Is Your Software Up To Date?
Start your spring cleaning by reviewing the status of your CRM system and its supporting software. Check with your vendor for patches, bug fixes and updates and install the ones you're missing.
While you're at it, check the supporting software, such as local area networks, operating systems, storage management and such for patches and updates as well and apply those as needed. CRM is only as efficient and secure as these underlying systems, but all to often it's “out of sight, out of mind” for these vital components.
Of course you try to keep your system patched and current all year around, but things have a way of slipping through cracks. An annual review will help make sure you are current.
Look For Missing Elements
CRM manufacturers update their systems constantly, adding new modules and new functionality through add-ons. Check your system's vendor and look at what's new.
While there will undoubtedly be new items, not all of them will be of value to you. Look for the ones that have the potential to help your business and consider the costs and benefits of adding them.
The cost goes far beyond the simple list price. There's also the cost of labor and foregone profits caused by the disruption of your existing system. Balance these carefully and consider adding the pieces that will show a positive ROI in a reasonable period of time.
Conduct A Walk-Around
Physically observe what's going on in all the departments under your control. Ask questions of employees of all levels to try to find out how well the CRM system is working. Are there any complaints? Any obvious soft spots? Make a note of those for future improvements. Meet with the department managers to see what they like about the system and if there are any concerns and complaints that need to be addressed.
Check With Your Customers
Don't forget your customers in this process. Now is a good time to contact some of them and find out about their experiences.
Explore The Customer Contact Interface
This is a fancy way of saying to check the customer and potential customer experience.
One of the best ways to start is to pick up your phone and call in as if you were a customer. A lot of executives are surprised – to put it mildly – at what a customer or potential customer has to go through in order to get in a position where they can place an order.
Pay special attention to the automated phone attendant if your company uses one. Automated attendants can save a lot of money and wear and tear on employees, but they can also cost you business big time if they make it difficult for the customer to do business with you.
Are the menus short, clear and easy to use? Does the potential customer have to navigate a maze of menus to get to the desired option? Can the customer even recognize the desired option from the description the system gives? Is there always an option to speak to a live person?
Automated attendants tend to get worse over time as changes are made, features are added or deleted and responsibilities in the company change. You need to make sure your menus and options are looked at regularly and pruned or otherwise adjusted as needed.
Now do the same thing with a contact through your web site. How easy is it to navigate the site? How easy is it to place an order? How fast is the response time to questions or problems?
The next step is to review the data on initial customer contact. What is the average hold time? How long is the average call? Are the Customer Service Representatives given a time limit on calls (bad) or are they encouraged to make sure they have dealt with the customer's concerns? What is the percentage of hang-ups?
Take a similar look at your web site. How fast do you respond to a customer email? Do you have a system in place to put a CSR or technician on line (either in chat or by telephone) with the customer if necessary. What sort of feedback are you getting from customers who bother to leave feedback on the web site?
Finally, Pull It All Together
Once you've finished all this, sit down and make a list of the problems you've encountered. Try to prioritize that list and think about possible solutions.
The next step is to call a managers' meeting to discuss what you've found and possible solutions. Don't be surprised if the managers are already aware of. It is also quite possible that some of the concerns you've encountered aren't more complicated than they appear from 10,000 feet.
It's a good idea to prepare a written list of the concerns and to distribute a copy to everyone at the meeting. That one everyone has a record of what the concerns are throughout the company.
These meeting are somewhat delicate because the managers' natural reaction is to be defensive. Try to head that off by emphasizing the purpose of the meeting is not to blame anybody it is to solve problems. Later, if necessary, you can meet with managers individually to discuss mete out praise or blame if needed.
Ideally, you should come out of this meeting with a list of action items to deal with the problems you have identified. Start implementing those immediately.
One of the items on that list should be a series of meetings with departments to share an abbreviated version of what you've found and what's going to be done about it. Again, emphasize that this isn't about blame or punishment, but about constant improvement.
Repeating this process at least annually will take a major step in dealing with problems and concerns by identifying them quickly and (hopefully) fixing them while they are small.