CRM – Your Expectations

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This article is an excerpt from our free CRM Essentials ebook series. Download them all neat and tidy here..

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Quantify Your Expectations

Once you have established what your goals and expectations are for a CRM system, you need to quantify them. Let us say, for example, your primary goal is to reduce customer churn by 5%. As we have seen, this is a good choice for at least two reasons. First, it is good in that the expectation is not too high to achieve, and retaining 5% more of your existing customers will have a marked impact on both your turnover and your profit. Second, it is good because by improving customer loyalty you lower your cost of doing business. This is not the time to work out just how you will achieve the reduction in customer churn; you are merely putting values to your expectations.

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The importance of this exercise should not be underestimated. One of the best measures of the success of your CRM system will be whether it meets your expectations, and the only way to know if that happens is if you have a specific benchmark against which to measure success. The results of this exercise will also come in handy when you start to specify your CRM system as it will clarify your requirements for the system.

If you have not made a list of your goals and expectations for your CRM system, then this is the time to put them in writing. Ideally, you already have a list, either drawn up before you started reading this book, or drawn up while you have been reading it. If you have already listed what you expect to achieve with your CRM system, this is a good time to review those expectations.

CRM is a Four-letter Word

Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results. This quote has been attributed to Benjamin Franklin, Mark Twain, Albert Einstein and an old Chinese proverb. Wherever it comes from, it remains pertinent to many aspects of life, and particularly to business systems. When an organization decides to install a new system, it makes sense to examine existing procedures to see if they are still relevant. It is pointless to install CRM software if the organization does not examine how procedures currently relate to customers and look for areas that will benefit from being changed.

You will more than likely have to make changes to business processes to ensure a successful CRM installation. In addition, expect changes to:

  • organizational structures
  • customer information databases
  • measurement systems
  • and, of course, the customer experience.

Technology, in the form of the hardware and software application, is important to help automate the process. But it is not, by any stretch of the imagination, all there is to ‘doing’ CRM. Without the strategy for change in place, it is not really CRM and will probably fail within 12 months – if you get it up at all.

The first pitfall – same old business practices

A common mistake is for a company to buy a CRM application but not change how they interact with their customers. If the software enables faster, better informed, more meaningful customer contacts, why keep using your old methods? Do you really want to speed up the process of alienating customers?

An article called “Only excellence matters for successful CRM,” written by Stuart Lauchlan and published on computerweekly.com, quotes Greg Gianforte, CEO of RightNow Technologies:

“CRM is four-letter word. Everyone has had a failed CRM project. If you just apply traditional CRM all you’re going to do is speed up your internal processes and annoy your customers more quickly.” (Greg Gianforte, 2010)

CRM is, primarily, about the customer. Never lose sight of that. If your approach is product-focused, or driven by a need for management reports and controls as opposed to customer-centric, it cannot work. You have to ensure that the technology does not detract from the purpose of using the software – which is to improve the customer experience.

“The key is to create a culture of information sharing in order to improve the customer experience. No matter what size the company, everyone cares about improving the customer experience.” (Sheryl Kingstone)

The best way to ensure organization-wide adoption of CRM as a tool, is to instill a culture of customer-oriented service from as early as possible.

The second pitfall – flawed use

The next major pitfall has been called ‘flawed use’. Similar to, and related to the problem of not changing business processes, it is the belief that buying and using a CRM application is the same as ‘doing’ CRM.

According to Jim Davies, research director of customer relations management at Gartner:

“Smaller organizations need to appreciate that CRM is a strategy that is enabled by technology, not a software tool.” (Jim Davies, 2010)

Another quote from “Only excellence matters for successful CRM” echoes a familiar refrain heard in business circles. Stuart Lauchlan again quotes Greg Gianforte:

“Everyone associates CRM with sales automation. If you go into a company and say you do CRM, then the business manager will say, ‘Oh, we tried that, it didn’t work’.” (Greg Gianforte, 2010)

In all likelihood, the reason it didn’t work was because the company ignored one or more of the basic requirements we have discussed. Their problem was to omit one or more of the following non-negotiable criteria for a successful CRM system:

  • they did not ensure that a customer-centric culture was in place
  • they did not get staff buy-in to the process
  • they skimped on the planning and preparation
  • they thought that now they have the software, everything else will fall into place and happen automatically.

The third pitfall – not setting clear goals

One of the most important challenges you will face in your quest to find and install the ideal CRM system is setting clear goals. You have to understand enough about your company’s CRM requirements, not only for the current position, but also for the expected position in three to five years’ time. This is vital because it ensures that you select the right product to support your CRM plans.

We have already stressed the importance of gathering information and specifying your requirements, and yes, it is tedious work. But without this information anticipating your future requirements is even more difficult.

In brief, the third pitfall is buying a CRM solution before you fully understand what the CRM requirements are for your particular business. Define objectives and set baselines for your CRM system. Clearly defined objectives means that you know what information should be stored in your CRM system. Clearly defined baselines, or benchmarks, means you have something to measure against when you start running your CRM system. Martin Schneider, senior director of communications at CRM vendor SugarCRM, says:

“All too often companies fail to set proper benchmarks [and] baselines. Nor do they set clear goals for their CRM initiative. To prove value, it is important to know what benefits you are seeing. So start tracking items like average time to close … number of phone calls needed to resolve cases, etc. This enables the company to measure ROI …” (Martin Schneider)

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This article is an excerpt from our free CRM Essentials ebook series. Download them all neat and tidy here..

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