Customer Relationship Management

The Opportunities And Challenges When Getting Started With A CRM

CRM, of course, stands for customer relationship management, and that is exactly where its value lies: managing and supporting external customer relationships while simultaneously integrating internal staff. CRM is much more than simple software applications or business processes; it is a pathway toward a business culture that is more conducive to success and harmony.   

Whether your business is in the for-profit, nonprofit or higher education space, a quality CRM can help break down departmental silos, open up communication and create visibility through actionable data for your organization. Simply put, a CRM makes it easier for your company to provide for customers and empower staff. 

Internal Value Of A CRM 

One of the greatest values of a quality CRM is its ability to bring teams together and allow greater access of data across a company. Through a single source of truth, all members of your organization can share mutually beneficial information on a donor, student or customer. With mutual access, collaboration and quality communication proliferate throughout the organization, unifying staff in a singular pursuit for a greater customer experience.   

For a nonprofit, this can mean seeing a complete picture of donors and their interactions with the organization across fundraising, marketing and program departments. An educational institution could get a complete view of every learner and alumnus with digital-first engagements across each lifecycle. For-profit businesses can generate value through a CRM’s ability to register leads and contacts and effectively manage the sales pipeline to fulfillment.    

External Value Of A CRM 

CRMs generate significant value through digital transformation, specifically through the ability to create greater visibility into customers and their interactions with your company. The greatest example of this ability is through a concept known as Customer 360, referring to the 360-degree view a CRM can grant through the consolidation of data.   

This data includes every interaction with your website, every product purchase, donation or course selection, as well as every customer support request or ticket, among many others. The goal is to achieve a single, unified view of the customer so that you can more efficiently cater to their needs and create more meaningful and mutually beneficial experiences. 

Choosing Your CRM 

When deciding on the right CRM for your organization, you must first make sure you fully understand how your technology currently operates across departments. What are the pain points? Which departments would most benefit from better overlap with disparate departments through technology? What aspects of your customers’ experience would benefit most from more internal overlap?   

It’s important to involve key stakeholders and thought leaders from all sections of your business to understand where the biggest opportunities for growth lie. The process of exploring CRM options will be productive in itself, as it will allow you to rethink what you want technology to accomplish.   

Broaden your perspective by taking a high-level view of your business: What connections and overlaps can be created by a more cohesive CRM? Nonprofit organizations can utilize that cohesion to turn one-time donors into reoccurring donors; higher education institutions can ensure students continue their relationship post-graduation after they become alumni; for-profit businesses can deepen brand loyalty from their customers. 

Overcoming Challenges Of CRM Adoption 

Investing in the right CRM requires buy-in from those that will be working with the system, and there are several key strengths of a CRM system that will help to illustrate its true value. Focus on the increasing visibility of data, especially across teams and departments, the superior analytical tools used to help support missions and goals and the customizability and personalization of communications with the different demographics you serve.

Above all else, focus on people. The biggest reason CRM projects fail is that the new system is underutilized or outright rejected by internal teams due to lack of education or involvement with the new system. Talk with other organizations in your network to see what worked — and what didn’t — for them. Indicate your urgent needs and priorities and then use your plan to bring people on board early, keeping them involved throughout the process while making them champions of the CRM. But be mindful that you shouldn’t get too attached to your plan.   

Implementing a CRM is a great opportunity to revisit business processes. Engage with a consulting firm to help you think through your priorities and learn from their experience, taking “baby steps” that allow you to iterate based on value creation as you go. You don’t need to solve for everything in one implementation. 

Every business should double down on the importance of relationships within their respective spaces, and there is a world of possibility that is opened up with the right CRM.

Source: The Opportunities And Challenges When Getting Started With A CRM (

Eelco Krikke

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