Pre-empting CRM failure and making CRM work – CRM Success Part Five

Part Five – Commitment to CRM  –  executive and user buy-in 

Commitment to CRM  –  executive and user buy-in

Lack of executive buy-in and lacklustre user adoption are sometimes regarded as two separate reasons for the failure of CRM. However, if there is no executive leadership, it stands to reason that inadequate user buy-in is not a problem in its own right, but the direct result of a lack of senior level commitment.

The type and tone of executive buy-in are key to the success of CRM and, in most cases, a CRM implementation will have an impact on the whole company, or at least it should. Customers too are, and ought to be, affected by CRM.  The outcome should be positive, and this is usually the case with many aspects of CRM, both internal and external.  If CRM is correctly implemented and ‘sold’ in the right way, the benefits to the organisation and its customers are limitless.

It is therefore inevitable that, in the absence of executive buy-in, users will not be committed to, let alone interested in, the system, and the poor results stemming from lack of use or misuse will simply play into the hands of the sceptics.  Crudely put, if you don’t put anything in you don’t get much out.  Even users who are enthusiastic about CRM, and use it actively, will eventually give up, because if there is suspicion that data is incomplete, then people can’t rely on it and, if they can’t, they stop using it (at least in the way it should be used).

So, what are some of the characterises of successful CRM?  Effective implementations are those where:

• CRM is driven by current and future needs

• All potential pitfalls are addressed from the top

• CRM is accepted as a key part of future growth

• CRM becomes a source of essential information about ‘how we are doing’ and ‘what we should be doing’ 

Is it then fair to expect the users to buy in regardless, if executive buy-in is missing? 

It is important to stress that, on its own, executive buy-in is no absolute guarantee and the challenges for users still need to be addressed:

The user interface is often age-sensitive, and the age range of those using CRM varies widely, often spanning all age groups. Universal acceptance of the interface is essential, and ease of use is of course critical. Some staff will recall the time when, on turning on their computer, they would have been greeted with a bare c:>, while others might never have even viewed a screen that didn’t have fun and colourful visuals. The interface therefore needs to be appealing to all staff, and they all need to find it usable, even enjoyable. 

Also critical is the input of valuable information into your CRM. The real key to success is to make this task as user-friendly as possible. Half the data means less than half the knowledge, which means that it fails to present a complete picture or anything of real value that will move the business forwards.  The importance of ease of use and how this leads on to tangible benefits cannot be understated, but this should not be the only focus. The power of the data you collect does not depend simply on a pretty interface; it is the information it enables you to collect that provides the real knowledge to help grow your business.

This of course leads us on to the need for training and education. Given the size and richness of CRM systems it would be unrealistic to expect just one traditional training session to result in ‘n’ proficient users. There is simply too much to take in and often in a very busy environment that is not conducive to learning. Instead, CRM systems need to be grown into gradually, and this should be reflected in the training and education plan.

So far so good

Looking back over this series of blogs, what are the key points to take out? What do we need to address in order to turn yesterday’s ‘reasons for failure’ into ‘success factors’ of tomorrow?

First, we need to be clear that, whilst many of the factors touched upon in earlier blogs are valid, and in some cases critical, what is absolutely paramount is top-down commitment from the executive that is mirrored by bottom-up buy-in from users.

Previous blogs also drew attention to key elements of the big picture, the essential building blocks of every CRM project:

Selecting the right software and the right technology partner  

You are entitled to expect both the CRM software and your solution provider to be with you for the long term, developing and growing with you and your business.  And, given that most businesses cope better with small, incremental steps forward rather than with a massive overhaul of the CRM solution, you need to have the big picture in your sights at all times and aim to get there one step at a time.

Respecting the customer

We should put our customers centre-stage and look at our business through the prism of their needs. Do we give them sufficient respect and consideration? 

Avoiding CRM ‘scope creep’

Poorly defined objectives, unclear goals, inadequate process design. What hope then for successful CRM? Without business process design CRM solutions can become too big and unusable. And without crystal-clear objectives at the outset it is not really possible to measure success, to judge when phases are complete, to know when to go live with a particular phase, to prepare for training and education, to plan infrastructure needs or to have any real idea of your direction of travel.

The importance of Continuous Process Improvement 

Without customers there is no CRM. Their needs are key to its success. And what CRM systems are good at is pulling together all the information the business has gathered into a single view of individual accounts and their known needs. 

Meeting changing needs

There is always a danger that you stray down the path of changing your business to accommodate the needs of the technology. And it may well be that CRM will suggest or introduce new and valuable ways to improve and develop the business, but these should be considered only because they are good ideas, not because you have allowed the technology to force you down a new business process path.

Previous features:

Selecting the right Partner and the right Software :  Click Here

Avoiding avoidable CRM failures : Click Here

No Continuous Process Improvement  : Click Here

The dangers of CRM ‘scope creep’ : Click Here

Next Steps

Our research into what causes CRM failures helps our customers avoid failure and become successful now and in the future with CRM.

If you would like to know more, have a new project, or an existing installation which needs attention to get you on track, you can contact us at:   

Tel: 01992 661 244 



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