CRM attracts big thinkers – people attracted to “big change.” So we shouldn’t be surprised that drilling down into minutia doesn’t rank high on most CRM folks’ hit lists. However, as companies realize that customers are demanding more and more employee empowerment, that customers are getting pickier and pickier about how, when and what we communicate to them, and that large buyers are starting to influence or even control production and delivery schedules – the need to get elbow deep in managing messy details increases from several perspectives.
First, companies can’t empower employees without incurring more risk. Hence, empowerment must be accompanied by risk management, which must be provided by carefully scripted logic built into our automation tools. And this stuff can get more than a little complex, as in the case of bank lending officers who need a carefully crafted framework from which they can make variable decisions without crossing over into high risk territory. Far from “making it up as they go along,” loan officers have to process a range of inputs – including their intuitive sense of the customer – before flexing policies to accommodate individual cases without crossing the line. And if you want proof of that, just look at the mortgage industry today. What’s behind the mess there, other than greed? Lack of process control providing decision logic.
Have you ever tried to map a lending decision process? If you’re implementing CRM at a financial institution, you have no choice but to map it in order to mitigate risk. Despite the fact that mapping lending process takes gobs of time and incredible attention to detail. But you can’t accurately map something this complex by lining a conference room’s walls with brown craft paper and drawing lines and boxes. Or even by skipping the paper routine and drawing boxes and lines in Visio. You really should use a decision mapping automation tool – which, unfortunately, many CRM practitioners don’t possess or even vaguely understand how to use.
Let’s keep the lending example and look at it from another angle. What if you’re approving credit online, without human intervention, where there’s risk of being either too stringent or not stringent enough? If you apply too restrictive standards, you risk alienating good customers. But if you’re too lax, you’ll wind up replicating the mortgage mess. To find a happy medium, you have to carefully prioritize and weight factors, a seemingly endless list of factors, which requires a “logic tree” than can span many, many pages of intricate process maps. Again, you can’t do it with brown paper (or flip charts) and magic markers – or with Visio. You virtually have to sit down at a computer with process automation software and carefully and methodically design the decision logic. Unfortunately, the more typical case is the business side handing IT some rough guidlines and saying, “Program it.” And then we wonder why we wind up denying credit to the credit-worthy while loaning big bucks to high risk customers.
But financial services is hardly the only business sector where CRM has to get “down and dirty” to support complex processes. Companies with high value customers that are trying to manage complex opt-in/opt-out scenarios with numerous “exceptions to the rules” have these issues. So do B2B companies forced by market conditions to manage complex pricing/discount schedules. As do MTO (make-to-order) manufacturers with defined capacity that have to allocate scarce resources among competing customers – and do it on a more thought-through level than “the squeaky wheel gets the grease” or “first in/first out.”
We could go on and on with examples. But bottom line, it’s time for CRM and CRM practitioners to start applying and automating sophisticated business rule sets – and start using much more sophisticated tools and approaches. Or more in the vernacular, “Slop time is over.” CRM has a growing number of serious responsibilities, and we’re all going to have to “get dirty” doing them. You betcha.