Baylor University is trying to do something about the fact that CRM-savvy executives seem to be born more often than they are made. Baylor's Hankamer School of Business launched an MBA program with a specialization in CRM, one of the first graduate study programs to specifically address the discipline. The first class began study this fall.
The university's marketing department recently identified CRM as a "strategic area" of focus, and the MBA specialization seemed the best way to start moving in that direction, says Jeff Tanner, acting chair of the marketing department and associate dean of undergraduate programs at Baylor. "Most of the faculty involved [in the CRM courses] are marketing [people], but there are statistics and information systems people as well." students in the MBA specialization will take a total of five CRM-focused courses, in theory, implementation and practice, as well as data mining. Internships are expected to be a standard part of the program in summer 2002.
Marjorie Cooper, professor of marketing at Baylor and teacher of the program's first-ever course, "Theory and Practice in Customer Relationship Management," says the business world needs people with solid CRM grounding. "Business schools have traditionally taught people to manage the system by 'doing the best you can in your little backyard' in marketing, manufacturing, sales or finance," she says. "Effective CRM implementations hinge on somebody being in charge and being able to communicate to the organization, analyze the system and run the organization as a system. It's a huge leap from what we've done before."
To expose students to the complexities of enterprise CRM, Baylor contacted the American Heart Association (AHA), headquartered in Dallas, and offered the CRM students as a consulting agency for the AHA's ongoing CRM efforts. "We are in the business of trying to change people's behavior to reduce heart disease and stroke, and by utilizing [CRM] and looking at people's known behaviors, we can try to find better ways to reach people with our messages about health," says Mark Goedecke, director of marketing services for the AHA.
During the fall session, Baylor students completed an RFP round for the AHA's marketing analytics needs. "As a non-profit and a fairly leanly staffed [organization], we saw an opportunity to have more people come to the table to help us with the work we were doing," says Steve strucely, the AHA's director of customer relationship. The AHA, which already runs Siebel internally, is providing the students with some exposure to the operational and integration requirements of that environment as well.
Fourteen students signed up for the maiden voyage of the program, and so far are encouraged by their own progress. "We are getting a lot of hands-on experience--more than I would have in any other [MBA] area," says Amy Jeffus, one of the MBA/CRM students.
Job Market Edge
There is also an undercurrent that CRM exposure will be an important differentiator in a difficult job market. "Lots of people have their MBAs or are getting their MBAs now, and this will set me apart from the crowd," Jeffus says. When asked why he went straight from a BA in marketing at Baylor into the MBA/CRM program, Charles Fink added, "A lot of my friends I graduated with had their offers rescinded because of the market situations. I felt the MBA would be the safest place to wait for the market to get better, further my education and specialize in something in business to increase my worth."
The program is trying to find a balance between solid theoretical grounding and familiarity with real-world CRM systems. "We're really striving to keep the curriculum focused on CRM as a whole, rather than on one technology solution," says Martha Daniel, an independent e-business consultant in Dallas and chair of the program's advisory board. "We want to make sure they have exposure [to existing systems], but we don't want it to become a 'Siebel house.'"
That's just as well, says Forrester Research principal analyst Bob Chatham. "The real contribution they could make would be some thinking around the harder questions--rather than thinking of a Siebel implementation or an E.piphany implementation, instead thinking about how to compensate call center folks in light of what the company wants to do with customer retention and how to set goals across an organization."
Tanner says that he hopes the program prepares students to move CRM away from a narrow stimulus-and-response view of the customer. "One of the things that concerns me in CRM practice is the campaign mentality, 'if we push this button, then the customer will respond this way.'" He points to enterprises such as NASCAR, which blur the lines between customer and fan, as examples of "deep relationships" he hopes Baylor MBA/CRM students will help cultivate as they move up the ranks.
"We would probably prefer that they all go out and become VPs of CRM," Tanner says, although the program teaches skills applicable to those who may have a more technical leadership position in mind or won't find such a tidy title available to them in many companies. Professor Cooper has greater aspirations for her students. "People who are really good at this are the ones who will be the CEOs of the future," she says. Baylor's first CRM-focused MBA graduates are scheduled to toss their caps in December 2002.