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Early and Often: Keys to Customer Buy-In

The father of a very good friend of mine passed away recently. While I didn’t know her dad very well, I knew he had a great relationship with his three daughters, his sons-in-law, and his grandchildren.  As I looked through the collage of pictures traditionally displayed at a funeral, I noticed this man’s family did a lot of activities together throughout the years.  There were pictures of a family trip they took when the girls were very young, or just hanging out together on a Sunday afternoon.  More pictures showed him interacting with his girls in their early teens, in high school and college, and at their weddings.  And of course there were numerous pictures of him playing with his grandchildren.  These pictures really moved me because they showed how this man understood one important fact – if you are involved with your kids early and often, the rewards go way beyond your expectations and are sustainable for the next generation.

As I thought about this more, I realized this also applies to CRM implementations. Granted, a CRM implementation can’t compare to the relationship a father has with his daughters, but the concept still applies — if you get your customers involved early and often, the benefits of the system will extend beyond the initial goals.  Most successful projects work because the key players are involved in the process early on, and continue to monitor and give feedback throughout the life of the project.  Doing this gives everyone ownership in how the system works, and improves chances for long term success.

Involvement doesn’t just mean sitting in meetings; it means hands on interaction. Since Salesforce.com is so easy to configure, I often have live design sessions with the customer to build objects and fields, and arrange page layouts and list views on the fly.  Doing this is like building an outline before writing a paper because it clarifies hypotheticals and makes them real.  And after she works with this “outline” for a while, she can provide the necessary guidance to fill in the details for how the system will function best for her group in the future.  These details might result in code to run calculations, validation and workflow rules to improve the data entry process, or new dashboards that provide visibility necessary to make critical decisions.  Regardless of the steps needed to finalize the project, her involvement in the process is instrumental in the final outcome.

So next time the need for a new project arises, take a page out of my friend’s dad’s playbook. Identify the people you need involved, get them involved early in the process, and keep them involved throughout the project’s lifetime.  And then enjoy the results when things turn out better than you hoped.

Written by Eric Gronholz, Senior CRM Consultant at Demand Chain Systems

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