Balancing CRM best practices with the need for customizations

Limiting customizations, controlling user access and permissions, and creating automated workflows can support the goal of preserving data integrity. But, at what cost? After all, your teams are more interested in growing revenue and bringing new products and services to market than adhering to restrictions on the tools they use.

As a business leader, you see both sides of the issue. You want data integrity, but you also want to empower users with the right mix of tools and information. What’s the best approach? 

Here are four steps for striking a balance.

1. Develop a cross-functional CRM team

Some organizations wrongly assume that their CRM should be entirely owned and managed by sales (with occasional assistance from IT). Revenue-generating teams may be some of the heaviest users of CRM technology; but, they’re not the only stakeholders. A properly implemented CRM should serve as the source of truth for your customer data, which includes everything from basic contact information to web interactions and attitudinal insights. Storing all of your customer data in your CRM forms a solid foundation for understanding the customer journey—which benefits everyone, not just sales.

Data-driven customer journeys don’t just magically appear in your CRM. Rather, they require a company-wide commitment to efficient data collection, organization, and reporting. That’s why you need to establish a cross-functional team that is responsible for strategic CRM decision-making. 

At a minimum, the team should include your CRM administrator along with representatives from sales, marketing, IT, operations, business development, and executive leadership. The team should meet regularly, discuss corporate strategy in the context of your CRM, and serve as a clearing house for any major changes or enhancements. 

2. Make it easy for CRM users to share feedback

Your front-line staff probably comprise the largest group of CRM users. Sales reps use it daily to log calls, send emails, track deals, and monitor pipeline growth. Operations teams manage projects, invoices, proposals, and work orders. Marketers build segmented lists, design and send promotional emails, and monitor lead acceptance rates. Altogether, your users may have thousands of CRM interactions in a single day. Naturally, they’re full of CRM enhancement ideas.

Get ahead of the situation and develop a formalized mechanism for soliciting and collecting user feedback. If your organization uses a team collaboration platform—such as Slack or Microsoft Teams—consider setting up a dedicated channel for users to share ideas in real time. In addition, distribute a quarterly survey that encourages all users to share their joys and pains of working with your CRM. 

Taking a structured approach will make users feel confident that their thoughts are being heard, which can lessen the perceived need for “urgent changes” to your CRM. More feedback leads to more data. More data empowers your cross-functional team to identify trends, weigh one idea against another, and make informed decisions—instead of dealing with every customization request as a free-standing emergency.

3. Know the full scope of what your CRM can do

Messy CRM customizations are often unnecessary—especially when you know what you’re doing. Just because your sales team is asking for a way to track “hot deals” does not mean that a custom field is the best approach for alleviating their pain point. In this example, an Insightly user might consider using tags—rather than custom fields—which can be

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