Key Features of a Customer Relationship Management Communications Plan

Building a new Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system is a big investment of time, money, and effort. But when done correctly, the amount of time saved, money earned, and relationships built are well worth the upfront costs. Government agencies rely on CRMs to streamline processes, measure success, provide high-quality customer service, and ensure security. While there may be initial employee pushback to adopting new ways of working, anticipating these challenges can help alleviate some initial stressors and lead to a more successful final product.

Prior to an external CRM rollout, implementing a well-orchestrated and strategic internal CRM communication plan will reduce employee resistance to adoption. In addition to alleviating employees’ concerns, a strategic communications plan can position the system as an exciting new technology that will improve work performance, allay stress, and improve system adaptation. Customer Relationship Management systems can improve many business processes, ranging from increased customer loyalty to better project management to turning more insights into revenues — the possibilities are limitless. Yet change management at this scale requires the organization’s employees, including the executives, to identify the specific need and purpose of the CRM to understand why their processes are changing.

To move a potentially abstract concept like a CRM from ideation to implementation and ensure its success, WBD has identified four key features of a strategic communications plan with appropriate messaging and timing.

Four Key Features of a CRM Strategic Communications Plan

1. Define Roles and Responsibilities
According to a recent survey assessing the obstacles CRM professionals must navigate to deploy a successful project, “Nearly two-fifths (38 percent) of respondents stated their problems were the result of people issues such as slow user adoption, inadequate attention paid to change management and training, and difficulties in aligning the organizational culture with new ways of working.” A successful CRM system tailored for an organization or specific business needs will define user roles, responsibilities, permissions, and use cases. For example, a new system might require each employee to enter the contact information of a potential client before they receive approval to contact them. This new approval and documentation process should be clearly defined with a process map featuring assigned roles and key deliverables. Before the CRM ever comes to fruition, it is essential for leadership to communicate who will do what so employees can begin with a level set of expectations.

2. Explain New Processes and Procedures
Communicating how the CRM system will impact an employee’s job is crucial for user adoption and the continued success of the system. By the time an organization is ready to roll out its new CRM, it should have begun implementing the new ways the organization will function. Change management and communicating expectations must occur before the technological rollout. Managers should clearly define new work processes and standard procedures, while also noting if any previous procedures or systems will retire. In addition, management should consider that a new process of work is challenging for those employees who have a long tenure with the company, and should tailor their communications to address some of these longstanding processes that may be difficult to abandon.

3. Identify a Success Measurement Strategy
Clearly defined objectives help employees understand what is expected of them, how to measure their performance, and when to ask for help. First, managers should reiterate the organization’s Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), then indicate how these will be measured, quantitatively or qualitatively, through the CRM. For example, if a goal of the business is to retain existing clients longer, then managers should explain how this will be measured. Or if a goal is to allow employees to share information across several offices seamlessly, it must demonstrate how the CRM will make this easier. The use cases for a CRM are endless, but it is up to the organization to determine and communicate what goals the CRM can achieve, how to measure them, and what success looks like.

4. Anticipate Technological and Training Challenges
Finally, organizations must address how the CRM will come to fruition. All the technological aspects of the new CRM platform — the new IT team, the help desk, the training — must be clearly communicated. The CRM will likely function differently than anything the employees have seen before. For many, it will be stressful. But if organizations have a training plan with methods such as e-learning, training labs, office hours, discussion boards, etc., then employees can understand how to tackle the up-front challenges of user adoption.

Get It on the Calendar

Even if an organization has the answers to all four key features, it is meaningless without a well-timed strategic communications plan. Once the development of a CRM is underway, contracts have been signed, and the project is moving forward, organizations should determine how they will communicate to their employees that change is coming.

A timeline with key calendar dates for communications ensures the information reaches the right people. A repository of important documentation and reference information, like an FAQ sheet, further helps employees understand the upcoming CRM.

Starting from the top down, information should be shared with key stakeholders, managers, and employees that include the following key information:

● What a CRM is, why the organization needs it, and how it will be used
● What resources employees can access for help before and after implementation
● Who might be involved in a pilot group
● When change management training will occur
● How users will be trained for the platform, including dedicated training plans
● When the anticipated go-live date of the CRM will occur

Further, the communication should do more than just transmit information, it should also convey excitement around the launch of the new CRM system. User adoption is a key element to the success of a new CRM, and organizations must convey why the CRM is beneficial to their employees. Most businesses work with a motto of “work smarter, not harder,” and a CRM can accomplish that goal. If an organization communicates that its new CRM tool will streamline daily tasks, obliterating the stressful roadblocks that may be frustrating employees, teams are more likely to get excited about adopting the new system.

Final Thoughts

A strategic communications plan can help alleviate a lot of the fears many technologists will have when implementing a new system. According to CIO magazine, research shows that at least one-third of CRM projects fail. You can avoid landing in that one-third by anticipating the issues employees will face. Organizations should create their strategic communications timelines and information repositories with all pertinent information leading up to implementing the CRM so employees are ready to go once the product is launched. There will always be road bumps even after the CRM is live, but a CRM communication plan is one of the first steps of ensuring its continued success.

At WBD, our strategic communications experts work alongside our clients to develop CRM communication plans oriented to their employee’s needs. From diagnosing current technological challenges, developing a process improvement plan, surveying the user base, creating a strategic communications plan, crafting database solutions — and everything in between — WBD helps our clients make better CRM decisions.

Author: Jessica Lewis, Lead Consultant at WBD, is a CRM and strategy professional engaged with the firm’s Private Sector Engagement Support award with the United States Agency for International Development.