Is the data you hold in your CRM system reliable? Can you segment your data easily? Can you produce accurate reports without manual intervention? You are not alone – despite implementing a new CRM solution, many businesses still face the same problems.


We’ve all heard, and probably rolled our eyes at, the adage ‘If you put rubbish in CRM you get rubbish out’ – but there is no denying it. You might have bought the best CRM solution in the world but if it is not embraced by all and utilised correctly it is likely you will not see the expected returns.

Reasons CRM implementations fail

To identify a solution, it is important to consider the problem. When you’ve invested lots of money in a CRM system, why does it not deliver the expected results?

  1. CRM is perceived as technology only. Often CRM is perceived as an IT project, when in fact CRM (customer relationship management) is a business strategy and the software is merely a tool to facilitate the strategy. CRM is a business wide shift to improve customer relationships with a view to improve retention. Therefore, a cultural change is needed in conjunction with the rollout.
  2. The new system becomes the old system. Moving to a new system can often mean a change in working practices. However, many businesses avoid making big changes to aid user adoption. This is dangerous – if you make changes to your new system to reflect old ways of working you will likely encounter the same challenges. A new system should be viewed as an opportunity to review ways of working and implement a new, more efficient processes.
  3. Poor quality data was imported. Unless you are just starting out, when rolling out a new system you need to bring across your existing data. All too often businesses export the data from the old system and import it into the new one, bringing across ‘dirty data’ and the challenges it presents (remember that adage). Before importing your data it is important you conduct a thorough cleanse, ensuring only reliable data is brought across.
  4. Users have not adopted it. If your people are not using the new system as intended, or at all, you will not get any value from it. Therefore, it is important to provide users with proper training so they understand how the system should be used and the processes they need to follow.

The solution: CRM culture (and how to instil one)

From exploring the reasons why CRM projects fail, it is clear ‘culture’ is fundamental to success. A customer-centric culture will help you to deliver a better customer experience which will boost customer retention and in turn sales revenue – but, how is it achieved?

The answer to the million dollar question:

  • Communicate goals. You understand the value of being a customer-centric business and you know what this will help you to achieve. But, unless you communicate the vision no-one else will realise the value.
  • Get buy-in. To get everyone on board, it might not be enough to explain the benefits for the business. You’ll need to translate this into how it adds value to your employees and their day-to-day activities – think about what is important to them.
  • Don’t leave anyone out. When it comes to the CRM project it is important to consult the people that will be using it. Ultimately, they will be able to tell you what works and what doesn’t in your existing system and help you to shape a solution that helps them to be more effective, whilst achieving the broader business objectives. What’s more, by involving them in the process they will have an invested interest in the project.
  • Appoint champions. CRM champions will help you to increase engagement and share information, because they are closer to other users. When selecting champions, it is a good idea to have representation from each department as they will be able to provide valuable feedback and aid their colleagues.
  • Reinforce. Once you go live with a new solution the hard work doesn’t stop there – to keep everyone on board you need to reinforce your new culture – managers need to lead by example and KPIs should reflect goals. You might even want to consider introducing incentives; this will stimulate competition and celebration of accomplishments will help to spread the word.

Setting standards: Steps to data quality nirvana

Data quality is a challenge for most businesses, even those with a strong CRM culture, because a) there is a lot of data about, b) it is constantly growing and c) it degrades really quickly. However, it is essential to strive for data quality because without reliable data your reputation can be damaged and your decisions will be misinformed.

Steps to help you achieve nirvana, or get close to it:

  • Define what data is important to your business. Look at the data you have already and decide what additional data would be of use to you and will help you to understand and anticipate your customers’ needs more effectively.
  • Identify how is best to record and report on it. Once you know what you want to know, you need to find the best means of recording it. It is easy to add additional fields here and there, but before you know it your screens can become cluttered, so it is best to think through how best to store the information you need so it is accessible to all, easy to find and easy to report on.
  • Educate others. Communication is key to getting others to see the value of keeping accurate records. Once they can see the value to them and the business they are more likely to follow requests and new processes.
  • Start collecting it. Once you (and other users) know what is important you need to start collecting it. For existing customers and prospects this will need to be done retrospectively and could be done as part of a data cleanse exercise. For any new contacts you need to ensure the information you need is recorded from the off.

Implement data quality processes

Ultimately the users of your CRM system are human – therefore, there will likely be some human error, whether it is forgetting to record information or entering it in the wrong format. Therefore, you need to introduce measures to make it easy for them to record the information you need and tidy up any mistakes. You should start with;

  • Mandatory fields – by making important fields mandatory users will be unable to progress to the next activity without populating the required information. This is a great way of jogging the memory.
  • Picklists – picklists remove the need for manual data entry and therefore reduce mistakes. It also makes segmenting and reporting on your data simpler.
  • Regular data cleansing – data degrades quickly therefore, no matter how good you are at entering data, it will need to be reviewed and cleansed on a regular basis. Depending on the volumes of data you hold you might want to outsource this to specialists.
  • Dedupe routine – duplicate records can affect customer experience and the accuracy of your reports and forecasts, so it is important to introduce preventative measures. Many CRM systems can be configured to look for matches in the database before a new contact or account is added. In addition to this it is also wise to run a dedupe exercise on a regular basis to catch any that fall through the net.

Author: Jade Winters