In business, as in life, the only constant is change. The problem is, changes in your environment generally don't translate to your enterprise business applications, including CRM. For many years, organizations have made considerable investments in CRM applications and techniques. However, the original vision for CRM has long been outdated and has not been updated to reflect current business conditions, as well as the advancing state of the technology.
Senior management's initial goals for CRM involved objectives such as:
- automate sales processes;
- improve the sales cycle; and
- increase forecast accuracy rates.
But with the economic downturn hitting hard, executives' biggest priority now is to retain the most profitable customers and expand those customers' spend. To do so may require additional technology investments that can incorporate that new priority. However, in most organizations, once senior management signs off on the initial CRM investment, it can be tough to obtain the funds to keep it updated, especially if the system's initial returns have been less than stellar. But if companies do not adjust their CRM vision to account for change, they are in danger of never achieving the expected return on investment (ROI).
It is not just a bad economy that creates change, of course. Other events and circumstances that require revisiting your CRM vision include:
- mergers and acquisitions;
- technology improvements in every CRM platform;
- declining effectiveness during customer interactions;
- declining customer wallet share; and
- corporate initiatives that are intended to improve sales, reduce costs, or assume a market leadership position.
The good news is that there are five simple, but powerful, things you can do now to deliver on your CRM vision:
- Assess your customer-intelligence level. In their interactions with you, customers often cross communication channels--calling in to your contact center, interacting with salespeople, sending e-mail messages, filling out feedback forms on the Web. Therefore, having a unified view of the customer is an essential part of being customer-focused.
- Concentrate on sales effectiveness. Many companies fell into the trap of viewing their CRM and sales force automation (SFA) implementations as merely tools for automating sales processes. In doing so, they have failed to do enough to improve sales effectiveness. To optimize sales requires companies to dig down into exactly what makes salespeople more effective--and that means getting out into the field and understanding the salespeople's pain points firsthand.
- Reconsider your approach to organizational change management. Many early SFA and CRM projects failed because the sales force refused--whether tacitly or explicitly--to use the solutions provided. It's not too late to shore up your organizational change management practices. If you have skimped on this area in the past, better to start now than not do it at all. The slickest and most expensive CRM application in the world is worth nothing if the salespeople do not use it.
- Clearly define and articulate the ROI of your CRM vision. Vision is all very well, but no one will spend any money on CRM unless there is a firm ROI. This is truer than ever in the current economic climate. Be prepared to articulate business value at the topline and bottom-line levels. Stand ready to describe the value of your program at any level--executive, departmental or individual. It is not always possible to define hard mathematical ROI value, but it's critical to define it in a quantifiable way.
- Build a CRM roadmap. Many CRM roadmaps are really upgrade roadmaps. Let business needs--not technical details--drive your CRM roadmap. This visionary document, coupled with your ROI statements, are powerful tools for helping the individuals in your organization understand why they should make their own personal investment in your CRM program.
Many companies are planning to pull back or cap technology investments of all types given the current economic climate. Many are tempted to view CRM as an expense as opposed to a source of value. Now is not the time to pull back; rather, it's time to focus on getting more value out of the assets you've got, namely, your customer relationships.
About the Author
Kirk Olsson (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a senior CRM strategist with Cognizant Technology Solutions. He has over 20 years of CRM experience and over 12 years in a variety of business development and marketing roles for nationally recognized organizations. As a past sales and marketing executive in the high-tech industry, Olsson brings an intimate knowledge of sales and marketing best practices.
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