10 steps to implementing a CRM solution for Last Mile Distributors
Let’s start with the basics. What is the difference between digitisation and digitalisation?
If digitisation is a conversion of data and processes, digitalisation is a transformation. More than just making existing data digital, digitalisation embraces the ability of digital technology to collect data, establish trends and make better business decisions. (TruqCapp)
Hence, we believe implementing a new CRM solution is a transformation which entails multiple steps to get it right. And this is particularly true for Last Mile Distributors (LMD) and even more so if you consider PAYGO as part of a business model.
Many of our customers have migrated from existing solutions or have implemented Upya as their first CRM solution, so we thought it would be helpful to summarise the key steps they took to successfully transition. We believe those steps are applicable (with some possible variations) to all LMDs implementing a new CRM.
1. Get Started + Keep Moving
Sometimes the hardest thing with an implementation is to get started and keep moving forward to reach the goals you have set for your company or team.
While implementing a CRM is not hard in itself, it will require some planning and resource allocation; and it does have unknowns: how will my sales team adopt the product, will the processes newly put in place be as effective as forecasted, will the service provider deliver etc.
Once the ball starts rolling, it is important to keep going, stay open to some modifications to the initial plan while keeping in mind the agreed upon roadmap.
2. Define your champions
In the early stages of the implementation, defining champions will allow LMDs to gather a small group of SME (Subject Matter Experts) within the key roles: admins, agents, supervisors; without burning too many resources across the organisation.
Their role moving forward will be to help in clarifying internal processes per major flow, participate in setting-up the CRM to the business’ needs and get a thorough understanding of the CRM to later on train and support the rest of the team during the deployment phase(s).
Champions have another role: they are to become influencers in the roll-out and will become spokespersons to the rest of the organisation on why this project is important and how to ensure its success. Therefore management needs to work on getting their buy-in as early as possible.
At Upya we always ask our customer’s management team to have a 1hr initial call with all champions at the same time with the following agenda:
- 15 min Explaining the project, it’s strategic importance + Champions’ role (Distributor).
- 25min CRM demo (Upya).
- 20min Next steps + questions + discussion (Distributor + Upya).
There are many more best practices when it comes to getting stakeholder buy-in, here is a useful list for reference.
3. Confirm your current state and processes, and identify opportunities for improvement
Many organisations we work with have some understanding of what their current processes are or, for those just starting, should be. However, we often find that with big organisations (+200 agents) those processes are not clear to all players or lack internal alignment; and for big and small organisations there is very often a lack of depth and detail.
The easiest process to describe is how agents make a sale and collect money, it becomes more complex when looking at customer service, after sales and inventory tracking.
Here are some examples of the type of details sometimes necessary:
- When the call center person gets a complaint from a customer that the unit is not working, how does the customer notify the agent, keep track of the notification?
- When the agent goes in the field to pick up the unit, how do you know he/she has the unit?
- If the unit is defective, the LMD needs to replace it, is that tagged in the system differently, is the swap registered at the contract level?
And so, as an organisation it is important to take the time to clearly map out those workflows while also being open to new ideas on what those should or could look like as you integrate a new CRM.
4. Define your roadmap of implementation
All CRMs propose multiple features and/or modules; while on the LMD side, distributors sell multiple products, through multiple teams, in multiple regions or sometimes countries.
A great step is to create a roadmap of implementation through a phased approach, e.g. one region first, a specific team, the most important modules etc. The cadence of that roadmap can also greatly vary: region A — week 1; region B — week 2; or PAYGO products first for 2 months and so forth.
To define their roadmap, the LDMs should rely on their CRM provider to share best practices collected from multiple implementations across all types of LMD profiles.
5. Setting-up the platform
The working team is set, the processes (current + future) are clear and the roadmap has been defined: it is now time to set-up the platform.
The set-up generally involves setting-up the deals (e.g. PAYGO 12 month or full upfront and subscription and price points) the products and uploading existing stock, any form of onboarding questionnaire, the organisation’s users and their profiles etc.
The workload and time needed to set-up the CRM will be 100% dependent on the complexity and size of the LMD’s business:
- Small start-ups with standard workflows should not need more than 2 weeks and should be able to set-up the platform by themselves (with supporting documentation).
- Bigger organisations that have complex workflows, multiple nuances per country and/or require more sophisticated features such as Automation will need to invest more time and work closely with their CRM provider.
6. CRM — Integration
Connecting (integrating) the CRM to other software’s or manufacturers being used by the LMDs is a crucial and sometimes an overlooked step in the planning phase.
Ideally, in the evaluation step of which CRM to use, the LMD has already gained a clear understanding of which software’s and hardware’s the CRM provider already works with and which ones it needs to integrate to. Here are a few important ones:
Token Generation: For any LMD to sell under PAYGO deals, it will need to be able to remotely lock and unlock the products being sold for a given period of time, depending on payments received.
Manufacturers are able to do this through token generations and the CRM provider needs to “talk” to these tokens for the process to be automated through the software. Two options:
- The manufacturer uses Open Tokens to manage PAYGO assets, and the CRM provider is integrated with those. Three are widely used: Paygops’s OpenPaygo, Paygee’s Access and Angaza’s Nexus. As these are open source, any CRM provider can integrate with these tokens and generate the necessary activation codes. That is the case of Upya, which works with all three. (Refer to EnAccess Foundation here for more information)
- The manufacturers use specific proprietary tokens and the CRM needs to be integrated to each. Upya for instance is integrated with multiple manufacturers such as Biolite, GLP, Amped, SparkMeter and many more.
MoMo providers: In most African countries, payments are made through mobile money, generally managed by the Telcos, such as MTN, SafariCom and Airtel. The CRM needs to be able to read payment information going through these or similar through integration.
SMS Bulk Providers: To send activation codes or any other form of external messages to the end customer, the LMD through its CRM will be using bulk messaging services such as Africa’s Talking. The CRM will therefore need to be integrated to the latter or similar providers.
Others per country/needs: It is important for the LMD and/or CRM provider to be aware of local specificities. In Nigeria for example, to access relevant incentives schemes, LMDs selling Solar Home Systems or developing mini-grids need to send data to the REA, through the intermediary Odyssey, to which the CRM has to be integrated.
7. Data Migration
For organisations that already have existing customers (active customers currently paying instalments or surveys) and will consequently have legacy data, these will need to be migrated into the CRM provider’s platform.
The process is pretty seamless. It usually takes a clean CSV file that you get from your existing Excel/Google sheet or that you download from your existing CRM provider and most CRM providers will upload the data for you. It might require some back and worth to ensure data is properly uploaded and shown.
Before migrating data from the old to the new solution, the LMDs should take some time to clean the data wherever necessary and possible. Ideally, the now “fresh” data is cleaned and allows for better analytics.
8. Continuously test + validate
At Upya we are big fans of the Agile vs the Waterfall process (See Image) and believe that as the LMDs works on the set-up and the necessary integrations and migrations are taking place, multiple parts of the workflows (from small to complex) should be tested and validated regularly.
The most important deadline is the wider training and deployment. Before that, LMDs should continuously iterate, test, validate and repeat the process multiple times for all the workflows included in the initial roll-out.
9. Training and Go-Live
The best approach for LMDs to train their entire sales organisation (agents, admins, call center etc.) is to implement a Train-The-Trainer model (TTT). Whereby a few trainers, train the rest of the organisation.
Ideally, those Trainers are the same or taken from your pool of champions. As the LMD moves from step 2 to Step 8, the selected champions will have participated in conversations around needs, process and set-up; and should not require much more training themselves; a quick refresh might be necessary to make sure they pass on the information properly.
When looking at the training plan, LMDs should have a clear idea of who (based on role) should be trained on what; and its consequence on time needed. Typically: Admins need more time to be trained, unless their role is very specific e.g. Approve a sale; and Agents need less time, e.g. make sale after going through some Know-Your-Customer (KYC) questions.
Also, for bigger teams, the training should be done on a rolling basis based on roles/regions: Train admins week 1 | Train sales Region A — week 2 — Go-Live | Train sales Region B — week 3 — Go Live etc.
As just illustrated, Training and Go-Live should be combined. During the training, the distributor will create a few dummy customers and use dummy products but the overall goal is to Go-Live quickly after training to ensure there are no gaps between training and using the solution. This will avoid the need for additional training.
The end game is to ensure quick adoption of the new CRM. That is the KPI in the early stages.
10. Celebrate + keep evaluating + keep improving + keep innovating
Each step is to be celebrated once completed, however management should be particularly mindful to celebrate the trainings, the go-live and all the efforts made by all those involved, especially the champions.
And while celebration is great, in digitalisation, work is never over and teams should remain on top of their processes, integrating new, improved and/or optimised flows. Likewise, the LMD space is fast moving and requires constant business innovation that needs to be supported by the CRM provider.
“After you’ve done a thing the same way for two years, look it over carefully. After five years, look at it with suspicion. And after ten years, throw it away and start all over.” — Alfred Edward Perlman
About Upya Technologies:
Upya’s mission is to support its customers as they scale and manage impactful businesses. Upya is a CRM Provider for Last Mile Distributors in emerging markets. Present in more than 20 countries, Upya partners with small promising start-ups and industry leaders who distribute any type of product such as SHS, Water Filters, Mini-grids and PAYGO Smartphones.
To learn more visit www.upya.io