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CRM that delivers: what you can do NOW to make it work!

Despite the fortunes being spent on CRM software, if your tools and your people aren’t correctly lined up, you’re probably missing your target. The good news is that working largely with existing technology, you can align people and processes to unlock maximum CRM value…

CRM is a technology/software solution exactly like driving a car is an engine solution.

Yes you definitely need CRM technology to have a CRM system, just as you need an engine for a car to get anywhere.

But in both cases you need somebody, a human being, at the wheel before you actually have something of any value. Not only that, but that person needs an efficient process to follow.

You can’t drive a car effectively without following the road rules, nor is there any value in driving it at all if you don’t know where you’re going.

The same applies to a CRM system. Is the correct information being gathered and distributed to the right people? Is that information going to assist in delivering a better quality of service or product to your customers?

Below is the story of a total CRM failure (from a customer’s perspective at least) at easyJet in Europe, as, with the best technology in the business, easyJet’s processes, people and its inability to align the two for the benefit of its customers drives one frequent flying businessman to quit the airline forever – and even pay more to fly with someone else.

Interestingly, however, easyJet is a sharemarket darling in the UK with a very attractive bottom line. The question is, how much better could it have been, had more attention been paid to the customer satisfaction being delivered to its passengers?

With more organisations putting a toe in CRM waters and the toolsets moving towards commodity status, then the competitive edge will not come from simply having CRM tools, it will come from having a CRM ‘capability’ – from what you do with the toolsets.

So for those organisations with existing CRM tools, what can you do now to deliver better results, without having to spend more on technology?

CRM tune up 1: It’s all about the people

It’s not by chance that ‘people’ is first on our list as people implement strategy – every day in every way.

For a CRM solution to deliver the most value, it must be championed from the top – actively & visibly. CRM cannot be implemented effectively by middle-management.

“CRM needs someone at a high level of an organisation to take ownership of it and convince that organisation’s people that he or she is fully behind it,” says Cincom’s Graeme King, “and give it the appropriate respect as far as their time is concerned.”

King also recommends CRM ‘leaders’ be freed from their day jobs if at all possible. “How companies do that differs from organisation to organisation,” he says, “because some don’t have the capacity to assign people the additional responsibility, so they may need to look at getting in some contract or part time resources in order to address the particular part of a job that a specialist may need fill.”

At Professional Advantage Tatiana Kiblyk observes a recent trend in successful implementations at client companies.

“We’ve noticed recently that more CRM projects are driven by ‘business’ people as opposed to IT staff. In fact, some of them commented that they took ownership of the project and they really didn’t want IT involved until it comes to the nitty gritty of configuring and customising certain things – helping them with technical installations and so on.”

As far as staff ‘attitudes’ to a CRM solution goes, fostering positive attitudes in your staff is a perfectly valid CRM strategy.

Kiblyk points out another strategy that can tend to be overlooked by organisations concentrating on the technical aspects of an implementation, as opposed to the aesthetic.

Rather then leaving the CRM solution completely ‘as is’ out of the box, she says there are often many easily customised aspects to a CRM system, that can be personalised to the company that it’s being implemented in.

“You really don’t need to keep your CRM solution as an ‘alien’ CRM system,” she says.

“These days people can customise the look and feel. They can rename certain sections of the system with terms that are already familiar to their staff in the way they work. Instead of the standard fields they’re given out of the box they can go in and for example call ‘a sales opportunity’ a ‘development site’ if that’s what their staff are used to calling it. It makes the system a lot easier for users to relate to.”

Kiblyk says one client didn’t even call their solution a CRM system, instead giving it another name that was more relevant to its staff. “They gave it a name basically that was ‘closer’ to them,” she says.

CRM should also impact your hiring decisions in that new employees need to be proficient, comfortable, and dare we say it – actually excited about using technology in their roles.

That is, they can handle doing a presentation to a customer on a tablet PC instead of using printed brochures, or that they are comfortable sitting in their car filling in a post call analysis on a laptop.

For while that great ‘gift of the gab’ salesperson who confesses with a laugh that they ‘hate computers’ may have been perfect for your company 10 years ago, today that’s not enough – they need to have both that ‘roll your sleeves up and get stuck in’ attitude and be comfortable using technology. Companies who integrate ‘people planning’ into change management initiatives like CRM systems will achieve higher system success than those that don’t.

CRM tune up 2: Get the process right

Good CRM is a synergistic alignment of people and process. To ensure this alignment is as close to ‘right’ as possible at the outset, implementers will determine any business process reengineering that may be required to address an organisation’s specific requirements as they preplan the implementation.

Things can go off the rails, however, if a business parts company with its implementer too early and decides to take on a lot of the process engineering itself.

“How this typically happens,” says King, “is the implementer will have trained a group of key users and they then take the determination of the business process and the solution upon themselves and disengage from the implementation company from that point on. They do it with all good intentions but without the implementers depth of knowledge of the application, they end up putting processes in place that perhaps weren’t the best.”

To address these type of issues, all CRM suppliers recommend regular system reviews.

“It’s quite important that after the initial excitement of having a new system that regular reviews are scheduled,” says Kiblyk.

“Say three months after the system has gone live, then again in six months and again in 12 months. We get our customers together with our consultant and review what’s changed. Have the business drivers changed, have the processes within the businesses changed? And does the CRM system needs to change and adapt, rather than the users finding a ‘work around’ to make it fit.”

Kiblyk recommends the original internal implementation committee and/or the power users/system owners in the departments where CRM has been implemented, get together and ask:

  1. Is the system delivering what it was supposed to deliver?
  2. Have all issues been addressed?
  3. Is there anything that hasn’t been done for whatever reason and should it be pursued or be scrapped?
  4. Does documentation reflect the current processes or have users started to deviate or develop ‘work arounds’? If so does documentation need to be reviewed?
  5. Are there processes in place for users to log their issues/concerns and requests for changes?
  6. What is the action plan if there are issues and processes to be reviewed?

This review process is also a good time to involve the original implementer again as an implementer’s consultant can talk to various stakeholders within the company getting objective feedback (almost like an external CRM audit) and establish where the system is going off track – making suggestions as to how to realign people and processes again.

“A key to a successful CRM system is communication,” says Kiblyk, “the internal stakeholders, the people who are driving or own the system need to facilitate the internal communication process and make it clear to users how to log their concerns and address any issues that arise.”

Remember also that your CRM implementer has had experience at numerous organisations just like yours, so they can always advise ‘best practise’ solutions that have worked for others.

CRM Tune Up 3: Research your customers

CRM is Customer Relationship Management so it stands to reason no CRM overhaul could be complete without researching your customers. With all the CRM tools available; your marketing tools to communicate, your campaign tools, your channel management tools, the need to ‘understand’ pops up again and again.

The old adage that you cannot manage what you cannot measure is never truer than in the CRM world. “There are two aspects to that,” says Bright Blue’s Matthew Yoon.

“One is the intangible side, the ‘customer satisfaction’ side which is always difficult to measure. What matrix’s do you use to measure customer satisfaction – because it has different facets to it, but you can look at the transactional side of that.”

A couple of examples. An ecommerce website is a easily measured ‘transactional’ customer interaction. Statistics should be easily available on how many customers visited your site, then how many began a purchase but abandoned their shopping carts before completing the process.

So is the percentage of visits culminating in a purchase on par with other sites in your industry? If not, you may have a web site usability problem and a reduction in the number of mouse clicks to make a sale might be all it takes to boost your business.

Similarly, if your call center staff record the same customer request coming up repeatedly in customer help calls (for example a technical setting or a weight limitation) would it be possible to include that information in the recorded greeting.

This type of information is already right at your fingertips, costs very little to collect, and could significantly improve your customer service rating. Yoon points out that like other aspects of a CRM solution, researching customer satisfaction must also be an ongoing process.

“You invest in a CRM solution to improve your customer satisfaction so you need to justify how it’s actually going. It’s all about understanding what you do well, and understanding what you may not be doing well, and then moving to address the gaps between the two. CRM implementation should be an evolution. Things change and you don’t want to stagnate with one system that you built five years ago and expect it to be efficient and effective five years later.”

So consider engaging a research company or perhaps encouraging customer feedback via a website or email campaign.

People are usually keen to let you know when they’ve been disappointed by your service – especially if they think you’ll actually do something about it.

Tune up summary

CRM is not ‘set and forget’ technology and perhaps more than any other business system it requires ongoing executive enthusiasm and regular reviews for effective operation.

While initial acceptance might be high, it’s almost inevitable that CRM effectiveness will start fading over time if it doesn’t adapt as the business changes.

Keeping a close eye on People, Processes and Customer satisfaction will ensure you get the most out of the CRM solution you already have.

This article was originally featured on iStart. To see the original version, click here.

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