Creating a CRM Culture

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At the Frost & Sullivan "Realizing the Potential of CRM to Drive Revenue and Growth" Executive Summit recently held in Scottsdale, AZ, the overarching message was, if your company does not fully embrace CRM, the initiative will stall or fail. Companies want their people to use new CRM processes, but what's most important is getting those employees to think differently, said Hewlett-Packard's CRM director, Mike Overly. HP's CRM vision, for example, is to provide an industry-leading customer experience, he said. "It's a behavior called CRM, not a technology," said Mark Sauter, president and CEO, GTP Associates Inc., speaking on the culture changes necessary to support CRM. And because changing behavior is always a long-term process, he said, companies need to begin cultural changes early in the CRM implementation. "The philosophy, 'If we build [CRM] right it will sell itself' is not true," Sauter said. An organization needs to be sure that its employees know what it means to that company to deliver customer value. Once that is understood, companies can begin to do the team building and put the tools and strategies in place to deliver that value and build loyalty, he said. Sauter said that this culture change is unlikely to materialize unless CRM has executive-level support to the extent that company leaders are role models of the behaviors they expect from customer-facing employees. HP's Overly echoed Sauter's sentiment, saying that executive support is crucial to CRM success. Overly said that one way to get and keep executive-level support is to keep CRM strategies focused on the company's business goals. "If senior executives don't believe in CRM, it will never fly," said Peter Weedfald, vice president of strategic marketing and new media for Samsung Electronics America Inc., who models the CRM behavior he expects from his staff by spending at least 50 percent of his time with customers. Ellen Guevel, regional operations manager, Americas region, Nokia Mobile Phones, said that another important driver of CRM success is a culture that encourages the business and IT directors on a CRM project to work closely together. "The IT department is my partner. They don't go around me; I don't go around them," Guevel said. "We say, 'This is what we want to do. What are your reservations? What are your limitations?' We start there." According to Sauter, that kind of team atmosphere is also important to build between the front- and back-office staff. "You need to show how your solution benefits the front and back office," he said. "If you don't align the front and back office, you will have to slow down your CRM initiative" to keep the front and back office in sync. That philosophy works for Samsung's Weedfald, too: "My goal is to [use CRM to] suck the air out of my competition." But to do so it's necessary to unify the company under one CRM vision, he said. "A prelude to failure is not building a CRM umbrella over every aspect of your business."
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