How to Build a CRM Communications Plan

By Geoffrey James
Because the success of a CRM system depends on the cooperation of multiple organizations, a CRM program communications plan is needed to deal with essential change management issues at all levels of the corporation. Here are four steps to help you develop an effective plan.
Step 1: Create a change management matrix. This document describes how and when the CRM system will affect each organization and details the impact, challenges, strategies and resolution action steps required for the CRM project to be successful. For many companies, the CRM initiative will mean personnel working together in ways they haven’t had to in the past. For example, if the CRM system requires the creation of detailed customer profiles, cross-functional teams such as sales, marketing and customer service will need to share information about each customer.
Step 2: Create a comprehensive training plan. Your CRM vendor should be able to present you with a complete plan for training your personnel. The plan should include initial training, ongoing training, refresher training, new-hire training, and a train-the-trainers program to ensure employees can help each other use the system effectively. If your sales force is geographically diverse, you’ll probably need advanced training services such as Web-based training. Over the life of your CRM system, training will end up costing 1 to 1.5 times the cost of the CRM system hardware and software, so budget accordingly.
Step 3: Create a support and maintenance plan. If your CRM project is going to be successful, it will have to be available and running continuously. Your vendor should be able to supply you with up-time guarantees, along with a clearly defined resolution process should system problems arise. A complete support plan also should include ways to support users. Your sales reps will need documentation that is both understandable and updated frequently. In addition, the vendor should provide a telephone help line for sales reps who encounter problems or simply get confused.
Step 4: Keep communication channels open. The point of a communications plan is to communicate, so use multiple methods to communicate the progress of the CRM project during the development phase. Hold multiple meetings to help employees move up the change management ladder from awareness to understanding to acceptance to involvement and commitment. Use voicemail, hard-copy mail, email and Web conferencing to reach all your target audiences on a frequent basis. One of the most effective ways to convince CRM skeptics is to demonstrate success, so be sure to boldly promote any sales wins where CRM played a positive role.

The above is adapted from information provided by CRM consultant and expert Barton Goldenberg, president of ISM, Inc., an independent firm founded in 1985 that focuses on CRM research, market analysis and consulting. Mr. Goldenberg, who has helped numerous companies select and implement successful CRM systems, can be contacted at 301-656-8448 or through