The optimal customer relationship management system can bring big benefits to all sorts of organizations. When it’s not getting the job done, you must make the switch to a new one. To help you make the right choice, we sat down with Deanna Perkins, a solutions adviser with Boomer Consulting Inc. Her company recently made a switch, and she offers insights from her own experience.
By: Bill Hayes, Pennsylvania CPA Journal Managing Editor
When they are working at their most optimal, customer relationship management systems bring big benefits to organizations of all stripes. That's all the more reason to switch to a new system if the one you are on is not getting the job done for you. But what obstacles will you face and what sort of buy-in must you have from your organization before taking the leap to a new provider? To address these questions, today we are talking to Deanna Perkins, solutions advisor for Boomer Consulting Inc., who will give us insight based on a real-life CRM switch her team recently went through.
Now these questions were developed from, as I said in the intro, a real-life experience your team went through in switching from one CRM system to another. What was your CRM system not doing for you that you wanted it to do?
[Perkins] For us, it really started with the selection of our original CRM system where we just had one of our team members who had vetted some different systems and just said "Here's the one that we're going to work with." And when we started working in that one, it was really clunky. It was really hard to navigate through. We didn't really have it integrating with any of our other systems. So we were having to go to multiple places to update different individuals on our team and different systems. It wasn't mobile-friendly and with the fact that we do have a lot of our team members who are traveling, they just didn't buy into that system, and they weren't able to utilize it. We only had one team really utilizing that system, and we really wanted something that everybody on our team could use and really get value from.
When a CRM system – a customer relationship management system – is working at its best, what benefits should it bring to a company and what processes does it improve?
[Perkins] Really what we were looking for was something that could help us find our client information more easily. Something that really, again, integrated with multiple systems, so we weren't having to do a lot of double work and adding to our processes and manual labor. The old system that we had utilized didn't really have good reporting structures. We weren't able to really look at kind of where we had come from, where we were going, things like that. And really, for our processes, we didn't have anything that could be utilized from the very beginning of talking to a client or a prospect and capturing all of their information all the way through when we brought them onboard as a client taking care of them throughout their client relationship with us. The whole process really helped when we moved to a new system because it was a lot easier.
It really helped break down on how often we were having to input information and update things. That's the things that we experienced and what we were really wanting to look for that CRM to do to make sure it was optimal for us.
When you're making a switch such as this, how important is it to have the buy-in of leadership and what's the best way to go about making sure that you get it?
[Perkins] It's essential to have buy-in from the top. When you're looking at the leadership of a firm, they're really the ones that need to be leading by example. If they're not bought in to what you're doing, the system that you're utilizing, they're going to come up with their own processes, their own way of doing things. And then the rest of the team sees that happening and then they start doing their own thing because they're not going to buy into that system switch either. So really gaining their buy-in was key from the very beginning of this process. What we really wanted to make sure to do was explain the why. Why are we switching from what we have and utilizing to something new? We really worked through “Here's how the current CRM system isn't supporting our processes. Here's how it's really negatively affecting our processes, our team, our clients.”
We really worked through all of that and then we presented that to our leadership team. So again, they understood the why, why we were shifting. Through that they were able to really buy into what we were trying to do. Then they were some of our biggest cheerleaders throughout our process.
When you're determining the team that's going to select your new CRM system because obviously this is something that's going to touch a lot of departments in an organization – what departments need to be represented and why is it important that the team be cross-functional among different departments?
[Perkins] Especially with a CRM system that's going to be utilized throughout your whole company, it's really important to have every department represented. Everyone from your leadership, your tax, your audit, your administrative, your technology, even all the way to your business development and your project management team, everyone should be represented in that. Because if only one department is really focused on trying to figure out what solution you should utilize, they're only thinking about how it's affecting them and their process. By having that cross-functional team, it really helps to understand, what are all of the areas of your company looking for? What's success look like for them? You really understand what their processes are and what they're looking for in the system. Having that cross-functional team really helps you make sure that that solution really works for your entire company.
It's helping your process to be a lot more smooth. You don't have multiple systems. You're having to double-enter different pieces of information. That's why it was really important for us and I think for any firm to make sure that they have somebody represented from all areas.
As clearly you know from working with CRM systems that didn't work for your organization, these systems, they're not one size fits all usually. So what did your team do to determine your firm needs and figure out which CRM would work best for you guys?
[Perkins] This is the first time we've ever really gone through this type of process when it came to selecting a solution for our firm. It was something that really helped us and something we're going to continue utilizing moving forward with other solution upgrades. What we really started with was we brought that cross-functional team together, and we started with something that we called the project charter. What that was really helping us figure out was what was the purpose for going through this? What was the purpose of that system? What problem was it solving? So we were able to list out all of our problems, what we were trying to get from it, how we wanted to make sure those problems were solved. And then we also went through kind of key measurements for success so that we could have some of those metrics that we would hopefully be able to capture with our solution.
Then we talked about the scope of the project – “Here's where it starts, but where do we say it ends so we can move to that next step?” We really started with that project charter and it was just a brain dump of everyone able to talk about anything that was kind of keeping them up at night when it came to our current solution and what we were really needing for a CRM solution for our firm. After that, went into what we called the 10 times value creator. What that was able to do is have us talk as a team about, okay, here's what our project looks like, here's where it starts, here's where it ends. So what resources are we going to have to allocate for this project?
With that cross functional team, we were able to talk about, well, here's the other projects we have on our plate and other areas of the company and how those needed some of the same resources. We could start figuring out a better timeline. Like, "Hey, this isn't going to happen in three weeks. It's going to take probably a little bit more time than that." Then we were able to start working through what success criteria were we looking for from the system. How would we make sure that those success criteria were being captured? The last step, which is my favorite by far, was our solutions evaluator. With that, we were able to really talk through, again, here's the purpose of what we're looking for in the system.
Here's what we're doing now that we want to keep doing, what we want to start doing with the new system, what we want to stop doing. I'll get a lot of that busy work, the additional entry in multiple systems. Then again, our success criteria. We really talked through every single cross-functional team member and their areas and what they were looking for in it and what success would look like and what we needed the solution to do. It was really, here's everything we need the system to do, all the individuals that it really touches, and what we would say it would be successful if they were able to actually do that.
How important is it in this process to be proactive in letting CRM solution providers know what you need and to be actively involved from even maybe the demo process? As opposed to seeing what they have to offer and figuring out behind the scenes if it works for you. How important is it to be proactive about what you need?
[Perkins] I think that was another thing that we did a lot better this go-round than we've ever done in the past was when we got that solutions evaluator all completely filled out, what we did was we vetted through “Here's the different solutions that could work for us. Now let's give them that solution evaluator.” So now they have, “Here's what we're trying to accomplish with a CRM system. Here's everything we need it to do, how we need it to work for our team. Now you don't just give me your normal demo that you probably give to so many other people that just gives a general overview.” What we did was to say, "Here's what we need and we need you to show us that you can answer these and if you can't answer them, what is your work-around?" By doing that, it got us through the conversation so much quicker.
It really tailored their demos and their presentations to what we were looking for. It wasn't just a generalized one and it helped us get through the system so much quicker and really narrow down to our top two in determining which one we were going to then move forward with.
When an organization is making a switch like this, what sort of timeframe should they be expecting as far as when they begin the process to when the new system is launched? And how important is it to let that process control itself or to trust the process so to speak and not rush it?
[Perkins] I would say for us when we started working through this process, it was a good solid about nine months from the moment we started working through each step of our process to actually figuring out which one we were going to utilize and then start rolling that out. And I really think that since we didn't let it control us and we didn't have some really dead-set, “we have to get this rolled out by this time or everything's going to fall apart,” when we really just walked through the process and made sure to take our time, it made it so much more successful. It really helped again, having the buy-in from the leadership team. So they were able to not try to rush the process. They really were trusting us when we were giving them updates. By the time those nine months were over and we did start the rollout process, everyone was on board. Everyone is really excited about it and it went so smooth even into the first couple of months after rollout.