A Commonwealth of Self-Interest
The reality is that CRM becomes valueless if it doesn't translate into some sort of tangible business value.
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Every now and then someone in the CRM world writes about CRM's hard-nosed truth. Pivotal's July 2003 online magazine states: "The ultimate goal of CRM--like the ultimate goal of supply chain management, human capital management and any other management concept you care to mention--is to increase profitability and shareholder value. Customer satisfaction may or may not be one way of achieving bottom line benefits." That is CRM's hard nut. Despite lofty claims about CRM's transformation of the business culture of the recipient company and the strong desire to satisfy customers, the reality is that CRM becomes valueless if it doesn't translate into some sort of tangible business value. It is a strategic business initiative, not what I recently read in a CRM-user forum, which called it an attitude. I'm of the school that defines CRM like this: CRM is a philosophy and a business strategy, supported by a system and a technology, designed to improve human interactions in a business environment. Why the emphasis on CRM as a component of business? To place it in context: When senior management speaks with the employees about the value of CRM to the business (it will improve our bottom line; it will reduce our costs; it will increase our customer retention rate), the employees say, "Great. Who cares? How does it benefit me?" The presumption by misinformed senior management is that the individual who is to be involved in the CRM program has the company and shareholders' interests at heart. Untrue. There is no personal commitment to employers, at least not in the way it used to be. In the name of shareholder value, personnel cuts go on every day. Loyalty is the exception, not the rule. There are very few Aaron Feuersteins around. Feuerstein lost his textile company, Malden Mills, to a fire and still paid his employees for several months while he was rebuilding it. Yet if CRM is to provide a return, the corporate objectives do have to be met. That means that the way the company does business has to change. That means that the employees responsible for using the system have to adapt to and adopt these new processes and programs. For that adoption and adaptation, the company needs to plan the best possible way to appeal to the self-interest of the individual user. AMR Research conducted a study on the reason that CRM often didn't meet its objectives. The primary reason? About 47 percent of respondents stated that users didn't adopt the new system because there was no user input from the beginning. Self-interest is good. For CRM, the users, involved either by choice or not, need to understand how the program is going to be valuable to them. In fact, the trend in CRM is toward this perspective, as the understanding continually grows that appeals to self-interest make or break a program. But not everyone is going to buy in to the program for the same reasons. That's why I propose that all companies with CRM initiatives focus on developing their CRM strategies with an underlying commonwealth of interest in mind. That means the planning is done from the standpoint of getting as many of the potential personnel involved in the program to buy in to it with their individual desires, dreams, and concerns in mind--as long as it maps to the corporate objectives. Paul Greenberg is president of The 56 Group LLC, an enterprise applications consultancy specializing in CRM, and author of CRM at the Speed of Light: Capturing and Keeping Customers in Internet Real Time. Contact him at paul-greenberg3@comcast.net
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The Herald: Paul Greenberg -- chief customer officer, BPT Partners; president, The 56 Group.
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