A CRM Implementation Process in 7 Steps

A CRM Implementation Process in 7 Steps
Vlad Kovalskiy
August 26, 2021
Last updated: August 26, 2021

CRM Implementation In 7 Steps

It is almost impossible to imagine any successful modern company without customer relationship management (CRM) software. It accommodates the client throughout the whole lifecycle, starting from the initial interaction and ending with the customer becoming a regular. Sales and marketing automation, comprehensive profiles, communication tools, personalized messages, shared calendars, instruments for reporting and analysis make it irreplaceable when it comes to handling your business-customer relationships.

However, CRM implementation has every chance to become the biggest project your company ever worked on. Undeniably, it is a very challenging process. You need to choose the right application, gather a team, plan your budget and strategy, assign tasks and delegate resources, put your system through numerous tests and train your employees. All of these steps might be exhausting, you'll get tempted to treat some of them lightly. But you should fight this feeling because if one aspect of your CRM doesn't work it might negatively impact some departments or the whole company. Of course, every software has its limitations, but when your staff complains that the new program is completely useless, it might indicate that CRM implementation was performed poorly. You might be an experienced CRM user who is looking for an alternative solution or a first-timer, you'll still face plenty of obstacles along the way. Luckily, people tend to share their knowledge to help those in need. 


1. Find a Perfect CRM

The contemporary CRM market is flooded with software to satisfy even the most exquisite of tastes. However, to achieve your strategic goals, you'll have to dedicate some time and effort to find the app that will meet your specific requirements. Follow this algorithm, so you don't miss anything important and spend your money on something truly valuable:

  • Decide why you need a CRM in the first place. For example, solutions that deal with individual customers call for a set of tools that must be entirely different from those that administer interactions with corporate clients. If you already have a CRM, try to identify its weak spots and figure out what functions can compensate for it.

  • Study the providers' features thoroughly to determine whether they can satisfy your needs. Depending on the specifics of your business, you might need task and project management tools, sales and marketing instruments, report and analysis features, an event planner, communication channels, customers' profiles with a history of interactions, etc.

  • Make sure that the vendor treats safety seriously. The majority of CRM solutions are cloud-based. This might raise some concerns about data protection. In these circumstances, you have to make sure that developers set up additional security measures.

  • Contemporary environment forces us to multitask and often manage things on the go. Thus, you have to check if there is a mobile version of this software, you can keep it in-sync on all of your devices, and whether there is the option to integrate it with your other work applications, such as Gmail, Dropbox, or Trello.

  • Conduct extensive research on their experience, product range, customers, and preferences. Of course, you'll see a certain number of marketing tricks and fake reviews, but can still analyze it and draw your conclusions.

Surely, these steps aren't mandatory, but they can help you to avoid products that won't satisfy you in terms of quality and functionality. As soon as you find the right candidate, you can start preparing for the CRM implementation process.


2. Decide Who Will Be In Charge of the CRM Implementation

Of course, challenging projects such as CRM implementation cannot be done single-handedly - it's always a team effort. Thus, you need to find people who are ready to have your back in any circumstance (especially when things go sideways). Basically, you need to gather specialists with enough expertise to:

  • Explain. People are different. Some can be very resistant to changes, and some can be slow at processing information. Naturally, employees are going to ask questions about this new program, and someone should be able to address them in a calm and explicit manner. In other words, this person has to show people why they need the CRM and how exactly they will use it. Everyone in your organization should be on the same page, otherwise, misunderstandings and mistakes are inevitable.

  • Plan & execute. Of course, you cannot perform CRM implementation without specialists who are experienced in this area. How much money will you need? What are the right settings? How to initiate a data migration process? There are many questions that demand answers, and you should have someone who knows them. If you don't have a CRM specialist, consider hiring one temporarily because this role is crucial to the whole process's success.

  • Monitor & support. Senior specialists are usually busy with planning, analyzing, and delegating tasks. They don't have time to watch over every user or person in charge. Therefore, someone else should control if all the orders and guidelines are followed throughout the process. They can also help new users learn how to use the system correctly when the CRM is already up and running.

Plus, you should include the representatives of all the departments that will use CRM tools.

You can invite sales, marketing, event planners, project managers, customer support, or any other participants whose input can be useful to the project. Generally, the average team should include these positions. Surely, you might adjust the roles or modify the list according to your needs and preferences. When you choose your CRM implementation team, remember that these people are the ones to get you through this tough period and the operation's success depends on their skills, professionalism, and ability to perform under pressure. So, make sure that you assign these key roles only to those you can rely on and vouch for.


3. Come Up With a Feasible CRM Implementation Plan

Planning is crucial when it comes to such complicated processes as CRM implementation. Of course, you cannot predict every problem, reaction, challenge, or outcome. Hence, at some point, you'll have to improvise. Still, it is better to spend time and resources on thorough planning to prevent the majority of unexpected difficulties, than deal with multiple crises along the way. Here are some of the most important aspects that you should address beforehand:

  • Identify existing weak spots and knowledge gaps.

  • Break down the process into stages.

  • Discuss the issues with your staff to make sure that everyone is onboard with the initiative.

  • Set up due dates and time limits.

Plus, when you work on your plan, you can make it more efficient by creating a list of problems and possible solutions. Some of these issues will occur, some won't. Yet, it will save you plenty of time and effort in case something unfortunate does happen. Having a working plan is advantageous not only from a strategic point of view, but it also gives you and your team a confidence boost that helps to stay focused, efficient, and productive.


4. Accumulate Resources and Conduct Risk Assessment for CRM Implementation

Essentially, creating a budget is part of the planning process. But this aspect is so complex and vital to the whole operation, that it should be discussed separately. Financial matters are always delicate and should be handled with caution. Otherwise, the damage can be colossal. Here are some pro-tips that might help you to avoid unnecessary spending and make the CRM implementation cost-effective:

  • Try to account for everything. Of course, some expenses are impossible to predict, but you should go through the whole process step by step and identify things, actions, and products that you'll have to pay for. It can be literally anything, including consultancy & training, providers' services (data migration, customization, etc.), and extra payments for overtime work.

  • Don't forget that the staff's workload will decrease during the transition, which will inevitably affect your profits.

  • Add a 10% buffer to accommodate for the unexpected costs.

  • Review the CRM's features to determine whether they can be beneficial for your company. Some organizations are willing to pay extra for a task manager, event planner, or reporting instruments, while others can be absolutely satisfied with a basic package containing storage, sales, and marketing tools.

  • Prepare for the risks. CRM implementation means installing new software. Technical issues might turn this initiative into a disaster, or your employees might not be able to adapt to this system.


5. Initiate Preparations for Launching the CRM

One cannot simply launch a CRM, it needs to go through a roll-out first. This stage is vital to the CRM implementation process because the extent of your system's efficiency depends directly on how smoothly it goes. Your primary goal is to get everyone and everything prepared for the new application. This means you'll have to work with software, staff, and equipment. Overall, roll-out actions can be divided into three major categories:

  • Data migration. First, review your system and get rid of anything that isn't essential. Create a backup of the info that you'll need. Choose your preferable migration method. Transfer the data.

  • Training. Don't treat this aspect lightly. If your employees learn how to use the system efficiently and properly beforehand, they can return to the same level of productivity as soon as the system starts functioning because they don't make mistakes or waste time on figuring out how to use CRM tools. There are a plethora of training techniques. For instance, you can pick the users that will deal with it the most and train them so they can teach the others later, or you can approach users individually.

  • Testing. Use the expertise of your QA test engineers to check as many aspects of the application as they can to avoid fixing bugs in the future. It might also be helpful if you could get them to schedule and perform a system test-drive before the system goes live.

CRM implementation process can be tricky, but you can use some of these methods and techniques to ensure that it goes as smoothly as possible.


6. Start Using Your CRM

It is always an exciting and highly anticipated moment when you realize that CRM implementation is practically over, and you can finally enjoy the benefits of your brand-new software. However, you shouldn't rush into an immediate launch. It's better to start with granting access to some of the most substantial users and then gradually expand their number after a certain period of time until everyone is connected. This way, you will have to deal with a limited number of issues, bugs, and problems simultaneously.

Coordinating the work of your employees during this adjustment period might be tough and will require a lot of patience. These preventive measures can help you and your team at this final stage of the CRM implementation.

  • Schedule the staff's workload and work hours. If you'll need some of them to stay overtime, approach them with this request in advance.

  • Create backups.

  • Check the equipment and network speed.

  • Provide employees with communication channels they can use in case of system failure

  • Allocate money for additional training, retraining, or other unforeseen expenditures.


7. Gather Feedback and Discuss the Results of Your CRM Implementation

So, the CRM implementation is complete. What to do now? Perform a comprehensive assessment of the process. Here are some of the parameters that will help you determine if the operation was actually a success:

  • Users' activity in the system. Check if your employees actually approach new CRM tools. It is a common situation when people enter the new system, but continue to do their jobs with the old means and applications.

  • Extra efforts in data management. For instance, many workers are unwilling to record clients' database updates or provide detailed inputs. But if they add new information to the CRM and do it properly, this means they completed the transition successfully.

  • Productivity and business metrics. Of course, if your revenue grows after you installed a new CRM, it is a good sign. Yet, it is vital to make sure that no one falls behind. Therefore, gather all the reporting and analysis tools you have, like dashboards, Kanban boards, Gantt charts, sales, and marketing performance reports, and check if the key metrics really indicate improvement.

Receiving feedback from your team and employees, in general, is always important. This kind of interaction makes them feel heard and appreciated. Plus, your colleagues can actually have some good thoughts and suggestions, so let them share. Of course, CRM implementation is a real challenge, but in the end it will make your team more united & collaborative, and most importantly, boost your productivity in terms of customer management.

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