A crucial, but often overlooked, step in any CRM project is calculating expected return on investment (ROI). Doing this successfully will ensure your implementation is aligned to specific business requirements, so that all involved have clear and realistic expectations.
It also allows you to allocate an appropriate budget and then check periodically to ensure you are achieving the expected return. Skipping this vital step is a key reason for CRM failure. So where do you start?
Know what you want
In simple terms it involves gaining an understanding of the outcomes you want to achieve and the level of investment needed to achieve those outcomes. In broad terms there are four types of outcome that result from CRM: revenue growth, enhanced customer service leading to improved customer retention, streamlined business processes delivering lower costs or greater efficiencies, and improved management of information allowing for better decision-making.
Your task is to take these broad outcomes and focus in on the aspects that align with your specific business strategy. You need to be able to see the precise ways in which you want your business to improve. So, for example, you might want to sell more products to existing customers, or to improve renewal rates by 10% or support more customers with the same number of contact centre staff.
Typically these outcomes fall into two categories – improving execution and streamlining business processes – but for every business at a moment in time they will be different. Approach your CRM project with broad, generic outcomes and it may deliver benefits, but focus in on the specific outcomes that matter to your organisation at that time and you are far more likely to achieve those exact outcomes.
You have now pretty much defined your requirements and these should be put down in writing in the form of a requirements document. Our recently published white paper – Guide to Understanding your CRM Requirements – offers more detail on how to build this and use it. However, for a ROI calculation you need to go further: you need to quantify the outcomes you want to achieve.
This is a fairly detailed and time-consuming process that involves measuring how well your sales, marketing or customer service functions perform now, then assessing how much a new CRM platform could improve that performance, and then ideally linking that to new business or renewal sales and so indicating an anticipated financial return. After that, go through the same process on the costs side: what are your current costs and how could CRM streamline processes and so reduce those costs?
This involves granular detail. To give just one example, you need to understand how long it takes your finance team to raise invoices, how much of their time could be saved by automating the process, and what saving of salary and loaded costs could be achieved by that automation. That is just one area where CRM can deliver benefits. To fully understand your potential return you need to go through all of them.
Once you know your expected return you can move on to quantifying the cost involved in achieving it. What will the CRM licenses cost? What about implementation and ongoing support? You will almost certainly need to speak to vendors at this stage, and many people actually choose to bring them in at the previous stage – vendors have many years’ experience of CRM implementations and so are well-placed to advise on the improvements CRM could make to your organisation.
Before you bring in vendors you may want to have a go yourself at calculating your likely ROI. For people who are keen to do this but are unsure about how exactly to do it, we have put together a paper – A Guide to Calculating ROI – that outlines the seven steps you need to follow.
It takes a complex process and simplifies it for you, enabling you to put numbers behind your fledgling CRM project.