes using a CRM system’s capabilities as smooth as possible and ensures a continuity of knowledge. Here are just a few:
• Learn how to enhance your business with the system capabilities
• Quickly access information about the basic features
• Get acquainted with the most used solutions
• Get answers to the most frequently asked questions by users

Without this documentation, I think it immediately becomes clear how easy it would be to encounter challenges and have nothing to reference when attempting to problem solve. Challenges can then quickly be compounded if your CRM vendor has forgotten about you.

4. Determine if there are best practices

As a new user of a CRM system, best practices are a necessity because they serve as a guide to getting the most out of your CRM system.  Best practices should address the system features and functionality of your CRM system, how to maintain clean, quality data, the importance of continuous communication with users and nonusers, customer communication, and the necessity of ongoing training, among other things.

Some common best practices for new users are:

Use your new CRM System instead of resorting to more familiar systems. Make sure that all of its important features are used and understood across your business.

Integrate with other applications used daily such as Outlook for email, contacts, and a calendar. Data entered in one system updates the other automatically. See Infor Xbar in Outlook as an example.

Begin tracking leads immediately—avoid delaying using the system to guard against compromising leads, or worse, missing out capitalizing on quality leads.

Automate where possible. Integrate automated systems for email, enterprise resource planning, and marketing into your CRM system to help sales and marketing collaborate. Consider automated workflow with alerts to stay on top of what is happening.

But don’t stop there—make sure that ongoing training and support is available and determine if there are any issues that will directly affect the user experience.

5. Pilot the CRM system with users

Just as we test drive cars before purchasing, it makes sense to do a pilot run of the CRM system with those who will use it on a day-to-day basis. As important as piloting the CRM system is, even more important is that you use your actual data along with the way you normally work. This way you can ensure the system works properly before going live and provide your potential vendor the opportunity to fix problems that might exist.

The decision to invest in and adopt a CRM system is very important; it’s a decision that you really can’t afford to get wrong. Aside from the headache that can come with choosing a vendor that doesn’t fulfill your business needs, finding yourself without the support and resources needed for managing customer relationships can be disastrous for your business. Let’s quickly review the five considerations for selecting a CRM system:
• Define your vision
• Set expectations based on your vision
• Determine the type of documentation the vendor has
• Determine if there are best practices
• Pilot the CRM with those who will use it daily

Implementing a new CRM system is a fundamental change—it will become one of the most important assets of your business. Be vigilant in making sure you have a vendor that can be a value-creating business partner and an advisor to ensure success relating to your customers.

First published on the Success with CRM blog.


About The Author

Dick Wooden’s picture

Dick Wooden

Dick Wooden, founder of Success with CRM Consulting Inc., is a consultant and an entrepreneur business coach who implements tailor-made customer relationship management (CRM) systems for more productive business development in small to medium-sized businesses. Wooden has more than 35 years experience working with entrepreneurs, business management, sales, marketing, and customer service professionals.