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Customer Support Systems Implementation Pitfalls

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Customer support software implementations face many of the same challenges as other CRM software modules such as sales force automation (SFA) and marketing; executive sponsorship, early and broad user involvement, clear objectives, measurable metrics, continuous training and more. However, unlike SFA and marketing, customer support modules serve a very different user profile. Traditionally, Customer Support Representatives (CSR) are drawn from an employment pool of workers without advanced education and often with minimal computer skills. The CSR role is often seen as more of an entry-level position and therefore one that is often entered without long term planning or commitment.

Many Customer Support systems offer a wide and deep variety of capabilities, features and tools which can intimidate CSR's if not introduced properly. A common challenge and implementation pitfall is over relying on the Customer Service Manager(s) for the CRM software design. Gathering direct input from CSRs as they are in the unique position of actually interacting between the customers and the information systems gives them an ideal vantage point to make suggestions and recommendations.

It is incumbent upon the software implementation project team to have thorough CSR representation during the planning, software configuration and initial piloting so that the CSR community receives an information system that meets both their comfort level and their job responsibilities. Soliciting early and frequent CSR feedback will also achieve user buy-in at the time of go-live and well into the early production processing period.

Software customization is best done in moderation. Small amounts of CRM software customization often result in the biggest contributions to user adoption and organization ROI. However, too much customization dramatically increases risk of implementation project failure. Among the suite of CRM software modules, the customer support module has the reputation of getting the most software customization. As customization directly equates to time, money and risk, it is a potential pitfall that needs to be recognized and factored into the project management plan.

CSRs must be trained multiple times before the go-live system cut-over in order to assume the new system with confidence. A pitfall of customer support systems implementations is finding the time to train the CSR while having them continue to handle their current caseloads. A CSR is normally an hourly wage earner and overtime costs can become a factor. If a company tries to fold training time into a traditional 40 hour week, on top of existing work loads, then they run the risk of overworking the CSR or having the training become less affective than needed. Other well cited pitfalls associated to CRM software training include not providing sufficient training, hands-on (keyboard) training, repeat training or a thorough training curriculum all lower the probability for a smooth go-live event and user adoption of the new system.

Customer Support Systems interface with multiple communication channels and legacy information systems. Often these systems and technologies are from disparate technology providers. Developing a complete enterprise-wide product strategy with supporting information technology standards give the project team a roadmap when it comes time to integrate the customer support system with other CRM software, accounting software, customer billing systems, VOIP (Voice over IP) OR CTI (Computer Telephony Integration), IVR (Interactive Voice Response), self service websites or a host of information systems which may play a role in the exchange of customer data or be included in the continuum of customer support business processes.

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