In my years working for the SugarCRM Partner, InsightfulCRM, I continually got the impression that customers and prospects were in the market for a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system because they’d heard the term CRM thrown around and believed a CRM system would help their business. Also, people believed that CRM was a piece of software that was managed by IT and was a burden to use. This is not the case.
What is CRM?
CRM is best understood by looking at the full expanded version of the term. Customer Relationship Management. As a business, we care about customers, prospects and partners, so let’s remove the term ‘Customer’. CRM now becomes simply Relationship Management. Nowhere do we mention “software”, “system” or even “technology”. Relationship Management is about effectively engaging, and tracking the relationships you have with you customers, prospects and partners. What does this mean? In it’s most basic form, you do not need technology to perform effective Relationship Management. Sure, there is technology around that helps make it a bit easier to keep track of and manage these people, but such technology is not essential.
Do ERM, not CRM
Effective Relationship Management (hmm… ERM…. that’s got a nice ring to it) is the way in which an individual tracks and manages their relationships. This can easily translate beyond the realm of business and into our personal lives. And it already has! Your email, address book, social media such as facebook and LinkedIn, are all different methods of ERM. While these systems are indeed technology, I want to stress three points:
- None of them are labelled as a “CRM system”
- They each serve a separate and unique purpose, but we all use more than one
- We would be able to perform ERM without them!
CRM as a Strategy
The most effective implementations of CRM are initiated by the business, not an individual. When the business takes ownership of the CRM Strategy, there is a single defined process that helps the business to be consistent across communications and interactions. The complexity of a CRM strategy is highly varied. However, often it can is as simple as tracking activities and using known history to better understand the client’s passions and motivations. By defining a process by which engagement is performed, the business can begin to measure goals and objectives and progress towards them. These goals could be anything from lead volume, sales volume, or better yet, positive feedback and renewal and upsell volume.
Gartner defines a three step CRM strategy as:
1. Set the Destination: Managers are urged to examine the various definitions of CRM, creating their own to gain buy-in and cohesiveness from those involved in the initiative. A vision for CRM that identifies why the organization wants the initiative and that defines its desired results should be established immediately. Teams that drive the initiative should be composed of three key roles: a sponsor, facilitator and project/program manager.
To some degree I agree with Gartner’s first step. However, I don’t believe that managers should be urged to examime the various definitions of CRM in order to create their own. That is like being given a bat then looking around for things you can hit with it – there is a lot more than just balls. Note that in Gartner’s first step, nothing is focused on the customer, or building better relationships. Setting the Destination is better defined as:Managers are urged to assess the current business state and process and identify areas that are complex, cumbersome or where better communication with, and understanding of, the customer can be gained, to look for and define a practically ideal state of business and interaction.
2. Audit the Current Situation: Beginning with a full assessment of past CRM initiatives, participants should be asked what they thought needed to be changed in order to understand what did/did not work. The report also states that “assumptions, business case, and goals of past projects remain valid, even if the execution was not as successful as hoped.” Readers are also warned to beware shortcuts in information gathering. “Seek information from external sources first, and weight customer and consumer feedback highest.”
This step I just don’t agree with at all. Beginning with a full assessment of past CRM initiatives, participants should be asked what they thought needed to be changed in order to understand what did/did not work. This is a recipe for disaster and “analysis paralysis”. Like some tender processes, the act of asking internal participants why previous attempts failed is prone to result in an exorbitant list of features and functionality “requirements” that the business doesn’t actually need in order to act on the objectives defined in our refined first step. I do agree with reviewing why previous attempts failed. But, I would hazard a guess that failure was not so much due to poor requirements gathering or implementation, but rather poor adoption of the strategy and supporting technology. All participants in the CRM strategy have to want to be involved. They have to see the value in using the strategy, not only for the business, but for their own productivity improvements as well.
3. Map the Journey: Identify the steps to achieve the vision. Core value propositions for customers and motivating factors for customer loyalty should be classified. The company should be revalued on the potential of its customer base rather than on current revenue or profits. Processes and systems that can be altered rapidly and dynamically as individual customers move among segments should be built. Three to five top-line objectives for CRM initiatives should be established — more than five is considered unnecessary. The initiative should be communicated daily to sponsors and executives.
This step I agree with. While it is somewhat vague, it suggests identifying up to five key success measures and actively monitoring progress towards these measures. This is an ongoing process and will help to continually identify areas of improvement. I also agree with the action of revaluing the company on the potential of it’s customer base. This potential is unlocked when better relationships and predictable, measurable processes are implemented.
CRM Through Technology
Start small. Think big. Move quickly.
Technology is an enabler. While CRM is possible using pen and paper and brainpower, the use of technology for some, or all aspects of CRM alleviates some of this pressure, freeing us to contemplate, and act on the bigger picture. As we’ve already seen, CRM technology comes in all shapes and sizes and it is more than likely you’re already using some kind of CRM technology (e.g., email). There are many pieces of software that have been designed specifically around the CRM process. These systems make it much easier to track past communications and activities, to allow you to plan more effective communications and strategies in the future. However, all the “bells and whistles” in the world become dead-weights if the CRM activities are to complex and un-enjoyable. The biggest killer of CRM system implementations is, by far, poor adoption. When a “new CRM system” is announced to the company, there are cheers and streamers all around the office – people are filled with hope of a better way of doing business, a better way of communicating with customers, a better way to track progress. But as they weeks, months and sometimes years, roll by while the technology is being “rolled out”, people begin to resent the concept of CRM and if it does ever become available to them, they will be so set in their current ways of working. Trying to switch to some system that they had forgotten all about seems time consuming and pointless – after all, they are already doing CRM, right?
The best motto I’ve ever come across to adopt when considering CRM technology is: “Start small. Think big. Move quickly”. Here’s why:
- Start Small – Pick the most pressing business need that has been identified and break it down into its most primal components. Then eliminate the unnecessary in order to solve that need today. This approach really narrows down the scope of the CRM implementation, which greatly improves the Change Management required – staff will not be required to completely cut-over and learn an entirely new way of working in a single day, but can be focused on using the CRM system, in it’s limited capacity, to better the business. And the business will see results almost immediately.
- Think Big – Never lose sight of the bigger picture. All of the items that were identified in the discovery phase should be mapped out and, as with the Start Small section, broken down into the smallest possible components. Once people are using the smallest part of the CRM, they will be chomping at the bit to expand the system into additional areas with more functionality that further improves their day to day activities.
- Move Quickly – Never stop the evolution. The business never sleeps, and neither should the CRM system. Once the system is in place and being used, the original requirements will morph. This is natural as what were business needs before implementing a CRM system will have changed in complexity and priority once the basics of CRM have been implemented. A clear release schedule should be drafted and revised each month. The schedule should specify an improvement, or enhancement to the CRM every four to six weeks. This CRM roadmap should be transparent to the users – this is the carrot on the end of the stick. It is important to avoid people wanting every feature imaginable to be added as soon as possible. Every request for a feature should be considered at the monthly CRM review and assessed for how it will impact and improve the business. If no improvement can be found, the request should be rejected.
By far, the quickest way to get started with CRM is through the Cloud. Many Cloud CRM systems have the huge benefit of not requiring IT to get involved! The business can own the implementation of the CRM. Additionally, being a cloud-based application, they are accessed through a web browser. This means that as soon as a user has login details, they can start using the system – without installing any additional software.
Another aspect of effective adoption and Change Management, is that the CRM system has to be fun to use and it has to be intuitive. I’ve used a number of CRM applications and by far, the most easily implemented, most intuitive, and most fun is SugarCRM. It runs in the cloud and your business can start using it in minutes as many common CRM requirements are built into the application, with no configuration required. I highly recommend SugarCRM not only for the actual application, but for the network of partners and developers, the massive community and the down to earth relationships you can build with the people behind the company.
Have you implemented CRM technology through effective strategy? Leave your comments below.