Five reasons for CRM implementation failure


Having to deal with a CRM failure is not something that any business wants to face.  Back in 2001, Gartner reported a 50% failure rate, and this has continued to increase. Even today, CRM failure rates can reach as much as 63%. So, with plenty of reason to be anxious about proceeding with the installation of your new CRM, are you ready to make a good investment or is it just too risky to attempt?

The truth is, when CRM implementations go wrong, it’s not due to only bad luck.  Much of the time, businesses don’t really understand what the CRM can do and what it needs to work well.  With so much hype out there about CRMs, it is no wonder that some businesses think that it is a magical piece of software and that purely by installing it, all will be well. Whilst it is true that a CRM can make wonderfully positive differences to a company, it is not the whole solution.  If you make the mistake of believing it to be some sort of miracle key, you could be on your way towards CRM disaster.

But failing is not compulsory. By taking the time to understand what a CRM does and looking at past mistakes made by others, then following a few logical processes, disappointment can be avoided.

Let’s look at why CRM fails. Here are just five reasons for CRM implementation failure that you should avoid:

1. Not putting clear goals in place

Think about the problems that the CRM needs to tackle and what your goals are. By setting measurable objectives and having a clear vision of where your company should be after successful implementation, then you have a clear guide to follow. Look ahead, see where you need to be and then plot a path towards success.

2. Not getting management on-board

Once you have executive leadership at the helm, commitment is firm and collaboration between all departments such as sales, marketing, and customer service can begin to gel. If you don’t have this support, major problems are bound to occur.  If executives seem reluctant, refer your CRM strategy to that of the company and its bottom line. They will get on-board if they can see that the CRM will produce growth in the form of lower costs, increased sales, improved marketing, and higher customer retention rates.  You need to take it out of the technical arena and into a language that they want to understand. When it comes to choosing the software vendor, don’t make the decision yourself but get management involved. Looking to the future, you need to keep them informed of results, putting in place an ongoing report/feedback strategy.

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3. Going with the wrong vendor

If you get caught up in the marketing hype, considering the purchase of a CRM that will require you to change your existing (and successful) business processes, don’t do it! Spending thousands of pounds and then having to adapt your current software on top is a sure waste of money, as is paying for features that you don’t want or even need.

Stick to your guns when talking to different vendors. Take control, lead the way and don’t let them divert you.  Set a list of questions and then go through them point by point.  Here are a few examples that you can adapt to suit your circumstances:

  • Which of the features available are absolutely must-have?
  • Is the software flexible and adaptable enough for us to customize in-house?
  • How scalable is it? Will we outgrow it too fast?
  • How easily does it integrate with our existing tools?
  • Can we get started with it easily or does it need complex training?
  • Can you give us a full demo?
  • How much help will you provide to us within the price?
  • How long have you been in business?
  • Which other businesses like ours have you supplied with a CRM?

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If the answers to all of these questions are not positive, you should look elsewhere.  Never go for the cheapest or the vendor that seems the most popular; what might be suitable for others may not be best for you.  You need to be clear about what you need and what is on offer and always try out the software before committing.

4. Users not getting on-board

Whichever CRM you choose, your employees are going to need to use it.  If they are not committed and not looking forward to using the new system, all benefits will be negated.  They should not see the CRM as purely being a new tool for the management. Whichever department they are in, they need to see how they will benefit.  

Make it clear to them that management will not be using it to spy on the sales teams’ activity and whether targets are being met. Whilst the old tools may have been OK, this is going to be so much better. You need to get them motivated and ready to get used to the new processes and tools.  This is critical to successful implementation. Show them that old data will not disappear but will just be in a new format and very easy to access. They will get plenty of training and time to get used to it. Illustrate the benefits for them, not those of management. Make it clear that the new CRM will automate many manual processes, saving them time and the ability to focus on the more interesting part of their job.

When businesses find that employees aren’t using the CRM fully, it is usually due to the staff not having accepted the new software.  If they are not trained correctly and incentives not provided, they may even refuse to use it.

Think about your team when purchasing the new CRM and ask questions such as these:

  • What does my staff need the CRM to provide them with?
  • What benefits will the CRM give to them?
  • How do I explain the benefits to them clearly?
  • Who should I choose as the ‘project champion’?  How will they ensure full adoption and implementation?
  • How will we show that executives/management are fully on board?
  • How will the team get involved in the adoption of the CRM?
  • What about training – how will this be provided?
  • Will the CRM be sufficiently user-friendly?
  • If we have problems with users, how will we deal with this and support them?  Can we do this in-house or will we need vendor support?

5. Overcomplicating your requirements

People using the CRM will not necessarily all be technically minded.  If the new software is not easy to use, they may begin to shun it. Keep it simple and only buy into features that you really need. Go for the most user-friendly interface and one which is intuitive. Hitting your team with a complex bunch of software all in one go, much of which is not required, will only put them off from day one.

The key takeaways to avoid CRM implementation failure

So, we have looked at some CRM failure examples.  We have looked at just five reasons for CRM implementation failure and how you can avoid them.  There may be others pertinent to your organization and it is only by carrying out your research in-depth beforehand that success can be achieved.  Never underestimate the complexity or CRM implementation. Have a well thought out plan and stick to it, but make sure that it is the right plan.

If vendors are pushy and try to force you into an off-the-shelf package that is not right for you, you should look elsewhere.  The new CRM needs to work for you, not vice-versa. Make sure that it fits with your current processes, build in a sufficiently long period of training and ensure that top-down buy-in is in place.

If you see the CRM as being an Aladdin’s Lamp that will magically resolve all of your problems, you are going to be disappointed.  It is purely a tool, albeit an incredibly powerful one, but if not used correctly, it will fail. Users need to be engaged, knowledgeable and aware of its many benefits.

By taking heed of our five steps shown above, adoption will be boosted, training adequately taken care of and major hurdles avoided.  You also need to make sure that data in the system is clean and that the new CRM system integrates fully and easily with your current systems.  

Think email, sharing of documents, marketing software, sales automation etc. All of these need to be incorporated, not only to give a successful migration but to avoid the expense and wasted time of having to replace software that is already doing a good job.  If you are combining data or sources of data, do make sure to remove duplicates, incorrect or incomplete entries. By only putting clean and valuable data in, you will get the best quality out.

You should also remember that whilst CRM implementation can be problematic, choosing the right software for your company is just one way of eradicating failure.

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Jane Tareen

About the author…

An MBA-qualified professional, Jane specializes in all kinds of copywriting and creative content production. With many years spent working in advertising and publishing, she is also skilled in editorial production and proof-reading. Whilst writing, she has a constant companion in the form of one very large Fox Red Labrador!

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Jane Tareen

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