Too soon to implement CRM software?

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I was listening to an interview with Tony Hsieh when I was out running this week, and he was asked the question about the things he would have differently when Zappos was a start up. One of his responses was that he wished he’d rolled out the core values of the company on day one rather than at year five.

As this pretty much coincided with a conversation I was having with a customer about managing the rapid growth of their business, I started to wonder what else you needed to consider on day one, and if that included CRM technology.

This is a little counter intuitive in the sense that it’s when you least need CRM. There’s a handful of you sharing the same office, you talk to each other all the time, everyone knows what’s going on, processes are pretty simple, there aren’t so many customers, and everyone knows their needs and individual quirks.

Then as the company grows things change. New staff join who don’t have the history the founders have, perhaps they’re not in the same room, office, or even country. Keeping everyone on the same page is more difficult. Perhaps the product range increases, customer numbers go up, processes become more complex. There are more staff members interacting with the same customer, but it becomes increasingly difficult to do this in an informed and coordinated way.

If this growth is particularly sudden, and there aren’t the systems and processes to support it, then costs can ratchet up disproportionally and the quality of customer service can dramatically decline. I’ve seen so many organisations fail to come through this stage, which is why it was refreshing talking to the manager of a rapidly growing company this week who described how the first ten years of his company’s existence were about preparing to be the overnight success they subsequently became.

Perhaps systems considerations shouldn’t be a day one start up activity, but if the goal is to scale the business, then these shouldn’t be an afterthought either. It’s easy to focus on the product or service being offered rather than the systems and processes to support their successful delivery. The key I think is to get these in place before the business starts to scale in order to minimise costs and maximise the quality of service as volumes increase. If start ups can establish a CRM culture early, then they have a huge advantage over larger organisations struggling to retrofit CRM technology into their businesses. It may not guarantee you’ll become the next Zappos, but then falling a little short may not be a disaster either.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

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