by Dick Lee, High-Yield Marketing
Thanks to CRMGuru.com
Over time, I’ve become increasingly uncomfortable with the level of dependency clients have been putting on my firm, High-Yield Marketing, and other CRM consulting firms. In extreme cases, this dependency extends to a CEO saying, “we’ve got to get on the CRM bandwagon, let’s go hire a consulting company to get us into CRM.” Only a half step above rock bottomhiring a software company to “get us into CRM.” In other cases, the client will take more responsibility but still try to “job out” internal accountabilities, often leadership accountabilities.
But that’s only the bad news. The good news is that more and more companies are finally realizing that only they can implement CRM. Sure, consultants can help with specific issues. But no matter how many “suits” consulting firms send in, the really big mountains only companies themselves can move. And more and more companies are “getting it” about using CRM consultants.
When should companies make sure they’re driving their CRM implementations, rather than giving up the reins? Let’s start with a few key activities:
Adopting customer-centric values (without which, there’s no CRM):
Company values are no different than personal values. They come from within. And they come from leadership and work down. Can CRM consultants help here? Sometimesby putting “the fear of the market” into a CEO, and especially by explaining to a change management consultant why change is necessary. But the principal “outcall” here had better be to a change management consultant experienced in working with CEOs. A good one can become the “moral compass” CEOs often need to influence them to change their spots.
Instilling customer-centric values throughout the organization:
Pronouncing “new company values” with a memo accomplishes zippo. Ditto for standing up in front of as many executives and managers as possible and saying, “we’re changing,” and then retreating back to the corner office. Can a CRM consultant play a principal role in changing management and rank and file values? I haven’t met one yet who can do more than help a situation already pointed in the right direction. Again, the change management type should be the principal outside resource. And even the change management folks accomplish little unless management has made the decision to change and actively campaigns for change.
Redesigning the organization around customers:
Redefining internal roles and responsibilities is mustif new, customer-centric values are going to become more than sloganeering. And can a CRM consultant change how sales, marketing, service, accounting, manufacturing, etc. do their jobs? Nyet. Now, a CRM consultant trained in workflow rather than technology (and I’ve never met anyone good at both) can recommend here. But if companies need help implementing their reorganization decisions after they make them, and most large companies do need help, the change management resource is again the right call.
Re-engineering work processes to add more value to customers:
Can any outside consultant march up to rank and file staff and tell them to change the way they work? Not hardly. And folks who try to change people’s behavior by changing their technology are off in la-la-land. New work processes have to flow from new workflow that flows from new customer-centric strategiesand it’s this context that provides the proper impetus for change. Can CRM consultants help here? If they’re expressing through new processes internal decisions already made, they can. But any CRM consultant that comes in cold and starts babbling about work process should lose their licenseforever.
You can lead a horse to waterjust as objective, software neutral CRM consultants can lead an internal CRM team to a “short list” of software contenders. But it’s an internal choice from therean internal choice that includes significant system user input. Anytime you see a CRM consulting company impose a solution on a clientor senior management impose a software choice on system users, for that matteryou can take a ringside seat in anticipation of seeing “the solution” rammed back down management’s throat (and appropriately so, because only management can empower consulting companies to inappropriately make software decisions).
So, are CRM consultants totally useless, or nearly so? Not hardly, again. Many roles more specific than “running the CRM implementation” remain for outside CRM advisors:
Helping to identify customer-centric opportunities:
The planning methodology used for putting customers in the center of the business circle is so radically different from conventional market planning that a good, strategic CRM consultant can contribute by guiding the planning processand, as importantly, by providing an objective voice that fairly reflects the will of the customer.
Suggest ways to redesign workflow:
While companies need to make these decisions internally, experienced CRM consultants know techniques for workflow mapping that bubble up issues so companies see themand make the requisite decisions affecting departmental roles and responsibilities.
Facilitate process re-engineering:
This work is so butt-ugly that you may want to job it out just to get rid of it. Again, you make the decisions, but a consulting company with mapping automation software can turn weeks of work into days. Or, they can introduce you to the software so you can do it (ugh!).
Although CRM software is becoming a commodity, key differences between systems (other than price) remain. A good software consultant can help you organize your requirements into a cogent RFI, come up with a “long list” of contenders that meet your general criteria, cut the list down to top contenders, than issue an exacting RFPplus be a good drill sergeant and BS detector in final presentations.
To flip the coin the other way, can you do without these CRM consultant services? For some companies, the answer is “yes.” In fact, HYM has developed a three book series called Self-guided CRM to assist do-it-yourselfers. However, based on experience, many companies will still need support at several or more points along the waybut rarely as much support as most will need in change management.
Guess that’s a long way of saying that Front Line Solutions (founder of CRMGuru.com) was very astute for including a change management consultant par excellence, Bill Brendler, on the CRMGuru panelalong with the rest of us CRM consultants.
About the Author
CRMGuru.com panelist Dick Lee has just completed the third and final book of his “Self-Guided CRM” series, which includes an overview book, The Customer Relationship Management Survival Guide, plus two instructional manuals, The Customer Relationship Management Planning Guide and, just-released, The Customer Relationship Management Deployment Guide. The series, which covers the continuum from customer-centric planning to software selection, is meant to enable companies to implement CRM either on their own or with significantly reduced investment in outside CRM consultants. For more information please visit High-Yield Marketing’s web site.
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