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CRM Success Is Within Reach – If These Three Essentials Are In Place


If your CRM performance is uneven or failing lately, you’ll probably find deficiencies in Communications, Training or Data Quality. Regular attention and resourcing will help. 

Every organization strives to make their CRM deployment as smooth and painless as possible, but many get off to an unsteady start. Through our work with leading law and professional services firms over the years, we have found there are three key supports that must be in place to achieve real success with any new CRM implementation: Communications, Training and High-Quality Data.

To visualize these, let’s use the time-tested, three-legged stool concept. A stool represents a solid platform that enables you to reach higher. Each leg is equally important to the stability of the stool. If one of the legs is too short, unstable, or missing, you could easily topple over. So too with CRMs. Deficiencies in Communications, Training or Data Quality can independently undermine the success of the entire CRM deployment.

The First Leg: Communication

For true CRM success, first develop a complete communication plan. Draft it when the CRM system is first being planned, continue through deployment and then keep it going after the launch to encourage adoption and support long-term success. Carefully consider the messages, the messengers and the timing.

For example, early in the process, send an announcement from firm leadership about the CRM, explaining why CRM is important – to emphasize that there is support from the start and from the top. It sends a strong message and also helps set expectations for user adoption.

During deployment of the CRM, communications could include regular updates on progress, training notifications, pilot group announcements about early successes, notifications about preparation of contact records to be imported into the CRM, – and most important – the benefits users can gain when the new system is in place.

After system launch, send regular communications about system enhancements, success stories, new reports, and training options whether live, via videos or through a help desk.

The Second Leg: Training

Effective training happens when the training team fully understands the users’ needs and how they will actually use the CRM. How should the users be segmented? And how should the training be segmented? By type of user, skills required and capacity for learning? That seems like common sense, but the execution can be tricky as most firms want to “group train” because group training is more efficient for the organization and for the training staff. But often it’s not most effective for the users being trained. CRM vendors are frequently guilty of promoting and enabling group training, which, along with videos and help sites, are much more efficient for the vendor to deliver than customized user training. Is the provided training going to ensure that the users are trained, or is the firm simply checking a box that shows users attended training?

Partners in law firms are an excellent example of one specific user group that needs customized and individualized training. Trained to be skeptical, they need “evidence” of how a CRM system will support their needs. Lacking that evidence, they may never even log in again.

Partners/skeptics will benefit most from one-on-one training. Train in their office or conduct one-on-one remote training and use live data they recognize as their own to pique their interest and demonstrate how the CRM can be helpful to them. Group training and videos cannot do this. Most important, focus training on how they can “consume” information and gain value from it. Don’t focus on how and why they need to “contribute” data. Our experience in training thousands of lawyers is that they need to see and feel the benefits of consumption of information before they will ever consider contributing information to the CRM. The “Consumer to Contributor” continuum is a process and not an event, and some lawyers may never become contributors. But if you can create consumers of the information, take that as a win.

The Third Leg: High Quality Data

Gartner and other sources state that up to 70% of CRM deployments “fail to meet expectations.” There could be multiple factors behind this high failure rate. But one reason, more than any other, why CRM systems are deemed “failing” is poor data quality. I frequently tell firms that once the data goes bad the CRM system is not failing, it has failed. That may sound harsh, but it is a fact. I mentioned earlier that lawyers are skeptics. We’ve often observed that they will quickly judge a CRM system by the data quality. A lawyer’s logic might go something like this: “This contact’s data is wrong…. the CRM is useless…. I won’t use it.” Fair or not, this is what happens when you have a user base where perfection is the benchmark.

Quality data is the oxygen of a CRM system. When data quality suffers the system becomes unstable, and if not addressed, the system will eventually topple. Then, Marketing staff will frequently resort to quick fixes, such as cleaning up lists for next month’s event or the annual holiday mailing. The real solution is putting the right resources and processes in place so that high quality data is regularly maintained in the CRM and available to support the firm with not only decent lists, but quality reporting that gives the attorneys the information they need.

CRM success is attainable if you can commit to regular attention and resourcing for Communications, Training and Data Quality. If your CRM performance is uneven or failing lately, you’ll probably find some deficiencies in one or more of these areas. We have been helping firms solve CRM problems and achieve CRM success for more than 10 years. If you have CRM challenges and would like to schedule a complimentary assessment call, contact us at


For more than a decade, the team at  CLIENTSFirst Consulting has been helping professional services firms and other organizations successfully select and implement CRM and eMarketing systems and improve Data Quality to maximize value, adoption and return on investment. If you need help achieving CRM Success, please contact us at 404-249-9914 or

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