A worked example as to why process inefficiencies provide rich pickings for CRM technology


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Carrying on my elaboration of some of the points in the ‘99 ways to get more from your CRM software’ post, point 69 suggested that you might consider reviewing your processes, rather dryly noting that:

‘analysing your existing business processes can be extremely insightful. You may find they don’t work quite as well as was thought, and there are often opportunities to improve them. Managing the revised processes within the CRM system can help create efficiencies through automation as well as providing better monitoring capabilities.’

I will try and better illustrate the point with an example. I worked on a project a few years back for a client who manufactured capital equipment. One of the processes we looked at was how they managed smaller pieces of work such as system upgrades, maintenance work, and equipment moves.

On the surface this was a bit of a backwater, because, unlike sales of new equipment, the average order size was relatively low. What was interesting though was how badly the process was being managed at the time. There were four teams involved: sales, estimating, engineering and finance. All four were managing their bit of the process with their own separate spreadsheets, and this was throwing up a number of issues:

  • Work was being undertaken which hadn’t always been properly estimated causing delays and cost overruns
  • Work was being undertaken which hadn’t always been authorised by the customer which meant that the company struggled to get paid
  • There were delays in scheduling because engineering weren’t always aware that authorisation from the customer had been received
  • Engineering visits were often cancelled at the last minute because the necessary paperwork wasn’t in place
  • There were delays in billing because finance weren’t always aware when work had been completed

We ended up addressing this situation by building the process into the CRM system. In a nutshell, when sales received a request for work from a customer they would create an opportunity record. When they needed an estimate they flagged it in the system. The estimating team received an automated email to alert them to the request. When they completed the estimate, details were recorded in the system and sales were notified the estimate was complete. When the purchase order was received, sales recorded the details which in turn alerted engineering the job needed to be scheduled. When the job was complete finance were notified to invoice it.

None of this was particularly time consuming or expensive to create in the system. Appropriate fields were added to support the process. Workflows were set up to notify the different teams at the right time, and dashboards and reports were set up to give everyone visibility of what was going on.

The return on investment for this phase of work was huge however. Customer satisfaction went up, margins increased, sales volumes rose, utilisation of engineering resources improved, as did cash flow, and a whole lot less management time was spent fire-fighting issues.

This wasn’t some sort of freak edge-case. Process inefficiencies as I’ve described above are surprisingly common, particularly if they span different areas of a business and are managed by disconnected systems or spreadsheets.

Sometimes however these opportunities get missed because requirements gathering can become fixated on departmental and functional needs – sales need X, marketing need Y, service need Z – and fail to look at things from a process perspective.

If you’re looking to get the most out of CRM technology, taking the time to really understand your current business processes can really pay big dividends.

Republished with author's permission from original post.


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