As I have often stated in my public speaking presentations, mastering the people component of any CRM implementation is often the most difficult challenge for any organization, given the sensitivity of users to change. The following example is one in which the people component derailed or severely impacted CRM initiatives.
An international telecommunications company launched a global CRM initiative a few years ago that included the formation of a “super-user group” consisting of 12 to 15 representatives from sales, marketing, customer service, e-business, and other customer-facing functions. This group, which was formed at the outset of the initiative, was responsible for providing user needs input throughout the implementation.
Senior management had doubts about the company’s ability to meet the initiative’s deadlines and made the decision not to communicate or actively promote the initiative to potential internal and external users until the implementation neared completion. As with virtually all complex initiatives involving people and technology, a number of minor glitches emerged early on. While the glitches were eventually resolved, the company’s internal rumor mill elevated them to the level of major problems—even system killers. By the time the company was ready to invite internal and external users for training on the CRM application, nearly half said they knew little about the initiative, and from what little they did know about it, they were not interested in participating. Many staff members declined to accept the training that was offered. The initiative struggled along for four more months, but in the end, the company pulled the plug on the project and absorbed a loss of more than $800,000.
Lesson learned: Launch a full-fledged communications program about your CRM initiative from Day One, and ensure that key personnel and users understand how the new system will impact their day-to-day work and then update them regularly on how the implementation is progressing.