May 3, 2012

Why CRMs Fail and How to Choose One that Works for You

Misinformation, failed implementations, and “me too” mentality have plagued the CRM industry, resulting in implementation failure rates ranging from 40-80%. It is so bad that there are even annual competitions for “CRM Implementations of the Year” and even a “CRM Idol”. Ironically, the majority of reasons for why CRMs fail are common sense things.

CRM is Not a Saviour to your Existing Problems

A disorganized organization will not be able to capitalize on the benefits of a CRM when it is not in a position to do so. Said differently, a CRM should be used to enhance organization, productivity, insight and improve metrics.

Statistically, a CRM is Wrong for You

The decision to adopt a CRM is usually made at the wrong time, for the wrong reasons, and without knowledge of what features the company needs.

Know Exactly What You Are Improving with your CRM

Any endeavor is a failure if you don’t know what a successful outcome is. What do you want to improve? What are metrics you want to achieve? What needs to be measured?

Get EXCITED to Use a CRM

We mean it – EXCITED. Failure is inevitable if your whole team isn’t looking forward to using your solution. The only way you can assure that you’re not making decisions from bad data is to ensure that your entire team loves using the CRM and sees benefits in spending time on adding information and data. Having bad data is worse than having no data. Making decisions from data you think is accurate, but is completely wrong is a quick path to an irrevocable situation.

CRM’s are a LONG TERM Solution

Don’t rush into this.  You have to theoretically be ok with your solution 5 years from now.


How to Decide on a CRM

This section is kept purely objective on features and characteristics of a CRM.  Every business is different. So, it’s silly to think that you should have to sacrifice core parts of your business to fit a CRM because it’s just close enough. Take the following steps to help you in deciding which CRM will be best for your company.

Answer the following questions and write it out:

1. What would my team be doing if they didn’t have administrative overhead?

You won’t die without a CRM. But, you will die if your team is bogged down with the administrative overhead that comes from managing a CRM that doesn’t maximize their time working on what they need to be working on.

2. What 3 metrics should I know at all times and try to improve?

Not attaching measurements to your objectives means you wake up and have no idea what you’re doing or trying to achieve. The same principles apply to making sure your CRM is helping you improve these metrics. You need to know what you want to measure before you begin using a CRM solution or it will be impossible to determine its success.

Most of the people who complain about a CRM don’t realize that there was a problem from the beginning. CRM means customer relationship manager or management.  That’s not a tool, that’s a process.  A Google Doc and LinkedIn are perfect CRMs if they work for you and your process.  It might be true that this is all you need if you find it easy to manage and measure your progress.  Often times, I talk to businesses that are happiest with a detailed spreadsheet that is completely customizable and easy to use and understand with no learning curve.  It’s also free.

3. Create a spreadsheet and share it with your team to simulate a CRM.

You can determine how your team will adopt a CRM and how they will use it by sharing a spreadsheet with each department.  The four things that you will be able to uncover are:

a. You can determine if the whole team will contribute or not.  If you don’t have the participation you need from the people you need on spreadsheet, you won’t have it when you pay for a CRM.

b. The spreadsheet is the most customizable solution you could ever have.  Each person or department can create columns or rows for information that they deem important. You can use this insight as part of your RFP (request for proposal) for the real CRM.  It’s also important that all of your team contribute to this as to not alienate different departments.

c. The spreadsheet is your blueprint for what you need when searching for a CRM. It will help you in evaluating functionalities that you will require.

d. You will be able to determine when and why you will need a CRM. If the spreadsheet is not enough and you actually have the participation of your team, you will have the reasons to source a CRM.


The Evaluation

Our evaluation criteria for a CRM decision is based on the 10 most cited reasons for success and the 10 most cited reasons for failure in CRM implementations.

If you’re looking for specific data on certain reasons CRM implementations fail, you won’t find consistent findings among the Forrestors and Gartners of the world because the array of reasons is so sporadic for why things worked or they didn’t. The culture of your company and the people who are part of your team have in essence already determined the success of the implementation.

Here are the subjective items to evaluate when looking at a CRM solution:

Learning Curve/Ease of use

Is it easy to use?  Don’t get caught in the feature chasing and shiny new objects that a CRM offers when you are looking or when you choose one.  If it’s easy to use and understand, it will get utilized more.

Disruption of current workflow

Unless their job is data entry, your team is getting paid because they’re good at something else that is not managing or inputting data into a CRM.  But you still need them to put data into a CRM or manage it to a small degree.  The more it disrupts their workflow or the more involved it is to utilize, the less time is spent on revenue generating items and the less likely you are to get consistent input from your team.

Cost & Free Trials

Nuff said.  Only you can evaluate the ROI of a CRM investment by your company.

Third party integrations

Often times you’ll see a company choose a CRM because it had a particular plugin from a third party that fit their business and specific needs.  Search within each CRM for this option.  You should have an indication of what this is at the evaluation stage however and not base a decision that sounds like, “they have the most integration partners so if we need one eventually this is who we should go with”..

ERP and Ecommerce

These are almost completely different decision making criteria but if you have a product that requires fulfillment or has an ecommerce platform, a CRM within an ERP might be your best solution.  For this reason, we’ve simply placed a checkmark in the evaluation table if it has ERP functionality.

Mobile Version

This is just checked if there is a mobile version or an app.  Needs for mobile run the gamut.

Reporting and Analytics

Automated reports and a managerial dashboard help you make immediate decisions and a good dashboard will tell you what to do now.  This is most of the reason you are using a CRM in the first place.  A solid reporting infrastructure saves a ton of time and anguish.

When you’ve narrowed your decision

1.  Call customers that the CRM is boasting about and ask them what they hate or don’t like.  You’d be amazed at how many of them do not currently use the service any more they just haven’t taken the name off the site.

2.  Ask for a demo of showing this working.  Have different members of your team from different departments seeing this.

Let us know how your CRM implementation goes and share any tips you have below.

2 Comments on “Why CRMs Fail and How to Choose One that Works for You

June 10, 2012 at 6:06 pm

Hello, I am having a hard time finding a CRM solution for our tech startup. Most if not all CRM’s seem to focus only on a sales process based on b2b sales or enterprise sales.

For a lean startup or most tech startups I dont see this model fitting. What is the solution you implemented for ecquire? What have you seen be successful?

Toan Dang
June 12, 2012 at 2:42 pm

Thanks for commenting Robert.

You’re right. Most CRM’s are more in tuned with a b2b or enterprise sales process. Mainly because those situations are where the majority of touchpoints and interactions happen.

But dealing with B2C is just as important. And with social media, relationships with customers are built all over the place. Here’s a simplified version of how we use CRM:

– We use a combination of Highrise CRM. HootSuite social media dashboard, and Google Docs
– Our contacts are categorized into the following: lead/prospect, customer, evangelist
– We have a defined criteria for when someone is considered a prospect – and when we meet someone that fits that criteria, we capture them into our CRM
– All other contacts on social media that we meet who are not prospects would be categorized in a list like “new follows” or something more appropriate.
– Our efforts concentrate on moving contacts along the funnel: new contact > prospect, prospect > customer, customer > evangelist.

Here’s a link to the social media CRM system that I use for Ecquire:

Feel free to email me at if you have any questions.


Leave a Reply to Toan Dang Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *