With the coming of a new year comes an opportunity to revitalize your team for CRM success. Whether you’re just embarking on a new CRM program, or looking for new ways to maximize your customers’ experience with your brand, now is a good time to re-evaluate your organization’s software systems to make sure all are functioning according to CRM best practices standards. If they are, then your CRM program is in very good shape, and may just need a tweak here or there to maintain its customer-centric focus. If they aren’t, use the tips below to determine the reasons why, and then make the concerted effort to change or redefine your practices to attain the CRM success you need to connect with your customers.

Define the vision, goals, and expectations – CRM success starts with a vision of what it is you want your CRM systems to accomplish. Along with a vision come goals and expectations for your organization and the systems themselves. Without these key ingredients, your staff is left to figure it out for themselves, systems get managed in a piecemeal fashion, and team members fall back into comfortable old habits instead of trying bold new initiatives to engage customers.

Collect the right information – An effective CRM system uses the data it collects to enhance the customer experience in some way, and as a result strengthen the customer-brand bond. CRM success depends on your ability to carefully consider all of the data available, but collect only that which can be utilized effectively to meet your vision. Look at the data you’re capturing, or want to capture, and measure that against your goals and expectations. If it does nothing to enhance the customer relationship, or help you meet one of your goals or provide a metric to quantify your expectations, throw it out.

Empower your people – Effective customer relationship management is almost impossible if your team members don’t have the authority and backing of senior management to make on-the-spot decisions in the interest of better customer relationships and CRM success. Requiring “approval from above” frustrates both the customer and the employee, and is contrary to the concept of timely customer response. Train your people on your CRM vision, goals, and expectations, and train them on the software programs as well as effective and complete data collection methods. Then give them the freedom to make decisions on behalf of the organization. Reward employees who demonstrate customer-focused thinking.

Settle in for the long haul – CRM success won’t happen in a matter of months. It takes time to collect the data needed to gain customer insight, and even longer to build the valuable customer relationships your business seeks. Businesses often set the stage for failure with CRM systems by expecting immediate results, and then falling back to production-based thinking when the CRM program fails to realize that expectation.

Use technology to enhance your CRM systems, not replace them – A well-functioning CRM system has, at its core, people. People make the customer relationship work effectively. Businesses often look to technology as a way to displace staff or collect more data, and in the process, ignore the fact that people are an absolutely essential part of CRM success, and that the technology is only a means to strengthen that success. Technology should be used to collect and analyze meaningful data, and provide staff with the information needed to engage the customer and build your brand.

Embrace continuous improvement – Your relationships with customers will continue to grow only if your organization continuously evaluates its CRM systems and finds ways to improve them. Customers are dynamic, and as such, your CRM program must evolve as well. You must continuously analyze your data to look for changing trends or patterns in consumers, constantly re-evaluate your vision, goals, and expectations, and find new ways to measure the pulse of your customers if you expect to achieve the highest levels of CRM success.

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