5 Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Issues Manufacturing Companies Can Avoid

    9/20/17 10:00 AM

    5 CRM issues manufacturing companies can avoid

    CRM project planning reduces CRM problems

    Customer relationship management (CRM) software can be extremely beneficial in streamlining the sales process for manufacturing companies, providing the CRM project is structured properly. You probably don’t deal with buying and implementing software every day, but we do. Or experience in assisting hundreds of other companies in the selection and implementation of CRM allows us to guide you through this process. Here are five CRM issues and problems you need to be aware of so you can make the most of your efforts.

    CRM issue #1: Your company needs CRM software and doesn’t have it.

    One of the telltale signs that your company can benefit from CRM software is the number of spreadsheets used to manage the customer base, sales cycles, and follow-up items. The more spreadsheets you use, the more you need CRM software.

    The beauty of spreadsheets is that they are easy to use and powerful—and, a better solution than having nothing. The problem with spreadsheets is they are an island of information. It contains data, but that data is not connected to any other data. The fact that you need many spreadsheets reinforces the fact you have stand-alone, non-integrated data. Also, spreadsheets don’t tell the whole customer relationship story. You can’t analyze a single spreadsheet and know: How many open invoices does a customer have? How do sales this year compare to last year? Are there any open quotes that need a follow-up call?

    What you want is a 360° view of your customer in one database. You want this because, like anything else in life, if you want to improve you need to know where you’re at compared to where you want to be, develop a plan to get there, and measure your progress against that plan. Trying to achieve this with a myriad of spreadsheets will hinder your results. Your company will not be the best it can be.

    CRM software solves this problem. However, searching for and then implementing the right CRM solution can lead to four other issues, so keep reading.

    CRM issue #2: You have the wrong CRM project team.

    The purchase and implementation of CRM software is not a project IT should lead. IT should, however, play a supporting role. Who are they supporting? They are supporting whoever is responsible for the customer relationship, which is typically a sales management role.

    Keep in mind that CRM is a tool, not a solution. The solution is always a combination of people and processes. Software is the tool that people use as they follow the process put in place. IT supports the people and the process by assuring that the tool is performing properly. Any variation of this mindset is usually a recipe for disaster.

    The CRM implementation team should consist of the person with overall responsibility for the customer relationship along with some users of the CRM.

    CRM issue #3: You don’t value the integration between CRM and your ERP system.

    The team that is evaluating and implementing CRM software needs to understand where CRM fits into the rest of the organization. Although it might be tempting to buy an off-the-shelf, stand-alone CRM system (“Look at all the money we’ll save!”), don’t do it. If you do, all you have done is grouped your many islands of information into one bigger island. All of the quotes, orders, shipments, and invoice information is in your ERP software and is part of the 360° customer view you want.

    Once you price out integration of the stand-alone CRM with your ERP system, the “savings” will quickly evaporate, and changing versions of either software could require modifications to that integration.

    Value the beauty of an integrated CRM/ERP system. Long term, it is your most cost efficient path.

    CRM issue #4: Your goals for CRM are not defined properly.

     The problem is that a lot of the goals created aren’t actually goals at all—they are a description of software features.

    Goals are related to the business, not the software. For example, looking up customer information on a handheld device is not a goal, it’s a feature. Creating a system that allows you to quickly answer any customer question related to quotes, orders, shipments, and invoices without having to call them back is a goal. Looking up customer information on a handheld is a software feature that supports the goal. CRM stores the customer data—another feature that supports the goal. Notice how a good goal unifies different features of the software and gives them purpose?

    CRM issue #5: Your data collection requirements are not realistic.

    Did you know if you feed a starving person too much right away they can die? It’s called refeeding syndrome. Basically, the body did the best it could to adapt to the extended fast; it needs time to begin processing again. Feeding someone too much too fast could cause the body to shut down completely.

    How is this related to CRM issues? Your sales team has been undernourished for years trying to sustain themselves with spreadsheets and post-it notes. CRM can provide a tremendous amount of data, so the tendency is to want all of it! Let’s track the square footage of the customer’s facility! Let’s put spouse’s names in the contact record! Birthdays—we need birthdays! This is going to be great! Trust me: This is a very seductive trap to fall into.

    Don’t go overboard with the data you collect. Focus on what you need, not just what the CRM software can store. Any CRM software can store more information than you need. It’s OK to ignore what you don’t need. Here’s the reality: CRM implementations fail because required data is not entered into the system. Now, you can focus all your resources and spend all your employee goodwill on making sure all square footage, spouse, and birthday information is entered properly. Will your company reach its performance goals if you gather all this information? Chances are, it won’t. Chances are, your performance goals will be ignored and the focus shifts to gathering information that won’t help you. Not a good situation.

    If you needed such detailed information to be successful, you would have already created a spreadsheet to store it. Here’s the simple truth: Data collection is not free. The more information you require, the more it costs you. If you require too much, the CRM software becomes too difficult to use, so employees stop using it. They still need something to help them manage their data though, and the solution they come up with will sound familiar—the very same spreadsheets you started out with.

    Less truly is more.

    Remember, even if the only information you put into your CRM is exactly what you were tracking in spreadsheets, you have taken a big step. All the information is in one spot. It can be tracked and measured. It is accessible and gives you a 360° view of your customer.

    Summary

    I hope this discussion of customer relationship management problems has been helpful. If you’d like to read more about CRM, my colleague wrote a blog highlighting the differences between CRM and ERP. If you’d like to have a no-pressure, no-sales conversation with me about CRM and/or CRM issues and problems, click here.

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    Jack Shannon

    Written by Jack Shannon

    Jack is the President of Visual South and has been working with the product since 1996 when he bought it in his role as a Plant Manager. Since 1998 he has worked for Visual South with roles in consulting, sales and executive management.