5 tips for making a CRM project successful

Bild einer Laptop-Tastatur, einer Frau, die vor einem Whiteboard mit bunten Post-Its steht, sowie die Zeichnung einer Projektplanung, Bild zum Blogbeitrag für ein erfolgreiches Customer Relationship Management (CRM)

A Statista survey revealed: Only 43 % of companies in Germany are using a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system. Why don’t more companies use such a system if focusing on customers is at the top of company managers’ agendas? According to the market research institute Gartner, 89 % of all companies even assume that the customer experience is a decisive competitive advantage for them. Is the low percentage of companies using CRM systems due to the poor reputation of CRM projects?

CRM projects don’t have to fail: Here are 5 tips for making CRM projects successful.

1. It begins with the selection of the right software

SAP CRM, SAP Sales Cloud, Salesforce, Microsoft Dynamics, and many more. These are all outstanding CRM solutions that should be examined carefully before a decision is made.

Questions that are at the center here: What does the existing architecture look like? Into which processes should it be possible to incorporate CRM seamlessly? In the best case, a CRM should fit into the overall system environment like a puzzle piece. That is, even for the selection of the right solution, you have to make sure that interfaces to existing systems are possible in order to get a uniform picture of the customer. Important above all are interfaces to calendar, e-mail, warehouse and inventory management, ERP –t that is, everything that is indispensable for daily work with customers. CRM cannot be an isolated solution; instead, it has to be an integrated, area-spanning system that ensures transparency of initial business contact through to invoicing (“lead-to-cash”) across all department boundaries. A CRM system on its own cannot exploit the potential that is required for optimal Customer Experience.

2. The project is strictly user-centered

Depending on the size of the company, many very different groups use a CRM system – from classic salespeople to the CSO to marketing. How can all of these user groups be taken into consideration? If the requirements for the later user groups are defined precisely in the beginning, it’s easier to fulfill these later on. And user stories can help. User stories are formulated as follows according to the principles of Rachel Davie, author of the book “Agile Coaching”: “As [role] I would like to [function] for [benefit].”

The role usually reflects the various user groups in the system. Here, concepts such as personas can be used. The function describes clearly and precisely a desire that the CRM should fulfill for the user. In order to understand the essential “why,” the benefit should reflect the precise reason for the desire. This way, during the technical execution, it is possible to examine the promised benefit.

Here’s an example: As sales employee, I would like to write a report so that all the members of my team are informed about my customer visit.

As simple as this may sound, it’s easy to capture, prioritize, and implement all users’ needs with user stories.

3. Added value is only possible with a good database

The data in the CRM system has to be reliable. It is the basis for customer management, for each data record is or can be a valuable customer. However, it is true that poor data doesn’t become good even with the best CRM system. A company can find the perfect CRM system, but if the underlying data quality doesn’t fit, then the potential is wasted.

In order to secure the data quality, it can be worthwhile to do a master data cleansing in order to start in the CRM with “clean,” current, complete customer data. For example, this includes checking for duplicate data records, field corrections, address corrections, and enrichments such as telephone prefixes, etc.

4. Just do it!

Everybody knows the feeling: You undertake the project and the longer you work at it and the more problems pop up, the more complicated and convoluted the result becomes. And this is how things often go with CRM projects. Existing, frequently individual processes are supposed to be mapped. But this also increases the system complexity. The project becomes time-consuming and thus also slow. And then you lose the pleasure in operating and using the system. It’s worthwhile during the project to pay attention to which functions are essential, which processes can be mapped close to the standard and can be simplified across the company. And here once again the recommendation – work with user stories!

Consider whether there are intelligent applications that can take over the complicated, standardized processes in the system and thus increase the pleasure in using the system. Language can be used as an essential interface to the system. Whether via app, as personal assistant or on the telephone. Users engage in dialogues that are as natural and intuitive as possible across a wide variety of communication channels and save time and energy, which they can better spend on customer support. From making appointments to composing visit reports, digital assistants (such as Valentina) can help in many ways.

5. Test, test, test!

The test phase is one of the most important phases of a CRM project and should not be underestimated. If potential user groups are incorporated here, errors, improvements, and potential are evident immediately and can be improved upon. Regular feedback and incorporation of users during the project helps to identify errors earlier and eliminate them aster.


The CRM system only brings added value if it is used in the course of daily work and enriched with data.  In addition to these tips and tricks, every CRM project has to have a change management process. Marketing a company’s own project often sparks enthusiasm and motivation among users. Clear visions and goals make it easier to return to these later on and make clear to the participants why you’re doing this project. “Change” often includes extensive initial and repeated trainings for all users when the system is finally rolled out. Only this way is it possible to inspire everybody to use the system to its fullest potential.

Most of the five points above are also applicable to other digitalization projects. They have to be taken into special account in the CRM sector. Why is that? On the one hand, this is frequently due to entrenched sales structures. On the other hand, in recent years there has been rapid technical change. In the course of digitalizing other company areas, Customer Relationship Management often gets left behind. In the age of the customer, when all processes should be oriented toward customers and their needs, now is a good time to start making your CRM project more successful.

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