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5 Common causes of CRM failure in small businesses and how to avoid them

Although CRM software is quite common and affordable, many small businesses fail in the implementation of the software. “50% of companies with less than 10 employees use a CRM.”[1] And “According to studies conducted over the past decade, 25% - 60% of CRM projects fail to meet expectations”[2]. Here are some of the common causes for failure of CRM implementation in small businesses and how to avoid them:

Cause 1: Underestimating the resources needed

Seems simple, but when you start using a CRM it takes more time than you think or had taken into consideration. It’s common for users to complain of having additional work just to keep the software up to date, and hence not understanding how the new software adds value to them.

How to avoid this issue: Make tests with one user. Only until someone makes a series of tests you can determine how much more time it will take the users to work on the new system.

Cause 2: Lack of clearly defined objectives for getting a CRM

What got you considering on buying a CRM anyway? CRM’s have become a norm to the eyes of many, and the offer is quite wide. From very simple to use cloud-based options, that you pay as you go, to quite sophisticated packages that need implementation teams, the offer is abundant.

If the goals of implementing a CRM in the first place are not clear, it’s hard to continue once small businesses have the first difficulties during the implementation stages. On many cases the software is left abandoned at some point and the employees that were supposed to be the ones using it go back to their paper agendas or excel spreadsheets.

How to avoid this issue: Make yourself this question: What’s the main benefit that the software will give the company that will make the extra expense, time and probable headaches worth it?

If the answer does not make it clear that the benefits outweigh the costs significantly, probably you need to rethink why you are considering the use of a CRM.

Cause 3: Lack of defined measurable objectives to define success for a CRM implementation project

It’s difficult to measure a goal defined in the following way:

Improve our follow ups and relationship with our customers.

How would you measure the success of a CRM after 3 months of running on it if this was your original goal?

A measurable goal for a CRM implementation should include the characteristics of any SMART goal: Specific, Measurable, Assignable, Realistic and Time-related.

An example of a CRM implementation goal that includes these criteria could be:

Generate an automatic dashboard for each Monday’s sales meetings that shows how many leads are open, and the conversion rates from first contact to a sale.

How to avoid this issue: List the 3 main goals for the CRM implementation. If two of them are met you can say that the project was more successful than not. If only one is met, then you will be able to assess that the implementation went south.

Cause 4: Choosing the wrong partner/software

If you don’t have the objectives clear, how can you possible pick the right software? If you are a small business owner, most probably you will go with options that are paid monthly and that fit your budget.

But how many options are there that meet these criteria? At least a dozen. Which criteria will you use to pick among the options other than budget? You should pick the option that better helps to reach your goals in the first place. Secondly you should consider at least the following criteria:

1. Type and frequency of support you will need

2. Remote or on premises support

3. How long has the software supplier been in business

4. CRMs designed for your industry

5. Referrals of businesses like yours that the CRM partner can provide, where the software has been implemented previously

How to avoid this issue: Ask for referrals. Asking other people that have already gone through the process will provide you great insights on who to choose to work with.

Cause 5: Lack of training

The word “Training” means different things for your user, for your partner and for the champion assigned within the company to implement the new CRM.

Users expectations of training can vary wildly. Avid technology users might expect a quick start-up sessions and availability for questions down the road, while other might expect a series of on premises sessions plus one-on-one sessions to get started and on premises support in case they have questions once they start operating.

On the other hand, for the software supplier trainings might mean two to three sessions plus answering questions through e-mail for the first two months and then a specific charge for ongoing support.

How to avoid this issue: Simply asking your users what type of training is more effective for them, will help you go a long way to avoid unsuccessful training.

Have in mind that the training plan will need adjustments once you have started. Only until you begin the training you will be able to determine fully how deep you will need to go with each user to teach them how to use the software. Lastly, have in mind that each user is different and will have different training needs. We all learn differently!



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