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You've Got Questions, We've Got Answers
We went into the market to talk with CRM users about their main challenges, and then went back to industry experts for solutions. Here's what we found.
For the rest of the March 2005 issue of CRM magazine please click here
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  • Problem: My company deployed an enterprisewide CRM strategy. We saw improved revenue and satisfaction from our consumer clients, but little lift from B2B customers. What can we do? Solution: The disconnect may be nothing to worry about, depending on the timing. Enterprise decision-making processes tend to take longer, so it may take more time for your process reengineering to bear fruit. If there's no change in the results from B2B clients within an average contract renewal cycle, the problem may be that the enterprise sales and service force has not overcome layers of bureaucratic inertia. It can build up in corporate sales divisions, where a dozen or more territories each may have independent, insulated P&Ls, according to Patrick Hayes, managing director of CRM solutions in communications and content at BearingPoint. These bureaucratic hurdles can stand in the way of proper CRM adoption. Hayes cites a wireless telecommunication provider as an example. Excessive layers of territorial divide "had stratified the business market and [it] became inefficient. There was no impetus to go out" and improve the customer experience despite the new tools and procedures that had been delivered to the entire company. The territorial concerns were given priority over the enterprisewide strategy. In such a situation, where the company has already been through a lengthy CRM reengineering, starting from scratch is not an option. "Nobody is interested in hearing a story that is going to take [another] eighteen to twenty-four months to deliver," Hayes says. He recommends exercises that require executives to take no more than 60 minutes to map out customer processes-- complete with pain points and potential points of failure that would jeopardize a sale, renewal, or positive customer experience--as a way to throw the remaining problems into sharp relief. Once the key executives are forced to articulate the problems for themselves, it will be easier to remove the bureaucratic walls. "It forces them to deal with the issue at hand," Hayes says.
  • Problem: How do I know my call center agents are getting the right training?
    Solution: Ensure the training matches your objectives, and avoid the assumption that training is ever complete. "I hear call center managers say they are training on products or on soft skills, such as service and sales, and they seem to try to separate the two," says Bob Furniss, president of Touchpoint Associates. "We have to design training that wraps those two things together." If the training is part of a process and technology change, the message should be focused on how new policies and procedures meet the objectives that motivated the change in the first place. Additionally, there must be a meaningful flow of feedback to the training designers, as well as to those setting the CRM agenda. "A lot of times there is no formalized process to get [input] back, no way to go to the call center and ask, 'Are we being successful?' and making changes based on that answer," Furniss says.
  • Problem: I am replacing a departing CRM visionary. How can I take the reins and retain credibility and momentum? Solution: Your first task will be to distance the CRM goals from any one person, either yourself or the original leader. "The key becomes understanding the broader picture of how you are trying to change your organization, and what benefits were anticipated by that visionary implementing CRM," says Scott Nelson, Gartner vice president and distinguished analyst. "These are the things intrinsic to the organization as a whole, so it supersedes any person." Make sure you understand the road map that was laid out by the project founder, and that you continue to support any aspects that make good sense for the company. "I have seen people take over a CRM plan and want to put their stamp on it, so they went and changed all kinds of things, but undermined their support in the organization," Nelson says. "If you need to make changes, push ahead in areas where you are not fighting a losing battle" against the memory of a departed leader. Such transitions are not uncommon as big-picture visionaries launch a grand plan and often give way to detail-oriented experts in execution. Success will hinge on being able to demonstrate that you can honor and support the vision that began the journey, while providing the expected strength in execution and consistency.
  • Problem: I worry that the sales force will not adopt new CRM technology and processes. How do we prevent a crisis? Solution: Noncompliance stories have plagued CRM since the early days of sales automation. "Usually, IT and sales management didn't do the right thing, didn't step back and figure out strategically what [CRM] is going to do for [the salespeople]," says Tom Spitale, principal at Peppers & Rogers Group. While it has become popular to blame technologists for CRM failures, sales management cannot abandon responsibility for providing meaningful input to management--and the manufacturing and service organizations--on improving overall corporate performance, rather than simply focusing on revenue growth using dated practices sped up by new technologies. That means participating in every phase of design, including the nuts and bolts of technology selection. When given a mandate to deploy CRM, but no meaningful input from salespeople, IT buyers can make bad decisions without bad intentions. "You end up with the selection of a system the IT guys love, and from a technical standpoint it seems to work right, but from a user interface standpoint and what it takes to comply with the system, it doesn't work," Spitale says. "This is a very elementary situation, and one that shouldn't happen."
  • Problem: We know our organization has difficulty with change. How do we mitigate the challenges? Solution: "Make sure there is agreement on what needs to change," at least as much as is possible, says Ed Kirwin, Oracle senior practice director of CRM consulting. Forge consensus behind the scenes, not only on what change steps will be taken, but also on who will be given authority and responsibility for ensuring that the change comes about. At the day-to-day level, consider packaging the true scope of change in digestible portions, rather than globally announcing a five-year plan to create a massive overhaul of every process in the company. "If you have a very command-and-control type culture, you will be wildly successful with that [gradual] approach," Kirwin says. However, in organizations that are heavily fueled by vision, particularly fast-growing start-ups, aggressively communicating the full scope of change will earn more acceptance and buy-in from key aggressive, growth-oriented employees.
  • Problem: How do we get the benefits from the CRM software we paid for while avoiding scope creep? Solution: Tom Minick, PeopleSoft director of CRM solutions delivery, says that a clear, multistage specification for CRM capabilities and functionality is crucial to prevent projects from inflating out of control, pushing up costs, and delaying rollouts. "The single biggest issue we see customers wrestling with is keeping that first implementation simple and as close to planned functionality as possible," he says. "There has to be a strong organizational commitment to achieving that goal, and because CRM products have so much functionality, there's a tendency for companies to use too much of it at once." The functional specification should be synonymous with the business-functional objectives. Plan each stage of the release to enable certain improvements in business processes, and implement the procedures and technology that will make it possible to achieve those goals--and no more. "During that initial period when a company and an integrator [are] developing the plan," Minick says, "it's critical to get the planning down to the actual functional level."
  • Problem: Sales automation alone is not solving the pricing and availability issues with my complex product sales. What can I do? Solution: Darci Moore, Adroit Consulting partner, says that companies with custom engineering or build-to-order manufacturing processes must learn to drive the sales and production processes in tandem. Without coordination sales and engineering will tend not to work in each other's best interest. "You want to make sure engineering resources are working on the products that give you the biggest bang for the buck...but allow an engineer to make that decision, and he will by nature work on what is the most fun, not what drives profitability and revenue," Moore says. "And individual sales contributors don't have the visibility or incentive to manage those resources." Meanwhile, sales may sell products with high revenue potential, but also present margin or engineering challenges. Moore suggests the use of a sales coordination or "opportunity management" staff that coordinates the activities of both sales and engineering, after working with both to document best practices. Such a group should have complete visibility into customer needs and value, and the authority to prioritize engineering efforts to best meet profitable customers' needs.
  • Problem: My CRM project is already behind schedule and over budget. How do I improve the situation before heads roll? Solution: The past cannot be changed, but the future--the very immediate future--can be brightened. "The critical thing to do there is to lock onto some quick wins," says Barton Goldenberg, president of ISM. "If a company doesn't see quick wins [during] a large expenditure, it will tend to pull the plug on the whole initiative. With a quick win, people are more likely to adopt CRM, even though it is late and over budget." Try to locate a specific task or goal embedded in the CRM initiative and get it up and running as a sign of progress--and to buy additional patience. Goldenberg suggests areas like implementing a customer self-service address update, or delivering a tactical piece of cross-selling insight to sales and service staff. Do not try to force the entire project to a quick close. "I would rather cut back substantially on functionality and deliver on time and over budget than wait and get all of my functionality late and [still] over budget," Goldenberg says.
  • Problem: My organization has already suffered through a poorly executed CRM project. How can I convince the company to pursue a new strategy? Solution: The first order of business is to identify what the problem was, particularly if the implementation was a success on paper, but considered a failure in practice. "Often the first time nobody knew how bad things were, because there was no ability to show tangible progress [or the lack thereof]," says Gartner's Nelson. "Often there were good results, but nobody was [measuring] and able to document that." Look not only at the result of the initiative, but also at what was promised going in. If expectations were set too high, measurable gains in profitability or customer satisfaction may have been ignored because unrealistic targets were set. Target clear corporate pain points so that the new initiative does not seem like an academic, aimless endeavor. "Go after things people know are broken, such as a high call-abandonment rate, shopping cart abandonment, or low-direct mail response," Nelson says. "You start to positively impact that, and you gain credibility quickly, and [people] want to know what else you can do."
  • Problem: Our CRM solution has not significantly improved the way the field sales operation creates orders of our complex products. Solution: You may have tried to create a solution with a piece of software labeled CRM, but did not address the core issue: that your sales process requires a high degree of coordination between the field and the plant. "Break that thinking. If you have a problem handling orders, then you have to look at how you handle orders," says Chris Selland, industry analyst with Covington Associates. Point solutions in contact management or even order configuration will not help until the problem is confronted for what it is, rather than in terms of artificial labels, such as CRM and ERP. "A lot of the time the boundaries of [order] problems go beyond what people commonly think of as CRM. Are [salespeople] looking for information in the right place? Is there visibility into what we have in inventory?" Selland asks. If pricing is the problem, appoint a third-party organization outside sales and engineering, such as marketing, to ensure that sales and engineering cannot price the other out of contention. "It's a very different role than marketing plays in business-to-consumer [environments], but you need both sides to accept that." Contact Executive Editor Jason Compton at jcompton@destinationCRM.com
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