297 — Four Steps to Success with CRM

Jul 9, 2002 | Conteúdos Em Ingles

by Dick Lee, High-Yield Marketing
With thanks to CrmGuru.com.

How many ways have we tried to define CRM? Well, let me count the ways—which is almost synonymous with counting the number of definitions offered that fell flat, not to mention the even larger number that never rose up high enough to fall. Including a few of my own, I might add. Pretty slippery stuff, this CRM. But I think I’ve finally got a grip on it. At least I hope that’s what I’m gripping.

In desperation, after developing several somewhat accurate but only semi-communicative descriptions, I decided to try defining how companies successfully achieve CRM, rather than what it is. What a difference that made. And for the good. What emerged was this surprisingly terse, four-step description.

Customer Relationship Management:
1. Implementing customer-centric business strategies;
2. Which drives redesigning of functional activities;
3. Which demands re-engineering of work processes;
4. Which is supported, not driven, by CRM technology.

Voila! Of course, it still had to pass the communication test. So I started trucking it around to all my conference and corporate presentations, to my consulting clients, to my wife (who’s been dying to know what I do). You know what? It passed. With flying colors. So many light bulbs started going off that I needed sunglasses. At last, at last…
CRM Step #1: Developing customer-centric business strategies.

We’re having so much trouble defining CRM for one simple reason: so many of us are determined to define CRM as something less than it is. Why? Because it’s easier to “implement” that way. Hey, if we can cut it down to a couple of simple steps, even one, we can slam it in lots quicker. Unfortunately, the only thing that gets “slammed” using this abbreviated approach is us. So let’s define CRM for all it is: a complex, four-step process with far-reaching affects on the very way we conduct business.

Let’s start with step #1, developing customer-centric business strategies—also known as the step we most want to avoid, because it’s all about planning. Who has the time and patience for planning? Anyone who wants to be successful at CRM, that’s who.

The object of planning customer-centric business strategies is to find win-win opportunities with customers. Do more that benefits them so they’ll do more that benefits us—like buy more from us and stay with us. The “customer relationship” planning approach is relatively simple. Put yourself in your customers’ shoes. See through their eyes. Discover what they want. Even anticipate what they don’t want yet, but will. And when you’ve done that, you’ll be ready to identify the best mutual opportunities for your customers and your company. Then you can prioritize these opportunities, pick the best and put them into play. Obviously there’s a little more to it than that, but that’s the gist of it.

Very important to understanding customer relationship planning and how it’s done is recognizing these three significant departures from traditional market planning:

1. You plan around customer wants, not company goals.
2. You focus on listening to customers, rather than forcing them to listen to you.
3. You relegate promotional marketing communication—including database marketing, e-database marketing, e-database, e-marketing, etc.—to a secondary role, operating in the shadow of informed, informational dialog with customers.

You get the picture. And now you get to rush out and put all this into play, right? Well, not exactly, because implementing your new, customer-centric strategies will almost invariably require you to change how you do business. And besides, where’s the software? Can’t do CRM without software, right? But more on these issues in the next three steps.

CRM Step #2: Redesigning functional activities.

Redesigning functional activities is otherwise known as the step we forget about altogether. Why? Because we’d rather get ambushed by it, catch a whole quiver of arrows in the chest, then die a dramatic death in the corner conference room in front of the entire CRM implementation team. Well, maybe I’m exaggerating just a tad. But there is more than a little avoidance going on.

So you don’t forget (or duck), here’s what happens. When you change to more customer-centric business strategies, you have to work differently. Otherwise, you’ll do the same stuff you’ve always done. But we have a nasty tendency to “keep on doing what got us here” while trying to go somewhere else. Ergo, we leave functional activities as they were.

Doesn’t work. Instead, we have to carefully assess the roles of all departments (otherwise known as silos) interacting with customers-to see if they’re adding value to customers, or adding cost instead. Then we have to figure out how to reconfigure our organization so that everything we do is designed to help customers and nothing we do adds unnecessary cost. Simple concept, eh? Well, “earthquake” is a simple concept, too.

Reorganizing the organization to act more in consort with customers can be quite a chore. But so can cleaning up the mess after you try to implement CRM while working at cross-purposes with powerful departments like accounting and IT. So we have to take this step if we’re going to succeed with CRM. But we can only take it if senior management wants CRM badly enough to bite the bullet and do the right thing by customers, which is often a hard thing by the organization.
CRM Step #3: Re-engineering work processes.

Now let look at the third step, re-engineering work processes. Actually, many CRM implementers try to leap over steps 1 and 2 to start with work processes, almost always resulting in one of two outcomes. The first being they automate work processes instead of doing CRM. The second is… well, imagine jumping in sock feet from a top stair landing to the third, shiny, glossy, hardwood step down. But let’s not let little accidents like these deter us from serious thinking about a very important CRM component. Especially when we have a nasty tendency to do re-engineering without thinking much about what we’re doing.

The function of process re-engineering in CRM is fairly obvious. In order to put the customer in the center of our business circle, we have to change departmental roles and responsibilities. And when that happens, we have to adopt new work processes. Otherwise, we’ll do the same work we’ve always done with the same outcomes.

But how should we change work processes? Here’s where things get interesting. We have two basic choices—re-engineering to perform each process step as efficiently as possible, or re-engineering to maximize “throughput” from the beginning of the marketing/sales process to the end. We normally opt for the former—which might work if marketing and selling were factory stuff with predictable work flows. But they’re not. Instead, we have these unpredictable elements called “customers” that refuse to cooperate and do things according to our schedules.

Without drowning in the science of process management, suffice it to say that in conditions of uncertainty, trying to maximize efficiency up and down the process chain is usually an unmitigated disaster. In contrast, maximizing throughput usually gives us a far superior return on our marketing and sales resources.

CRM Step #4: Selecting the right software.

In this last step we’ll look at selecting software that supports (but doesn’t drive) new workflow and work processes.

Yes, yes, I know—lots of late awakeners are still trying to start CRM with software. But those folks are so far behind the learning curve that there’s no point trying to catch them up.

CRM software comes in all shapes, sizes and functions. In fact, the functions span a broad continuum from marketing automation on one side to field service on the other. And, please note, the end-to-end functionalities are so dissimilar that no software package on the market handles every function with better than “check box” proficiency. That’s why it’s so important for you to identify your “sweet spot”—and compare your focal point to the focal point of every software system you’re considering.

Every system on the market has a sweet spot somewhere on this continuum. And every system is next best at providing the functionality on one side or other (but rarely both). Proficiency then declines with distance from the sweet spot. So don’t let any software sales type sweet talk you into believing that their system “does everything.”

Once you’ve established a list of potential systems that matches up with your needs, the best way to get to a selection is to break down your technology needs process step by process step. Then roll up your needs list and ask software suppliers to show you how they’ll meet your needs. If they can.

Oh, and one last set of considerations. Don’t forget global issues such as whether your field people need to work disconnected from your network or the Web. If they do, forget about “thin client, 100% web” architecture. And make sure you get references from companies similar in size to yours. CRM software scales up and down more readily than CRM software sellers.

And there you have it. A four-step, working definition of CRM. Hey, grab the refrigerator magnets and post all four.

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, http://www.h-ym.com.


Dossiers – Empresas