Is It Time to Bring CRM Process Up to Snuff?


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Comparing process design work for CRM implementations with customer-centric process designed by the process community outside the CRM sphere leads to an inescapable conclusion: CRM process is not up to snuff. Not even close.

Here’s a recent quote from one of the most influential and insightful leaders of the customer-centric community, and not a process person:

“I’ve always had the sense that although CRMers talked about process…in most cases process design/redesign was just lip service.”.

He’s so right. And actually, as he also noted, the same applies to the “people” element of the “people, process & technology” CRM mantra. Just as the vast majority of those designing process for CRM (with a few notable exceptions) have no process bona fides, neither do those helping design the people transitions. These deficiencies factor greatly into the underperformance of the majority of CRM implementations. And the process deficiencies explain the failure of the vast majority of CRM implementations to achieve organizational customer-centricity–which requires transformational, “outside-in” process redesign that lets customer needs determine who does what work how–and the type of technology support required.

Looking at this situation from another perspective, companies “making it to the other side”–including Fed-X, Best Buy, Gilead Systems and Virgin Mobile–don’t typically attribute their success to practicing “CRM,” but rather to transformational rethinking of their business models including and often spearheaded by allowing customer needs to recreate process. In fact, most customer-oriented companies view CRM as a tactic for improving customer relationships, not a transformational strategy that achieves true customer-centricity.

Is this the way CRM is going to stay? Or is it time to bring CRM process up to snuff to reach that transformational level?

The answer may not be up to CRMers (which is why I posted, Customer-Centric Process vs. CRM: Has the Battle Begun?) a couple of weeks ago.

Last week I spent several days with a VIPP (very important process person), Steve Towers. Steve founded the not-for-profit BP Group, among the leading global issuers of CPP (Certified Process Professional) certification and the organization I’m certified under. He’s also the thought leader for the “outside-in” process movement and is involved in many successful customer-centric business transformations. We were talking over a drink and Steve said to me, “We need to get together more so I can learn CRM. It’s always interested me.” And I’m sure the same thought is crossing other minds.

While only a minority of companies are willing and able to make the lear to customer-centric business, they’ll still find loads of opportunity for customer-centric transformation where companies have started with CRM but fallen way short of customer-centricity. In fact, the process side of me is encouraging “outside-in” colleagues to move into the CRM space. Taking process in CRM-implemented companies to the next level will require an army-not a few, scattered practitioners.

When movements fail to finish what they started–as CRM did by not bringing companies all the way to organizational customer-centricity–something stronger usually supersedes them to finish the job, in this case, I strongly suspect the “outside-in” process sector, which is growing like weeds all over the world. And BTW, this would in no way adversely affect customer-centric thinking as represented by the conversations we have up here–in fact, getting some of the customer-centric process thinkers writing and reading on CustomerThink (just as frequent CT contributor Andy Rudin posts on process Linkedin groups and follows threads) would make CT an even livelier forum, while educating both sides.

One “down side,” however. These events would likely mean the end of the “CRM” nomenclature. Which would be a mercy killing, actually.


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