The 6 Most Important CRM Dashboard Best Practices


  • CRM software dashboards are a top delivery tool to get the right information to the right person at the right time.
  • However, information must advance from being merely interesting to inducing action for dashboards to be effective.
  • The six most effective ways to make data actionable are to make the metrics highly visual and interactive in role-based views, align departmental performance metrics with the most important company outcomes, display reporting metrics alongside target goals or industry benchmarks for context, shift from lagging to leading key performance indicators (KPIs), allow the data to be interrogated, manipulated and used for predictive analytics, and link reporting variances to recommendations such as Next Best Action or a Playbook.
Johnny Grow Revenue Growth Consulting

Most Customer Relationship Management dashboards are visually appealing but don't gain adoption. The good news is that they fail for a short list of reasons that are easily remediable. Here are six CRM dashboard best practices to deliver the information that earns the users' attention and induces action.


Focus on What Matters

With any type of digital dashboard, fewer higher impact measures will outperform a broad collection of clouded metrics.

Too many metrics bury the signals among the noise and make dashboards unproductive. Analytics work when they direct the users' attention to the highest priorities.

When implementing CRM software, I often get asked how many metrics should be included on a dashboard. The answer is always the same, as many as will get acted upon.

The takeaways here are to keep your eye on the prize and recognize that that less is more when it comes to digital dashboards.

Sales Dashboard

Measure What Most Matters

Clear objectives set the vision and create the roadmap, but rigorous execution as measured by the right key performance indicators (KPIs) direct the path to success and the realization of results.

Most dashboards miss the single greatest predictor of business growth – understanding the customer.

This occurs for two reasons. First, most companies focus their KPIs on internal measures. In many cases these companies are measuring indirect and reactionary financial and productivity measures rather than the customer factors that drive all downstream financial performance.

Second, important customer measures such as customer satisfaction (CSAT), customer engagement score (AES), customer lifetime value (CLV), voice of the customer (VOC), customer sentiment, customer insights, RFM (recency, frequency, monetary), customer loyalty and customer health scores are either not implemented or not available in the out of the box CRM application. This results in the all too common scenario where dashboards display what's easy but not what's important.

In the most recent CRM Benchmark Report, the Best-in-Class archetype reported measuring many customer KPIs but the most common customer metric among these top performers was customer lifetime value (CLV).

CLV measures customer health, and by extension forecasts the company's health. When CLV is viewed by customer segment it shows how increasing investment or services in high value segments will increase revenues and margins, or how lowering cost to serve can reduce unprofitable customers or transactions.

CLV eclipses departmental measures with an enterprise-wide performance indicator. Knowing the future value of each type of customer directs marketing on how much to invest for leads, advises sales on the acceptable cost per customer acquisition, enables customer service to allocate services in a way that makes financial sense, and empowers executives to forecast financial performance well beyond next quarter. CLV is the one KPI that trumps all others.

The two takeaway points here are to measure what matters, not what's easy, and that customer metrics are the most influential drivers of business performance. Without customer KPIs, you don't have the link from the source to delivery of predictable business execution. Customer metrics are primary and financial performance metrics are secondary.


Make Data Actionable

Sir Francis Bacon is generally credited for the phrase, "knowledge is power". I would suggest that knowledge is not power unless it is acted upon. Power is created from action, not visibility. Simply creating a list of KPIs to display in a dashboard falls short of inducing action. However, when KPIs are aligned with objectives, linked to actions and measured by payback, information goes from being interesting to creating value.

The KPI isn't the goal. It's a recommendation for action. Action is the goal.

The dashboard design best practice here is to link KPIs to Playbooks. When a KPI highlights a deviation or variance, displaying a link from the KPI to a Play or Next Best Action will facilitate follow-through and timely resolution.

The dashboard delivers line of sight information to those who need to be informed. But the point here is that the goal of dashboards isn't to view data, it's to act on data in order to avoid or improve a business outcome.


Use Industry Benchmarks for Comparison

To make KPIs objective, realistic and meaningful, show them alongside industry benchmarks.

KPI goals or variance thresholds without relative comparison appear arbitrary.

To outperform competitors, you need to know how your performance measures compare to your competitors. This comparison identifies weaknesses and areas where improvements will deliver the biggest impact.

In many of our CRM implementations we display the industry benchmarks next to the company's actual performance. This does 3 things. First, the company recognizes where they stand and most need to improve. Second, it enables predictive analytics. Many companies like to apply predictive models to show how a 1 percent improvement in any KPI impacts revenues or margins. Other clients with KPIs below the industry average often prefer to see the financial impact by improving their performance to the median level. Knowing the financial upside impact allows the company to know how much they should invest to achieve that upside.

Sales Win Rate Benchmark

I recently finished a project for a client and using industry metrics we were able to show how using Salesforce Marketing Cloud capabilities to increase lead to customer conversions, and Salesforce Sales Cloud to increase customer retention, from below median levels to the median (50% level) would grow the client's top line revenue by 16 percent annually.

The client recognized their lead to customer conversions were not great, and their customer retention had some issues, but didn't have clear visibility to see how a change would specifically impact top line revenues. With the visibility, kicking off the project was a no-brainer, and the company is well on its way to not just achieving the median level, which was their goal, but advancing to a best-in-class benchmark.


Apply Predictive Analytics

Most CRM dashboards display historical data. The best dashboards shift from lagging to leading indicators. And the very best dashboards enable metrics to be interactive, so users can perform What-If modeling and pro forma scenario planning.

When KPIs can model future performance, they become far more actionable. They shift your visibility from where you have been to where you are going. It's the difference between looking in your rearview mirror or through the windshield.

The Johnny Grow Revenue Engine is built on predictive analytics that identify the shortest and most profitable route to revenue growth. The below Predictive Pyramid model is an extract from the Revenue Engine that illustrates how to apply predictive dashboards that advance from hindsight to foresight.

Revenue Growth Predictive Model

Deliver Role-Based Dashboards

Relevance and personalization are paramount to gain user attention.

For example, CEO dashboards must be able to filter multiple brands, lines of business, geographies and other company data to surface deviations that need help. Our experience has shown the best CEO dashboards use heatmaps as an early warning system. The color coded heatmaps are aligned with the company's top priorities and quickly show gaps that will most impact performance and link to Playbook Plays or recommendations that can be automatically delegated.

The best sales dashboards focus on revenue growth and predictability. Top predictive analytics for these goals include price elasticity models, uplift modeling (i.e., cross-selling, upselling, bundling, householding, etc.), predictive revenue analytics (sometimes called Revenue Performance Management or RPM) and real-time sales performance deviations that forecast shortfalls.

As shared in the Marketing Transformation Report, forward thinking CMOs and marketers recognize the days of tracking activity and vanity metrics are behind us. They know they must step up to show their direct contribution to revenue and justify their marketing budget. The best marketing dashboards measure and forecast marketing's contribution to the sales pipeline and won revenues, and show a clear Return on Marketing Investment (ROMI).

The difficulty is that CEO heat maps, price elasticity models, predictive revenue analytics, ROMI and other strategic metrics are not standard capabilities in almost all CRM applications. Most out of the box CRM metrics are activity-based and have only an indirect alignment to the most important business outcomes. To achieve the most meaningful CRM dashboards you will need to create the strategic metrics that drive the most influential business outcomes.

See the top 6 CRM dashboard best practices that shift performance metrics from being merely interesting to inducing action and elevate information from being visible to being valuable.

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