CRM: Change How You Manage Change

By Neil Zawacki
Updated: September 22, 2011

Many small businesses experience a great deal of difficulty with implementing a new CRM application. The software doesn’t seem to deliver the expected benefits, or problems crop up which threaten to derail the process.

People also tend to be highly resistant to change. They’re performed their duties in a certain way for a long time, and they’ve worked until now, or at least they’ve seemed to, so they don’t see any reason to change them.

You can avoid many of these issues by taking a systematic approach to the implementation process. It won’t guarantee success, but there will be a much greater chance that people will stick with the software.

You will want to start by determine your company’s overall capacity for change. You’ll need to consider the current CRM system, the flexibility of employees, and key people who can assist with the transition. If some changes aren’t feasible, don’t try to force them. You’ll just end up frustrated and the implementation will have a greater chance of failure.

You should also take the time to show people the advantages they will have once the new CRM application is in place. If a complex and repetitive task is being streamlined, point this out to them. They’ll be much more likely to embrace the upcoming changes once they see what’s in it for them.

Another thing to keep in mind is to involve the front-line staff whenever possible. Ask them for the feedback about what works and what doesn’t and how the situation might be improved. You can then take this information into account when customizing and implementing the CRM software.

As the CRM implementation date nears, you will want to build momentum toward the switch. You’ll want to discuss the changes at weekly intervals and make sure that people know the different pieces are being put into place. You may also need to respond to emerging opportunities and modify the plan accordingly.

Eventually, it will be time for the CRM software to go live. This is a very short phase and typically takes a day or two to complete. If you experience unexpected problems, don’t panic. Just do what you can to resolve the issue and keep things running smoothly.

Once this is done, it’s up to you and your change team to make sure that people continue to use the CRM application. You will need to answer questions and fix problems as soon as they occur. You will also want to make sure that you have the full support of management – if the CEO won’t stand behind the changes, the other employees at your company may not feel it’s necessary to stick with the application.

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