Photograph courtesy of Tim Green

You may have a CRM system, but is adding value? Here are five quick ways to test if all is well:

What reports does it produce? – reports are a great acid test of how well your CRM system is supporting the business. If there aren’t any relevant reports, or they aren’t producing reliable, insightful data, then you’ve probably got problems.

What’s the data quality like? – This doesn’t have to be a sophisticated analysis. Take a reasonable sample of records and review them. Look for duplicate, incomplete, or inaccurately filled out records. Low quality data is normally a sign of poorly defined usage and a lack of administrative procedures or resources.

What processes does the system support? – In other words what’s the system actually being used for (as opposed to should be used for). This can be a real eye opener, and it may become apparent that most key operational processes happen outside of the system.

How are new recruits trained? – Without a structured training programme for new joiners, usage of the system will quickly become inconsistent and unproductive.

When was the CRM system last changed? – Your organisation and the markets it serves will be constantly evolving and it’s important that the CRM system changes too. If the CRM remains too static over time, the likelihood is that it will slide into obsolescence.

My best guess is that the majority of existing CRM systems will fail on one or more counts.

This may or may not be a disaster depending on what you are looking to achieve. As discussed in this blog post, an inconsistently used or managed CRM system may still add value, just in a very limited way. If you’ve got greater aspirations for your CRM technology then any of the above issues should be a cause for concern.

Equally, none of these problems are insoluble. However, when faced with these issues, the temptation is often to change the CRM system itself. This may be the wrong thing to do a) because it’s an expensive way to solve a problem, and b) unless the lessons are learned it’s a situation that can be quickly and expensively repeated.

It’s normally better to address the problems you have with your existing CRM system first, before contemplating a change of technology. The starting point of course is to understand if you have a problem in the first place.

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