CRM (customer relationship management) is a strategy that enables companies to manage their interactions with customers or clients on a one-to-one basis.

Marketing messages can be personalised and automated based on user data, resulting in improved customer satisfaction, sales and retention.

An effective CRM strategy relies on clean data and synchronised digital channels, which isn’t an easy task due to legacy systems and contracts with different vendors.

So to give some insight into how businesses should approach CRM implementation, I asked three experts for their words of wisdom.

This is the first of two posts on this topic, but for more information download Econsultancy’s best practice report investigating CRM in the Social Age...

1. What processes do you need to have in place before you can implement a CRM system?

Ben Barrass, Data and Digital Marketing Manager at Econsultancy

The processes that need to be in place should be driven from business objectives – what are you trying to achieve with any CRM implementation?

The business will have existing ways of dealing with customers and therefore any CRM implementation will tend to build on this previous experience. This should then be mapped together with defined objectives as to what they want to be able to achieve. 

Often overlooked are people issues as you dive into process, such as clearly defined roles and responsibilities for an implementation.

Also, is there a customer champion, are staff motivation and change issues considered, is there a process to manage the change within the organisation no matter what size?

Andrew Campbell, CRM Consultant and Econsultancy trainer

Successful CRM implementations are built on total clarity regarding what the value creation priorities are for the consumers and the brand, and how they can be addressed.

You will always make more money from doing the right CRM things than from doing them right!

CRM programmes should be viewed as a business strategy to meet customer and organisational goals. Integrating these with the broader business, brand and channel strategies will deliver high payback on CRM investments. 

CRM success starts from the top with executive sponsorship and direct involvement in the strategy, planning and programme design processes is vital.

Matthew Eccles, Managing Partner at Matthew Eccles Associates

Before talking about process I’d say that the critical elements to have in place are:

  • An acknowledgement by key stakeholders of why a CRM system/focus is needed. What business problem is it going to help fix?
  • A clear set of objectives and associated business case.
  • A roadmap for the marketing activities that the CRM system will enable – i.e. what new and more efficient/effective customer communications the CRM system will enable and in what order they will be implemented.

Following this, you need processes for vendor selection, implementation and system management.

Typically organisations don’t put enough effort into creating effective processes across these three areas. In my experience the problems arise because they fail to manage responsibilities between marketing users and IT project owners.

Too often IT has control of CRM implementation projects and the marketing (user) requirements are lost. 

2. How do you work out which data channels can provide valid information and which are the most important?

Matthew Eccles

For an organisation to get the most from any CRM programme a test, learn, and deploy approach is key. That’s why data analysts are a critical function in any CRM team.

There are three things that can inform a test and learn development plan:

  • Looking hard at where customers engage with the brand and to what degree in each channel. Social CRM is a hot topic in the CRM world and for some categories and brands this strategy makes sense as many of their customers engage with them through social channels. However that’s not the case for all brands.
  • Reviewing what has worked in the past. Another task for the analysts. Data can tell us which channels have historically been effective sources for driving customer engagement and value historically. These are good places to start in testing data sources for new CRM strategies.
  • Understanding the potential value of new data sources. Over recent years CRM has been energized through access to new data sources that have enabled CRM managers to create more relevant and timely communications. 

We can reasonably expect that new data sources will continue to become available and that CRM managers will need to use their knowledge and experience to decide which have potential value and should be mapped into a test and learn programme. 

Ben Barrass

I tend to start with the outcomes – whether that be customer scenarios or marketing plans for example, map the ‘ideal’ customer relationship management program based on the evolution of the existing processes in order to achieve objectives. 

Then just work backwards. Figure out what data flows are required at each step, and then audit whether this is in fact possible. 

It's also important to review the data quality: 

  • Is it linkable with other sources?
  • Are customer iterations from touch-points tracked?
  • What system does it appear in, can this be moved (and how easy is that)?
  • What are the consequences and risks of failures in processes feeding a CRM system and how can they (if at all) be mitigated? 

You’ll then have a pretty clear idea of what is possible, what needs work, and what is required against your business objectives.

Andrew Campbell

To determine the optimal data strategy you have to work backwards from the value-adding actions you want to take and the insights that will underpin them.

For example, if the priority is to maximise cross-sell at point of purchase you will want to know what product customers are most likely to buy as a cross-sell, what price to charge/terms to offer and whether they will purchase the cross-sell immediately or after the event.

To create these key insights you should collect and test data from:

  • The customer at checkout that will indicate likelihood to cross-sell to them.
  • The web logs to analyse immediate cross-sell patterns and A/B test results e.g. offer tests.
  • The product system to analyse after the event cross-sales.
  • Social media platforms to see if social interactions correlate to cross-sales.
  • Email platform to see if email interactions correlate to cross-sales.
  • Mobile app and web site platform to see if mobile interactions correlate to cross-sales.

Data is cost and so any data collection and management must have a business case that demonstrates that the insights it provides delivers incremental sales or reduced costs that make for a positive ROI.

3. What does great CRM look like?

Matthew Eccles

Great CRM is evidenced by the customer response. It delivers measurable incremental value to the organization across sales, brand engagement and brand affinity. 

CRM justifies the resources invested in it by understanding customers and delivering relevant and timely messages to them.

Andrew Campbell

Great CRM is a seamless blend of sales, marketing and service messages that combine to surprise and delight the customer with a timely, personalised and value adding experience.

When a brand proactively predicts future needs and delivers to these or reacts instantly to customer actions in a relevant, personalised manner you know that not far beneath the surface of that customer experience is a well planned and executed CRM system.   

David Moth

Published 27 May, 2014 by David Moth

David Moth is Editor and Head of Social at Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or connect via LinkedIn

1719 more posts from this author

You might be interested in

Comments (4)


zain ali, Marketing Executive at LiveAdmins JLT

The best thing is using live chat support services to retain your customer. It is observed that customer does not have so much time to read your articles in details that`s why adding live chat service on your website is useful thing for you. You can easily track your visitor by using it and also important to increase your relationship.

about 4 years ago


David Jackson, CEO at Clicktools

I think there is a clue to the only valid starting point for any CRM implementation: the C in the acronym!

We live in an age where customer focus and the quality of the customer experience is a proven growth strategy. That starts with purposeful design of that experience at each stage of the customer journey. This has to be the starting point for any successful CRM implementation and without that outlook, the chances of success are limited, no matter how good the governance and project management is.

Here are the six questions I think you need to answer for a successful CRM implementation:

1. What are the key touch points on the customer journey?
2. At each touch point what matters most to the customer?
3. How do we purposefully design the experience to deliver what customers want at that touch point?
4. How do we configure CRM:
- To enable the customer to achieve their goals
- To enable the company to do that repeatedly?
5. What measures and feedback do we need to assess our success in delivering the designed experience?
6. What is the single view of the customer data model we need to do this?

To return to my opening point. The acronym is about managing the customer relationship. To me this means all of it, not just sales or service or some other department that means nothing to the customer. I accept that implementation may have to be done in phases but not articulating an over-arching vision from the start will lead to failure in the long run.

Dave J

PS I recognise that there is much more to building a customer focused company but have limited my comments to the technology as that is what I understood the post to be about.

about 4 years ago


Richard Young

It's a good starting point and from a generic "customer" that works. But you do need to think about the implementation (execution) of the CRM from a departmental and user perspective.

How does this help to make more efficient and effective?

It's a sure fire way to have a CRM implementation fail if all your considering is the external view. CRM is a balancing act. With many different departments on the system, you often loose focus on whats important to individuals and departments - this is critical to success as without it, people simply stop using the system as it becomes burdensome.

A typical CRM implementation will require the sales team to become data entry clerks - instant fail.

The job functions from team to team change rapidly and therefore the CRM needs to reflect this, rather than being a one size fits all approach.

Once you have that user buy in you'll be able to look at the outside and ensure those people are enabled to do the best for the customer. It's people first, not technology.

about 4 years ago


Mike Richardson, Managing Director at Maximizer Software

Great advice from Ben and Andrew at the start of this article regarding getting your process correct before implementing a CRM solution. We have a useful phrase we use at Maximizer when explaining this to prospects. ‘Automating a poor process just makes bad things happen more quickly’. This is very true but unfortunately many companies will simply implement a new system without a root and branch review of how they are doing things. Get a great manual process in place before automating it, and do not automate for automations sake, sales, marketing and service staff have brains and should be free to use them. Put a process in place but try not to be over prescriptive, this will just tie the hands of your valuable staff and make them feel a slave to the solution.

It is also important that the review process is ongoing, things change quickly, as an example here at Maximizer our CRM sales a few years ago were primarily on-premise - windows based solutions, now 50% of our prospects are interested in our hosted solutions. The qualification of each type of prospect now has had to change to take this into account, our initial questions around what infrastructure a prospect has or what version of windows no longer have as much significance, but good access to the internet and updated browsers are very important questions to ask. The whole way a sale is undertaken is also different, it’s easy to start a trial in the hosted world but sometime too easy so a prospect does not put aside an appropriate amount of time for the evaluation and initial training.

True great CRM is evidenced by the customer response, but also by the value it gives to all users of the system, whether directors, senior managers or other staff. Ease of access, flexibility and getting data out easily in the form of dashboards, reports and BI are key. The resulting data and analysis helps to drive a better more productive service.

Mike Richardson
Maximizer CRM

about 4 years ago

Save or Cancel

Enjoying this article?

Get more just like this, delivered to your inbox.

Keep up to date with the latest analysis, inspiration and learning from the Econsultancy blog with our free Digital Pulse newsletter. You will receive a hand-picked digest of the latest and greatest articles, as well as snippets of new market data, best practice guides and trends research.