Build a Customer-Centric CxO Team: CRM Resolutions for 2007


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In the 2006 Rocky movie, Rocky Balboa, the aging fighter, gives some sage advice to his son. It’s not whether you get knocked down, he says. It’s about whether you get back up and keep fighting.

Perhaps customer relationship management—which I define as developing and implementing a customer-centric business strategy—has made you feel as though you’ve gone a few rounds with Apollo Creed, one of Rocky’s opponents. If so, take heart. CRM case studies we’ve researched over the years teach us that success requires guts, determination and, most of all, perseverance. You might install CRM software in one year and get a return on that investment, but strategic benefits need the right “peopleware—not something you can implement overnight.

As we start this New Year, we can be thankful for a strong global economy. Trouble is, everyone knows that and is ramping up. In 2007, you can expect more competition from an increasingly “flat” world and more demanding customers who have seized control of the buyer-seller relationship and don’t intend to give it back. In other words, more of the same.

In the past few rounds—er, years—most companies have tackled CRM in pieces. The marketing department optimized direct marketing with analytics and campaign management. The sales force improved sales productivity with the latest on-demand tool. Customer service cut costs with self-service. Good projects all. And easy to justify.

But there’s something missing. In 90 percent of the projects we’ve studied, there’s no enterprise-wide strategy to make customer relationships a competitive advantage. Building customer loyalty is much tougher than automating a department or function, but the rewards are what propel companies to industry leadership. Do you think sales force automation is going to do that?

Unlike Rocky toiling away alone in the ring, business people have to work together to win the battle for customers’ hearts and minds. So, with that in mind I offer the following CxO resolutions and encourage you to build them into your 2007 plans.

Chief Executive Officer: Lead a Culture of “Customers Really Matter”

Your organization will be only as customer-centric as you are. Set a personal example by prioritizing your time toward customer activities. Make sure that at least one measurement at each level of the organization—starting with you and your direct reports—links to customer loyalty. If you lead by example and reward the organization for building customer equity, you’ll be on your way to creating a CRM culture: Customers Really Matter.

Chief Marketing Officer: Differentiate With Customer Experiences

Last year, customer experience management became the “next big thing.” It still is. Now it’s time to learn what really drives your customers’ loyalty. Chances are you’ll discover, as we did in our 2006 study, Customer Experience Management: A Winning Business Strategy for a Flat World, that experiences are valued as much as functional capabilities of products or services. Build your marketing strategy around experienced-based differentiation, while keeping in mind that any promises you make to customers the organization had better be able to keep.

Chief Sales Officer: Sell Solutions to Customer Problems

It’s an over-used term, I know, but in 2007 vow to lead your
sales force to sell real solutions to customer problems. Otherwise, Now it’s time to learn what really drives your customers’ loyalty.
your reps will just sell solutions to their quota problem. How? The compensation plan is a good place to start because most reps look there
first for clues about what really matters. Make sure customers have a voice in how reps get rewarded, with some kind of measurement of the quality of relationships. You may also need to overhaul your training programs, to prepare reps to sell customer value, not just product features.

Chief Service Officer: Fight for Quality of Experience

If you feel as though you’ve been caught in a vice, squeezed between the jaws of quality and cost, sorry, but the pressure won’t ease up any time soon. But you and the CMO should be comrades in arms, because service experiences are the No. 1 driver of customer loyalty—or defection. Your service reps and systems must deliver great service at
a competitive cost. Take another look at what you measure and how you reward people, to ensure that quality of service is balanced with efficiency. Above all else, hire nice people; you can’t train that.

Chief Information Officer: Build Systems To Deliver Metrics That Matter

Sure, you’ll have to implement and support operational systems and infrastructure. Fortunately, service-oriented architectures will make integration easier, so you can deliver end-to-end processes that serve customers and your organization well. But you have a higher calling: Metrics. The right measurements, tied to appropriate reward systems, are how a customer-centric vision is translated into day-to-day execution. Lead the effort to ensure that every CxO has a customer-centric dashboard this year.

Chief Customer Officer: Build Bridges, Inside and Out

As the agent of customer-centric change, you have a special role and unique opportunity. Internally, you can bridge the gap between organizational silos. Externally, customers need you to be their advocate, especially when things go wrong. If you do your job well, with support from the CEO, the organization will work as one team fighting the competition, not each other. Plan to spend 80 percent of your time on people issues, not systems.

If you’ve had some success from CRM, build on it. If you’ve had setbacks, get back in the ring and keep fighting. Make Rocky proud!


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