CRM is making it as easy for international companies to share information among offices scattered across the globe as it is for them to share it with coworkers down the hall. The secret to mastering this in your company is to follow these 10 essential guidelines.
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Global CRM--the variables are staggering; the needs unique; the hurdles seemingly insurmountable. The ultimate goal, however, is the same: to have a single system that offers a 360-degree view of all global customers to better serve them and to streamline internal processes.
Bringing far-flung offices around the globe together under one CRM system is more crucial today than ever. As CRM grows in popularity in more and more countries, customers in every corner of the world are expecting to be served better, faster, and by whatever channel suits them. To meet those expectations, organizations need to give a global, holistic view of their customers to all customer-facing employees.
What makes a global CRM strategy a success will be unique to each company that implements one. In fact, industry analysts, experts, vendors, and end-user businesses all have specific ideas about just what makes a successful global CRM implementation. Although there is no single solution or right answer for every company,
there are some guidelines that can help companies achieve desired and successful results.
First, Think Globally
Map out blueprints for a single, global instance or repository of customer data across the entire company, and build a system to access that data in real time. Experts agree that regardless of how much a company spends on CRM solutions, incomplete customer data will prevent the business from best serving its customers and itself. If a firm does not have the current information necessary to make decisions, or if its customer data is spread across multiple systems that are difficult or time consuming to access, the company and its clients lose.
While devising a strategy of how to connect Austria to Zimbabwe to everywhere in between, remember that most customers are actually served locally. That means having CRM and contact center software in the local language for employees and customers, and it means observing local privacy laws, managing currency issues, and integrating local business processes.
Use a Phased Implementation
Trying to implement global CRM across the entire organization at once is like trying to eat a pizza whole, instead of by the slice: If you manage to not choke and have to abandon your effort, in the end you'll feel bloated and so overstuffed that you won't be able to do anything productive until well into the digestion process.
Airborne Express Inc., a 50-year-old company that delivers more than a half-million packages to more than 200 countries worldwide every month, is one company that understands the benefits of launching global CRM in phases.
Last summer Airborne went live with Onyx Software for the first phase of its global implementation. Rolling out Onyx in stages means that currently, more than 700 employees in sales, marketing, and other departments now have access to the latest customer data at their fingertips through an employee portal. The CRM system now supports a single business process--access to customer data--across seven sales divisions. "The phased implementation approach is ideal for us from a cost standpoint, because it enables us to use what we've learned to make each successive implementation that much easier," says David Billings, senior vice president and CIO at Airborne. The strategy and software are working so well that the company is planning to expand Onyx across more departments.
Work With Partners
This means not just bringing in consultants and integrators who can help implement the right technology and global business processes, but working with existing business partners to see how including them in the overall solution can benefit all parties. Employing advisors with experience in the intricacies of both international business and CRM could help avoid much of the heartache that comes with overlooking such important elements as cultural influences and expectations, and privacy laws. As important to the global CRM implementation process is getting input from business partners and channel partners up front to include their expertise, as well as to garner buy-in for the new CRM system and processes.
Plan to use as many touch points as possible to interact with customers. Just like U.S. customers, global customers want to reach out to businesses in a variety of ways--email, wireless, online chat, instant messaging, and telephone. Customers who live in different countries will likely have different preferences--and even customers in neighboring countries will likely have differing preferences. Offering a variety of touch points will help to satisfy the larger, more varied group of customers that doing business internationally will naturally attract.
Implement Cross-Channel Integration
Of course, offering myriad touch points will be counterproductive if those channels operate in silos. As Metrohm-Peak Inc. can attest, cross-channel integration is key to global CRM success. Metrohm-Peak, a distributor of ion chromatography instrumentation and a provider of analytical services, was created in April 2000 via a partnership between Peak Analytical Inc., in Houston, and Switzerland-based Metrohm Ltd. Several formidable challenges arose from this merger between two leaders in a fast-growing market. The newly formed Metrohm-Peak was unprepared to manage requirements for multicurrency support and serialized inventory, and faced item-costing and invoicing issues resulting from the merger. The newly formed company also lacked an integrated, company-wide information source for its sales, marketing, and customer service divisions.
To achieve its aggressive growth plans, Metrohm-Peak implemented ACCPAC International Inc.'s eCRM and ACCPAC Advantage Series software suites running on a Microsoft SQL Server to provide a centralized CRM and accounting system. This enables all departments, no matter where they're based, to take an active approach to service and sales through a single view of the customer. It also allows them to create and maintain the relationships critical for customer retention.
Be Sure There Is Front-End to Back-End Integration
Integrating the front-office CRM system with back-office systems is as important as integrating channels. Eye care instrument provider Optos plc, for example, was looking to connect its back office in Scotland with its front office in the United States. As a start-up company in the medical equipment industry, Optos realized it must tap the U.S. market to build its reputation as an emerging global company. To accomplish this Optos implemented Astea International Inc.'s AllianceEnterprise Suite to automate management of customer support, equipment service, and sales operations in Marlborough, MA. AllianceEnterprise is integrated with the company's existing financial and ERP systems at Optos' headquarters in Dunfermline, Scotland, to maximize business metrics like customer loyalty, revenue opportunities, profit, and market share, company officials say.
Deploy a Pilot Program Where the Revenue Starts
Although it may seem counterintuitive in a global implementation, a good place to start a CRM transformation is with a pilot program in the country and channel from which most of a company's revenue originates, says John Wookey, Oracle Corp.'s senior vice president of CRM application development. "Your pilot country should have enough revenue to be credible in the eyes of the executives. The pilot needs to generate a quick ROI to be validated at a more regional level. The single-country, single-channel approach eliminates the risk of implementing the transformation across all channels in multiple countries simultaneously; and lessons learned in the pilot will help streamline the complete regional transformation," he says.
Wookey says that once a company's executives have selected a pilot country, they should define a single business process for one specific channel to use for the pilot program. The process should be one that can be applied regardless of geography. Once that pilot has achieved proven results it is time to begin the phased implementation of that part of the program, while beginning the pilot for the next process or channel.
Plan for at Least Six Months to Roll Out a Solution
Experts assert that the only people who think that a successful global CRM solution can be implemented in fewer than six months are the ones who are going on theory and not on practice. The consensus among integrators, large businesses, and CRM vendors is that six months is the minimum amount of time for a global CRM implementation. This includes the time necessary for the extensive planning and internal selling of the program to both executives and users, and the time companies need to implement global CRM in phases and see the results of each phase before the next one is launched.
Educating the Users
As with any CRM program--regardless of how great the CRM system is--if users are not using it correctly, or at all, then it's worthless. Multiply the challenge of getting buy-in from local users by the cultural variables of the global users to realize the size of the effort that companies will need to get so many different types of people to agree to use one new, global CRM system. Most industry-watchers agree that the sales, marketing, and customer service users, who are as resistant to change as the rest of us, will need thorough and extensive training, as well as well-planned, short- and long-term incentives to be inspired to use the CRM tools they need to succeed.
--According to IDC, worldwide CRM revenue will reach $14 billion by 2005--in large part due to a steady stream of new products, companies, and technologies.
IDC also says that North America continues to dominate the CRM market, and the region is expected to ring up $8.6 billion in revenue in 2005.
--Aberdeen Group projects that worldwide CRM spending will grow by 2 percent, to reach $13.7 billion by the end of the year. In 2003 CRM spending will resume double-digit growth, and it should close in on $20 billion by 2005.
--Gartner Dataquest states that the global CRM services market totaled $22 billion in 2001, a 10.6 percent increase from 2000 revenues of $19.99 billion. The research firm projects that amount to increase to $26 billion in 2003.