How to implement CRM technology – an easy way and a hard way


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One of the first projects we undertook after I set up Mareeba was to review a client’s call centre. The call centre supported computer equipment across the UK, and was something of a victim of success, struggling to cope with a series of large orders that the client had recently won.

One of the key issues the client had, was that they struggled to appropriately prioritise and action issues that had a high impact on their customer’s operations. As a result they were struggling to meet their service level commitments, creating ill will within the customer base, and incurring significant penalty payments.

As a solution we helped them develop new operational processes and implemented a new CRM system to support them. We developed and supervised a customised training programme, and then, after initial hand-holding, left them feeling rather good about what we’d done.

When we returned two weeks later though, we got a bit of a shock. Yes, the system was being used, but by everyone in very different ways. There was no consistency to which fields were filled out or how they were filled out. One user might set a case as high priority, another user would define the same issue as low priority. The use of the ‘on hold’ function to stop service level timers, and the routing of calls to other service teams seemed pretty much random.

In short, while we had developed a ‘solution’ to a major client business issue, it wasn’t actually a solution to anything because the users weren’t using it in a way that created any value. Sure the issues were being logged, but all the great stuff we wanted to do like cut the resolution times for high priority calls, or reduce call volumes through better identifying trends, simply wasn’t happening.

Fortunately with a major commitment of additional time and resource we were able to steady the ship and the call centre becoming one of the cornerstones of the client’s subsequent growth. The point of the story is to expand on a theme I began in my ‘CRM is complex’ post, is that the process oriented usage of CRM is tricky to pull off, because you need to get all users to consistently follow the process in order for you to get results. And that, as the above example might suggest, is very difficult to do.

What’s interesting is that you will generally get some level of value from a CRM system even if usage is inconsistent. So in our call centre example above, all calls were being logged and attributed to the correct customer, so the client got some measure of benefit from being the fact those calls were being recorded and handled. What wasn’t initially being achieved were our aspirations for things like the quicker handling of high impact calls, because that required a more process driven approach than we could initially achieve.

So if you went out today and purchased a CRM system and you weren’t too concerned about everyone using it in a consistent and systematic way, then you would still derive benefits such as:

  • Improved follow up of opportunities through the ability to set call backs
  • Better retained information about prospects and customers
  • Improved coordination between different sales teams
  • Easier transitions when staff leave or change role
  • Improved productivity through better access to information and collateral
  • The ability to launch, albeit very broad brush, marketing campaigns
  • Better centralisation of customer information through integration into other systems

However these benefits are generally comparatively slight compared to those driven by a more process driven approach which might, in a business to business sales and marketing situation, include:

  • More effective lead management
  • Improved lead generation through highly targeted marketing campaigns
  • Improved communications to customers and prospects
  • Improved cross-selling and up-selling capabilities
  • Better control of the sales process
  • Improved sales forecasting
  • Better account retention and development process
  • Enhanced major bid control
  • Improved allocation of pre-sales resources
  • Enhanced sales margin control
  • Improved account planning
  • Enhanced major account development
  • Streamlined order processing and fulfilment
  • Improved customer on-boarding
  • Improved management of customer facing processes
  • Better visibility and management of client issues and complaints
  • Enhanced reporting – sales activity, conversion rate, marketing campaign ROI, lead source, pipeline, forecast, customer satisfaction, competitive activity, win-loss reasons, etc.

The problem, however, is that these are much more difficult to achieve for the user adoption reasons I outlined earlier. Which is why I smile, or maybe it’s a grimace, when I see on my Twitter feed someone tweeting from a vendor conference somewhere something along the lines of ‘wow, company x, rolled out product y to 5,000 users in two weeks!!!’. This may or may not be factually true, but assuming it is, then barring the use of a fairly large army of implementation personnel, and the addition of a minor miracle, then I would wager the usage pattern will prove to be of the ad hoc and inconsistent variety.

The more process driven the goals for the system, the more resources are required to be successful, but the greater the rewards if you are successful. The problem is that people badly underestimate just how much resource is required to achieve consistent and systematic usage patterns, which is why properly planning a potential CRM project is so important. If you can nail down precisely what’s involved in achieving a given set of goals, then you can make a considered decision on what are appropriate objectives. It doesn’t really matter whether you spend a little for a lower return on investment ad hoc approach to CRM, or spend big and go for the high return process driven approach. Where you don’t want to be is somewhere in the middle, spending big, but not big enough to pull off the process driven approach, and achieving as much as if you’d spent virtually nothing. A near miss is as good as a mile in this respect and that can be a very uncomfortable place to be.

Republished with author's permission from original post.


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