How to build a customer relationship management model that works

15 September 2015 Karan Vidal

Customers are the heartbeat of a business and a useful customer relationship management (CRM) model is the lifeblood. CRM models manage customer interactions by tracking and updating communication. It’s a one-stop-shop to store information about customers and prospects for better engagement.

Despite the benefits of CRM, it’s had a bad rep for not delivering on its promises. The failure rate of CRM systems has been high. Organisations, especially large ones are complex by nature. Every intricacy must be taken into account when putting a CRM model in place. Without proper implementation and updating, CRM systems are very rarely the magic bullet they’re expected to be.

Start with a strategy


A successful CRM model should reflect the goals of the business. Define the direction of the business to make sure the system can cope with growth. Knowing your short and long term goals will enable you to get the most out of the system.

Data from customers is part of the road map. It will be difficult to put a practical strategy in place if you only have a vague idea about how your customers act. It’s worth putting the implementation of the CRM system on the back-burner until you have enough customer data to provide meaningful stats.

Here’s how RapidInfluence chose to implement its CRM model.

People help to make perfect

Yes, the new CRM model promises to be the ‘cure-all’ to customer and sales issues. Not getting the buy-in from the right people will be like tyre-kicking a Ferrari and not driving it at maximum speed.

Putting a new CRM in place involves big changes to the business and will impact every team. To deal with the inevitable “how we work is perfectly fine” moans and groans, the following should be on board:

  • Sponsor – ideally this should be someone very high up in the business.
  • Change management team – responsible for education and implementation.
  • Evangelist – someone who won’t shut-up about the benefits of the new system.
  • Users – get them involved to avoid ‘not invented here’ syndrome.
  • Suppliers – they need to understand what the changes mean for them.

A content strategy

Involving the right people in the implementation is half the battle. It’s also necessary to have a plan outlining how and when communication will be delivered.

Comms must be delivered in a way that every staff member can understand. This message has to remain the same and frequent.

Communicating the new policies and procedures around the new system should also be done as early as possible. Creativity in producing training documents will go a long way. Ditch the normal lengthy text documents and add some short reference guides, with as many images as possible.

Craft the customer experience


Customers are the most important part of the CRM model. The customer service direction has to be clearly laid out before the CRM system is introduced. Take a look at how Disney used CRM to improve its customer experience.

  • Defining the customer experience can be easier by doing the following:
  • Identify the challenges the business has when dealing with customers.
  • Understand the journey your customers and prospects take when interacting with the business.
  • Plug any gaps in the customer experience and journey.
  • Measure success with KPIs.

A clear view of what the customer experience is now and what you want it to be will go a long way in working out how, what and when the CRM model will provide.

Plot the processes

An analysis of your current processes is crucial for getting the CRM model right. The findings must be properly documented to show what needs to change. Going through the existing processes in a logical way is bound to bring up a few surprises, like:

  • The point the sales process collapses.
  • Unacceptable service practices.
  • Compliance issues.

Where possible, the opportunity should be taken to use current systems to fix deficiencies. The review of the processes will help to see how the CRM model will mix with non-marketing and sales processes, like purchasing and finance.

Select the software

After getting a clear idea of what’s needed, it’s time to choose the right technology. Don’t let all your hard work go to waste by failing to make sure that the software can do exactly what you want, and more. Look out for these things when making your decision:

  • Price – count not only the upfront cost but include cost of maintenance, upgrades, training and additional equipment.
  • System Integration – the software should coordinate well with your existing processes and systems.
  • Email integration – it should be easy to capture details from the most common type of communication.
  • Cloud based – aka software as a service (SaaS). According to Forrester, 15% of organizations have replaced all or most of their on-premise customer service applications with SaaS.
  • Mobile – another benefit of SaaS is that staff can access what they need anywhere, from any device.
  • Scalability – your system should grow with your business.
  • Supplier’s reputation – information gathering and due diligence are vital when selecting a supplier (that’s what we’re here for).
  • Automation – should remind sales staff to follow up with prospects at the right time.

The process of preparing for a CRM model implementation may seem drawn-out. It’s absolutely worth it considering the benefits if done correctly and the world of pain if not implemented properly.