Metrics Drive Behavior–Always


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Have you ever been in a meeting where you thought that everyone was in agreement? It feels great, until you find out later that people have gone off and done something quite different to what was agreed and you can’t quite work out why. It happens a lot when organizations plan projects that cut across the whole business such as CRM.

In many organizations, getting to the point where everyone agrees that CRM is really a strategy and not a technology is relatively straightforward. However, having arrived at this agreement, the first action that many organizations took was to buy some technology to help them implement CRM. Why did they do this? What happened to the strategy?

What was the hidden reason?

When asked why they went straight to technology, some organizations said that it offered a “quick” way to make things happen. Others said that the rush to technology was partially driven by enthusiastic sales and marketing people employed by the hardware and software companies!

There is another more significant reason which is never admitted by organizations and rarely discussed. It’s simply that many organizations do not have the structure, culture or metrics to successfully implement a CRM strategy across their whole organization. It’s why many CRM projects don’t succeed and why technology is often brought in too early.

Mighty metrics

Metrics drive behavior, so a quick way to evaluate some of the risks of implementing CRM across any organization is to look at the current metrics used to drive internal business units. In almost all cases, they are mainly revenue- and profit-based. Therefore the culture tends to be self-centered, often putting business unit needs ahead of wider company needs. Business units are also competing with each other for funding, so it’s hard for them to clearly identify the value of changing the way they work and sharing customer information with competing business units.

They each have their own metrics and ways of doing things, and that’s why it’s often hard to get disparate business units to work together on anything. Because one of the key fundamentals of CRM is the sharing of customer data across the organization, the stage is set for “interesting discussions” at minimum and a high potential for a failed CRM project.

It doesn’t end there, because the competing metrics problem isn’t just confined to business units. Many call centers still have metrics that attempt to drive up the number of calls that can be handled while driving down the length of each call. This is often counter to the messages from other parts of the organization. For example, keeping customers on hold and getting rid of calls as quickly as possible doesn’t fit with the “we put customers first” message from marketing. The two departments are simply not connected by a common strategy and mutually supportive metrics.

There are many examples of conflicting metrics in most organizations, but the problems aren’t very visible because few people look in detail across the whole organization. Most departments just don’t share their metrics outside of their specific internal community.

The easy route isn’t

Imagine being the CRM project manager and discovering that your organization has these “challenges” of conflicting metrics. The task of implementing CRM across the organization begins to seem like a lose-lose project. However, project managers are always resourceful, and some decide that using technology is the only way to try to make CRM work. It will minimize personal risk by clouding the metrics and political conflicts and, if it doesn’t work, the project manager could blame the vendors.

While throwing technology at a problem is tempting, it rarely succeeds, and yet, technology gets welded to CRM very early in almost every organization for one or more of the above reasons So what can be done to hold back the application of technology until the right point in the project and improve the likelihood of a successful implementation?

Find the good metrics and measures

The secret of success is being realistic about the challenges and understanding the metrics that drive behavior in the organization. Often just a limited amount of research uncovers the fact that there isn’t a joined-up business strategy or a consistent set of metrics across the organization. Buying and implementing technology will not resolve this problem.

If your organization already has a joined-up business strategy, that’s great. However, less than 30 percent of organizations have good published strategies to help reach their financial goals. So if you find your organization in among the 70 percent, you need to create and communicate a simple business strategy. Ideally, make it about a dozen PowerPoint slides with a financial destination goal and four supporting non-financial goals.

The next step is to review all of the major metrics and measurements in the organization. It’s normal to discover hundreds in large organizations, although the majority add little or no value. Discover the good ones by asking two questions, “If this metric or measurement did not exist would our overall strategy and Top 5 goals be at serious risk?” and “How well does this metric or measurement support the goals of other BUs or departments that touch the customer?” The objective is to reduce the number of goals and metrics to a minimum and identify a good percentage of goals that are shared between different departments.

When this work has been completed, it’s much easier to identify where and how CRM and its related technology can best be applied and the likelihood of success significantly increased.

Great in theory but…

Realistically, not everyone will be able to spend time joining up the metrics across their whole organization. If that’s the case, get agreement that CRM will be implemented only in the parts of the organization that currently have consistent metrics in place. This simple step will make it easier to implement CRM from several perspectives and motivate departments and BUs to modify their metrics to capitalize on the new CRM system.

Always aim to find out more about the metrics of your internal customers. With this knowledge you can often spot potential conflicts before they occur, and it will help prioritize roll-outs. Finally, try starting off every internal conversation with: “What are your metrics and how is your success measured by your boss?” I’m sure that you’ll gain some fascinating insights. Just be sure that you can also answer the question when it is asked of you.

Malcolm Wicks
Three Step Consulting
Malcolm Wicks helps clients build and implement customer-focused business and marketing strategies. He is a director of Three Step Consulting and the principle architect of the DecisionDirector methodology used to help organizations make consistent decisions based on simple plans and goal cascades.


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