The 5 Most Common CRM Fails and How to Avoid Them

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In my last post, I discussed the importance of authenticity in how you relate to your customers. I noted that authenticity isn’t about trite brand messaging. It’s about you and your customers understanding the truth of each other and agreeing to relate to each other from that point of truth. As the integral link between you and your customers, your CRM system has the power to make or break your authenticity. And the truth is, CRM fails are everywhere—lurking behind every disconnected experience and missed opportunity.

Why? Surprisingly, the answer isn’t in the technology. It’s in how the technology is implemented and used. Here are the five most common mistakes I’ve seen in CRM implementations and how to avoid them.

1. Relying on stereotypes that hide the human behind the data

A good example revolves around the revered and reviled millennial. He’s asset light, doesn’t trust anyone trying to sell anything to him, still lives with his parents, and the only thing bigger than his student loan debt is his sense of entitlement. That stereotype is what many marketers focus on, and more likely than not, it’s the reason he doesn’t trust you. How authentic are you if you come into the relationship with a slew of preconceived notions about me that at best are annoying and at worst totally offensive?

To avoid this pitfall, ask: “Do I understand my customers across all dimensions?”

Knowing your customers means looking beyond the stereotypes. Your conclusions can’t be based on cardboard cutouts. They have to be based on people, motivations and moments of truth—it’s in those moments that trust happens. Do you know what scares them, what makes them feel safe and what they require to trust? If you’re selling toothpaste, this may not be as important, but for those in industries like financial services and insurance, it’s everything.

Every good CRM system is paired with a content strategy, and true understanding is the source of that strategy. It can be as simple as understanding that if you try to sell me a new product when I’m in the middle of trying to resolve an issue, you will seem like an inauthentic sales vulture who doesn’t care about me, and I will be ready to move on to your competitor.

2. Documenting the past rather than predicting the future

Don’t get me wrong. Knowing where you’ve been is important, but it can’t tell you what to do next. It’s the same with your customers. You need to get predictive. Use all the data at your disposal to understand where your customers are in their journey, and be the one who can help them get to the next step. Not just any next step, but their next step. This ability to be predictive can change the relationship. I’m not selling to you; I’m helping you.

There was a time when the Amazon homepage would show you things you bought previously. It was helpful for things you might buy on a regular basis, sure, but it was limited to those things. Then Amazon got smart. It had all this data on what you bought, what others who bought the same thing bought, and it started to get predictive. Now when you go to Amazon, your homepage is full of things that you’re likely to want to buy next. And it works.

To avoid this pitfall, ask: “What do my customers’ actions today say about what they will do tomorrow?”

Doing this means broadening what the P in KPI means. Sure, you want performance indicators— that’s how you know how you’re doing—but you also want predictive indicators. Which pieces of data can you use to predict future behavior, and what will your customers need/want from you then?

3. Not ensuring the CRM system fits with how employees actually do their jobs

When this happens, instead of empowering employees, the CRM becomes an erroneous task in their already busy day. Worse, it’s an extra task that’s been put in so management can track their numbers. “I have to do extra work so you can micromanage how I’m doing my job?”

If your employees think you don’t know how they do their jobs and don’t trust them, they will not trust you, and authenticity is lost.

To avoid this pitfall, ask: “What is a day in their life? How can we better enable them?”

Have you taken the time to understand the kind of information your sales team and CSRs need to engage the customer? Frequently, CRMs are implemented as a “tracking mechanism” to determine whether or not a salesperson is meeting his/her quota and how often a CSR resolves customer issues in a pre-determined timeframe.

If you launch your CRM with this in mind, you will fail. A CRM system should be a salesperson’s best friend, their go-to tool for everything they need to know to build a relationship with a customer. It’s customer relationship management, not sales quota management. Focus on the customer and their needs, and the sales quotas will come.

4. Using a siloed, single-purpose system

Do you know what you know? It sounds like a Yogi Berra quote, but think about it. Do you know the who, what and where of all the customer data you currently have? A CRM system will definitely help you centralize that, but if you don’t even know it’s there, how will you know to connect to it?

To avoid this pitfall, ask: “What do we really know? Who knows it?”

5. Not connecting to the big-picture strategy

Do you truly understand what you need from your customers to succeed? What information do you need to be who you aspire to be? What do you need to track and measure to get there?

To avoid this pitfall, ask: “Where are we going? Who do we aspire to be?”

Who do you want to be when you grow up? Do your customers impact whether or not you can become what you want to be? Is your system gathering the right data and tracking the right metrics? Is your goal really to capture email addresses so you can spam your customers, or should the goal be loftier than that?

You can’t start with this question, or you will alienate your customers, but you do need to ask it if you expect to be successful. You must look at the intersection between what your customer needs and what you offer for the relationship to be mutually beneficial.

There are few large companies who have not attempted some form of CRM implementation, and many have failed—to the point where even companies for whom a CRM platform is the right solution are skeptical. So I urge you, regardless of how tempting the technology solution is, stop whatever you are doing, and ask yourself these questions.

Post Date: 11/30/2016

NTT DATA Services Lisa Woodley Lisa Woodley

About the author

Lisa Woodley, Vice President of Experience Design at NTT DATA, has more than 15 years of experience successfully leading user experience strategy and design programs for clients across industries. Lisa is also an adjunct faculty member of Rutgers University’s Center for Innovation in Education, responsible for developing and conducting a User Experience Design class for Rutger University’s MBS program.

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