Avoiding CRM failures: Lessons from history

In the realm of CRM implementations, even big companies like Hershey, Blackberry and British Airways have faced disastrous consequences. As an SMB, it’s crucial to learn from their mistakes and take proactive measures to ensure a smooth CRM journey and be proactive in avoiding CRM failures.

Hershey’s bittersweet CRM experience


Hershey, seeking to regain market share, invested $112 million (£75 million) in a complex CRM system from Siebel. However, the system proved overwhelming for suppliers and production, leading to a frozen factory and dissatisfied customers.

  1. Timing Woes
    Hershey’s CRM nightmare was further intensified by poor timing. Implementing the CRM just before Halloween, a critical period for chocolate sales, disrupted their operations during a peak business season. SMBs must carefully plan and schedule CRM deployments during low-risk periods to minimise disruptions and maximise results.
  2. Learning from the Past
    Other corporate CRM failures, such as implementation setbacks at multinational companies, highlight the importance of proper planning, extensive testing, and phased rollouts. SMBs should invest in thorough research, consultation with experts, and a well-defined implementation strategy to mitigate risks.

What to learn from Hersey’s CRM disaster

Best Practices for SMBs to avoid CRM failures in implementation:

  • Customisation and Scalability: Prioritise CRM solutions that can be tailored to your SMB’s unique requirements, ensuring scalability as your business grows.
  • User-Friendly Interfaces: Choose a CRM platform that offers intuitive interfaces and requires minimal training for seamless adoption across your team.
  • Integration Capabilities: Opt for a CRM system that easily integrates with your existing software stack, such as email clients, accounting tools, or e-commerce platforms, to streamline workflows and eliminate data silos.
  • Proper Timing and Planning: Thoroughly assess the optimal time for CRM implementation, considering business cycles and seasonal demands, to minimise disruption and maximise user adoption.

The Hershey CRM disaster serves as a cautionary tale for SMBs embarking on their CRM journey. By learning from the mistakes of big corporations, SMBs can choose the right CRM solution, implement it strategically, and achieve transformative results. Avoiding the pitfalls of poor system choice and improper timing will lead to enhanced customer relations, streamlined operations, and sustained business growth.

The key takeaway: Avoid choosing a CRM that doesn’t align with your organisation’s specific needs and capabilities.

BlackBerry – a CRM not ripe for the picking


BlackBerry‘s downfall serves as a cautionary tale in the history of CRM failures. Once a leader in mobile communication, BlackBerry’s failure can be attributed, in part, to a botched CRM implementation. Let’s delve into the BlackBerry story to understand the impact of a communication breakdown and the lessons it holds for businesses.

  1. The Email Services Crisis
    In 2011, BlackBerry encountered email service issues that caused disruptions for users in specific regions. What started as a localised crisis quickly escalated due to poor communication.
  2. Failure in Crisis Management
    BlackBerry’s reliance on Facebook as a communication channel during the crisis proved disastrous. Instead of utilising their CRM system to provide clear and consistent updates to customers, BlackBerry underestimated the extent of customer dissatisfaction. This breakdown in communication further eroded trust and marked the decline of the brand.
  3. Importance of Effective CRM
    BlackBerry’s experience highlights the critical role of CRM in crisis management. Leveraging CRM tools could have allowed BlackBerry to send targeted messages to affected customers, acknowledge their concerns, and provide timely resolutions. By neglecting this essential aspect, BlackBerry lost credibility and failed to retain its customer base.

What to learn from BlackBerry’s lack of CRM integration

Lessons for businesses for avoiding integration based CRM failures:

  • Transparent Communication
    Utilise CRM systems to promptly address and communicate any issues or disruptions to customers. Transparency and proactive communication are key during crisis situations.
  • CRM Integration
    Ensure that CRM systems are seamlessly integrated with communication channels to facilitate quick and efficient messaging to customers. Avoid relying solely on social media platforms, as they may not reach all affected customers.
  • Customer-Centric Approach
    Prioritise customer satisfaction by actively engaging with them through CRM tools. Gather feedback, address concerns, and deliver solutions promptly to maintain trust and loyalty.
  • Continuous Improvement
    Regularly evaluate and improve CRM strategies to ensure effective communication, crisis management, and customer support. Stay updated with emerging technologies and industry best practices.

BlackBerry’s CRM disaster underscores the importance of effective communication and crisis management for businesses. By learning from their mistakes, organisations can utilise CRM systems to establish transparent communication channels, address customer concerns promptly, and build lasting customer relationships.

The key takeaway: By continuously improving an integrated, customer-centric approach to your CRM system will help you thrive in today’s competitive landscape.

Learning from British Airways – make sure your business and CRM are connected


British Airways‘ reputation for quality in-flight services has been overshadowed by its poor customer service, particularly on social media platforms like Twitter. Join us as we explore the airline’s history of CRM failures, focusing on their inability to effectively engage with disgruntled customers on Twitter.

  1. Broken Promises
    British Airways made bold promises of 24/7 customer service on Twitter but consistently fell short of delivering on this commitment. Customers experienced lengthy response times, often waiting over 6 hours for a reply. Dissatisfied customers took to Twitter to express their frustrations, leading to a viral spread of negative feedback.
  2. Lack of Effective Communication
    The inability of British Airways to connect with customers through Twitter exacerbated their CRM failures. Instead of using the platform to address customer concerns promptly and provide satisfactory resolutions, the airline’s responses were perceived as robotic and impersonal, further damaging their reputation.
  3. The Power of Viral Backlash
    As news of British Airways’ poor customer service spread virally on Twitter, it significantly impacted their brand image. Negative experiences shared by customers gained traction, tarnishing the airline’s reputation and discouraging potential customers from choosing their services.

What to learn from British Airways’ siloed approach to CRM

Lessons for business for avoiding siloed CRM failures:

  • Timely and Personalised Responses
    Respond to customer queries and complaints on social media promptly and with a human touch. Tailor responses to address individual concerns, showing empathy and a genuine desire to resolve issues.
  • Consistent Communication
    Stay true to your customer service commitments and respond in a timely manner across all communication channels. Avoid overpromising and underdelivering, as it can lead to customer dissatisfaction and negative brand perception.
  • Proactive Social Listening
    Monitor social media platforms for customer feedback and address issues proactively. Actively engage with customers, resolve problems, and showcase your commitment to exceptional service.
  • Training and Empowerment
    Provide customer service representatives with the necessary training and empowerment to handle customer issues effectively. Encourage them to go above and beyond in addressing concerns and creating positive experiences.

British Airways’ Twitter fails serve as a cautionary tale for businesses, emphasising the importance of effective CRM and customer service on social media platforms. By prioritising timely and personalised responses, consistent communication, proactive social listening, and empowered customer service representatives, businesses can avoid similar pitfalls and foster positive customer relationships. Building a strong brand reputation on social media requires a customer-centric approach and a commitment to delivering exceptional service at every touchpoint.

The key takeaway: Your CRM is not an isolated tech solution in your business – it is the hub the entire business is connected by and key to breaking down silos and delivering the best from every part of your business.

What Are The Possible Reasons For CRM Failures?

Your CRM project lacks focus

To ensure the success of your CRM project, establish clear and specific goals aligned with your sales objectives. Every member of your sales team should have a deep understanding of these objectives, enabling them to articulate them in measurable terms. Stay focused on your specific goal, whether it’s increasing sales or attracting new customers, to maximise the chances of CRM success.

As experienced Zoho Advanced Partners the first thing we do with our clients is to understand and give your CRM implementation focus. We learn how your business works and where you want to take it. We look at your project from 4 perspectives, Technology, Data, Process and Culture and find the best fit for you.

You are not committed to a CRM implementation

For a successful CRM initiative, it’s crucial to gain commitment from top management, the sales team in fact every department the CRM connects. Effective communication between teams is key to avoid any misconceptions, such as the sales team perceiving the project as a burden. Lack of commitment can lead to inaccurate or missing data, rendering your CRM system ineffective.

Our experience has shown the importance of buying-in to the project, we help you put in place any changes that maybe required in the culture of the business. Our training and support is fully interactive ensuring your teams don’t just know what to do with their new tech but understand how the data is used by the business helping to break down silos and connect your departments and and bring you closer to your customers.

Treating your CRM deployment as a tech only issue

While CRM software is vital for customer relationship management, it should not be seen as the sole solution. Treating customer relations as a purely technological process delegated to the IT department can lead to failure. A successful CRM project involves aligning all customer-facing processes and departments, viewing the CRM system as a tool within the larger human-driven process.

In the early stages of working we you we use SKORE to create valuable process maps for all aspects of your Zoho deployment. As a Uk Advanced Zoho Partner we feel it is essential you see how all touchpoints of your business dovetail into your Zoho solutions. We can help you understand the benefits and show how each department benefits forma a single source of data for your business. Essentially seeing many of the daily issues and pain points disappear as a result of new processes and technology.

Your CRM is not implemented properly

Implementing a CRM system is not a one-time event but an ongoing process. To ensure CRM success, it’s crucial for all team members to become familiar with the system and provide continuous feedback and analysis. Regular updates and maintenance are essential to keep the CRM system relevant, introducing new functionalities that streamline workflows and keep automated processes up to date.

We know your business will constantly evolve, your needs change regularly and your CRM solutions needs to evolve with it. That’s why our relationship extends beyond your ‘Day One’ with your new Zoho solution. As your trusted Zoho Partner we are here to help with the small issues that crop up and the bigger ones when your deployment has to change to remain in touch with your business.

How to avoid a ‘bad’ CRM solution?

Put, a ‘bad’ CRM system isn’t helping your sales team do the job you’re paying them to.

Here are our top signs that you might be using a ‘bad’ CRM system that doesn’t suit your business’s needs..

1. Your team doesn’t use it 

It isn’t worth a bean if your CRM system isn’t helping your sales team maintain positive customer relationships. Your salespeople will soon lose confidence in a tool that doesn’t offer useful insights they can use during the sales process. If you’ve employed a system that takes too much time and effort to enter and update data, it can’t surprise you that your sales reps stop seeing the point in a technology that is too time-consuming to use. Of course, you’ll get reps that put the effort in and use it – but at what cost? – probably at that of updating inconsistent information, leading to unreliable data, and rendering your CRM system pointless.

2. You’re missing sales opportunities

The whole reason you’re running a business is to make money; if you’re not making sales, it won’t be long before you run at a loss. If you have a bad CRM system that provides poor data, your sales reps could target the wrong types of customers or even pitch the wrong types of products to your existing customers. This will lead to missed sales opportunities, and your sales team will have no choice but to stop using a tool impeding their jobs.

3. Existing customer sales aren’t growing

Your existing customers are your most valuable resource, often coming back repeatedly. But if your CRM system isn’t effective, your sales reps will miss opportunities to grow those existing customer sales. A great CRM system will allow your team to see a customer’s entire history with your company, allowing you to move conversations with them from, ‘Can we help you with anything?’ to, ‘We notice you love product A, so we think you’d love product B…’ Without a good CRM system your sales reps are flying blind and using guesswork or memory to increase sales.

Hershey’s expensive solution, Blackberry’s confusing messaging, and British Airways’ slow-moving customer help team – not the way you want to go. Discover more about CRMs along with some ways to avoid a CRM failure in the blog links below.

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