Best Practices for CRM

Profitable companies know what it takes to pull off a successful CRM project -- and re-wiring technology is only part of it. At least this was the premise behind a new study, entitled Countdown to Customer Focus: A Step-By-Step Guide to CRM Implementation by Best Practices LLC, a 25-employee consultancy in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Best Practices interviewed 32 companies, including Eli Lilly, Boeing, Raytheon and U.S. Department of Veteran's Affairs, and identified the following major milestones of a CRM project: integrating legacy initiatives; allocating resources for pilot programs; distinguishing global and local CRM processes; leveraging knowledge management tools; and developing customer-centric employees. The last milestone is perhaps the toughest leg of the CRM race. That's because a pervasive, product-centric culture plagues many companies. In fact, industry reports cite change management as the top reason for failed implementations. "You have to build a work force that thinks in terms of customers and solutions rather than products and services," said Keith Symmers, vice president at Best Practices, in a statement. "That is the key to customer-focused culture." Turning around an age-old corporate culture, though, isn't easy. To this end, Best Practices offers a few tips. The first is identifying where CRM delivers maximum value, and then highlighting these opportunities through internal marketing. Ogilvy and Mather, for instance, is turning
its marketing chops inward to promote CRM adoption. Another best practice is to prioritize a CRM rollout based on the potential for quick and lucrative returns. The first stage of adoption is often the most critical, and a successful debut can jumpstart employees' interest and get the change-management ball rolling. Of course, this also means recognizing the importance and challenge of gaining employee buy-in and, critically, dedicating the necessary resources to it. Lastly, measuring performance and communicating results to ensure accountability are important steps in any major project. All of this raises the question, Who should be in charge? One of the report's participants put CRM leadership into the hands of a marketing and customer-service savvy executive who, in turn, convinced employees that loyal customers serve as a critical marketing tool through referrals. The decision to put a business person in charge resulted in rapid profitability and growth, claims Best Practices. (Best Practices' full report is available for purchase at Tom Kaneshige also writes for
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