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Saving CRM: Change Management for Re-implementations

By: Erica Wright

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A new client recently asked us to help them address a major pain point – a struggling CRM implementation.  In the previous year, they had invested heavily in a new tool to drive sales efficiencies.  A few months following the launch, adoption numbers were nowhere near the predictions and in turn ROI wasn’t realized.  Their story isn’t unique – between 60-70% of all CRM launches fail.  Leading a re-implementation may seem daunting, but second passes can provide a great opportunity to be successful.  You can leverage lessons learned to create a user-centric experience that will turn a detractor into a champion and get buy-in from executives on the necessity of visible engagement.  With these types of projects, don’t let your team think of themselves as part of the clean-up crew – it’s time to save the day and be the heroes!

What Went Wrong: Facilitating Productive Review Sessions

The old saying “any press is good press” simply doesn’t hold true when it comes to CRM adoption results.  When numbers are in the red, tensions will be high and people will be quick to point fingers and assign blame.  As a re-implementation partner, creating the framework for open and constructive feedback in a formal product review session is a critical first step.  Here are a few tips to making your session as productive as possible:

  • As pre-work, get to know your stakeholder groups. This group should have a wide range of roles – from top level managers to daily end users.  Be sure to get a mix of people who championed the prior system as well as those who were the most vocal detractors.  Have as many one-on-one socialization meetings as possible prior to holding a larger, formal meeting.  Informal chats over lunch or coffee are great ways to get participants to open up about their view of how the launch could’ve been handled differently or what functionality isn’t working or is altogether missing.
  • Synthesize this feedback in advance to create an agenda that can buffer hot topics with facts and present opinions in a non-abrasive way.
  • At the start of your session, clearly state your goal – to walk away with a list of system changes needed and the business value behind them. Focus on finding the “what’s in it for me” (WIIFM) that will drive user excitement as well as the “who cares” to uncover ways that executive buy-in or engagement will reinforce adoption.
  • Review the agenda with the group to prevent rabbit holes – and create a “parking lot” area for ideas that should be discussed outside of this session’s mission. This ensures that participants won’t feel silenced or shut down even if their point can’t be fully unpacked in this meeting.
  • Don’t let your squeaky wheels monopolize the conversation – facilitate in a way that draws out all participants. You may need to use multiple techniques, including providing post-its and pens for people to write down their feedback and post it on the wall for the team to prioritize and flesh out.
  • Separate what’s real from what was miscommunicated. The pre-work here will come into play as well – make sure you understand what was actually “wrong” with the tool itself versus what users didn’t understand or weren’t properly trained on.  Be ready to discuss ways to better communicate for the relaunch, turning a potential vent into a useful training requirement.
  • Communicate, communicate, communicate – after the meeting, send a recap with any action items and a high level view of next steps. Keep your project team and stakeholders up-to-date on the progress to maintain momentum and energy leading up to a relaunch.

Delighting the Detractors: Turning Naysayers into Ground-level Champions

As you get to know the users who were more critical of the application, focus on turning them into the grassroots champions of the relaunch.  This may be as simple as showing them their voice is being heard as new developments are made, or it may be more challenging where you’ll have to convince them of the value of a new business process.  Change is never easy, but if someone has ownership in the change, their engagement will skyrocket.

Take it from the Top: Why Visible Executive Buy-in is a Must

We know that managers are critical to the success of a relaunch, but users want to know that the time and effort they put in to learning a new tool or process is valued.  Executives can show this value not only through changing the way teams are measured to align with the new business goals, but also through regular engagement with the tool itself.  The social component available in many CRMs today is a great way to reinforce expectations and to associate camaraderie and kudos with the CRM by commenting on high profile deals won, opening up best practice discussions that allow users to interact with C-level execs or even utilizing the social stream as part of near-real-time user support.

If you’re asked to manage a re-implementation, you have a wealth of experiences and feedback at your fingertips to achieve quick wins and long term goals.  Listen to that feedback, create champions at all levels of the organization, focus the relaunch on the “WIIFMs”, create executive visibility and err on the side of over communication by using tools like Social CRM.  It doesn’t take a hero to re-implement CRM, although your team may be treated like one following an adoption boost.

Erica Wright


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