Switching CRMs? 3 Tips to Make it a Hassle-Free Transition

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Considering switching CRMs? Read this first.

Note: this post was originally published on Business.com.

Switching to a different customer relationship management platform can be quite a challenge for small businesses. You're tasked with gaining your team's buy-in, transferring customer data and implementing new workflows. But, with the right approach, it doesn't have to be such a daunting transition.

Before making a switch, you first need to determine whether the software itself is the problem. Businesses switch CRMs for various reasons, but in my experience, the decision often comes down to poor user adoption. If it's not clear to your staff members how – or even why – to use the CRM, then don't expect them to be eager participants. Perhaps that's why failure rates for CRM projects hover around 33%, according to a 2017 analysis. And when CRM installations take a nosedive, they not only fail to deliver profitable growth, they can also damage long-standing customer relationships.

Should you switch CRMs?

The main job of a CRM is to organize leads and keep communication flowing. If leads are slipping through the cracks and miscommunication is constant, you're not getting your money's worth out of the software.

Before trashing your CRM, however, take the time to investigate the source of the issue. Audit the CRM software and setup. Is the issue user adoption or lack of standards for data entry? Perhaps the system is missing key features your company needs, which is a common reason people choose to switch CRMs, according to a survey from Capterra. After identifying the problem, you can decide whether you simply need to retrain your team, tweak the system's set up, or start thinking about a new platform entirely.

For example, if you’ve already tried every onboarding technique you can think of but your staff members are still struggling to use the CRM, it's probably time to start over. This time, though, be sure to involve your end users in the CRM selection and implementation process. Look for something that's user-friendly. After all, Salesforce found that 72% of CRM users say they would trade complex functionality for usability when it comes to the software. [Interested in CRM software for your small business? Check out our best picks and reviews.]

What's more, if you can't afford your current system or you're paying for features that you don't need, it might be a good idea to cut your losses and find a system more suitable for your team and budget. Leaving your current CRM provider can be expensive, but making the switch is worth it if you're paying more for a system you don't use.

Do the benefits outweigh the costs?

If you decide to upgrade your CRM software, the main costs you'll face are time and internal effort. You'll need to spend time researching and choosing a new CRM, import all your data, add in your customizations and integrations, and train your whole team to use it.

You can simplify the process if you have a clear idea of what you want, your data is easily accessible, and you follow these three steps:

  1. Get your team on board from the beginning. Your goal is to find a CRM system that meets management's needs and makes your team members' jobs easier. Ideally, everyone should be enthusiastic to switch, and the best way to drum up excitement is to involve your employees in the process from the very beginning. Designate a few CRM evangelists to spearhead efforts in each department. Start with higher-ups. If executives and managers lead the charge, the change will feel more official. In each department, explain how the switch will benefit everyone. Consider setting up a practice account first. Let users get creative with a demo or free trial before initiating the switch; this way, they can see how it will impact them directly.
  2. Keep the data accurate by transferring it with minimal loss. Once you have your new CRM platform ready to go, it's time to transfer the data from your old system to the new one. The goal should be to transfer it all efficiently and lose as little information as possible. This all needs to be done while training your staff on the new system. The more accurate the data is, the quicker they can get up to speed. Create a game plan that allows for ample time for both data transfer and training. Have your CRM's support team take the lead on exporting and importing the data, preferably before training begins. You'll also need the team's help setting up customizations and integrations and training employees on using them. If the system is ready to go with your data intact, then you've eliminated a lot of barriers before you even start. As a result, you can focus on inputting new contacts, reporting new sales and following new rules and policies during training.
  3. Don't just encourage the system's use – ensure it. Making sure your team actually uses the new CRM system is the most crucial part of the implementation process. Once everyone is on board, set a changeover date. Make it clear from the beginning how users will be evaluated based on their use of the new system. For example, if leads aren't entered correctly or follow-ups aren't recorded, management won't recognize the work, and your small business could lose sales. Schedule regular meetings to review CRM reports, and make sure everyone is developing good data entry habits. Ask for input on how users feel about the new system now that they're using it every day, and brainstorm ways to use the CRM to make their lives even easier. Most importantly, make sure users in each department have a designated expert they can go to if they have questions or need help navigating the system.

If your CRM system isn't performing the way you expected, you must first determine why. If retraining and more customizations don't do the trick, then switching to a better system may be the best way forward. Doing so will be challenging, but with a renewed focus and by following these tips for getting everyone on board, it can be a smooth transition that's well worth the effort.

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