CRM Theory Outpaces Practice

Reports from consulting firms and vendors touting the latest CRM best practices come out every month or so. So how can a large or even midsize company keep up with the latest theories on CRM? They can't, according to, yes, a report from consulting firm Arthur D. Little. "Right now theories on CRM implementation are running ahead of actual practice. Companies know that they need to further improve their customer focus, and are now looking to integrate various activities that impact the customer experience," says Thomas Manning, director at Arthur D. Little. Manning says that although few companies have achieved an across-the-board customer-centric philosophy, many are on the right track. "Even short steps mean a lot when moving towards aligning a company's focus," Manning says. The study, which surveyed 139 high-level executives from a cross-section of industries, found that the biggest barrier to achieving a totally customer-focused CRM strategy is organizational considerations, according to Manning. "The biggest problem is shifting the organizational design away from being wholly product-focused to being customer focused, and assigning responsibility throughout the organization to make that happen," Manning says. "That's the greatest struggle." On the bright side Manning says that among the executives surveyed, the intention to get customer focused is there, which is very important considering that many IT executives have cited lack of top-level support of CRM initiatives a leading cause of project failure in the past. "Top-level executives are seeing the value of these types of strategies," Manning says. "Many were previously focused cost, quality, and time improvements; now they are moving towards different type of growth strategies. "Concentrating on current customers and increasing the value of those relationships, that is a serious growth strategy," Manning says. The report, entitled "Structuring a Successful CRM Market Strategy," is available now and includes a best-practices framework for identifying customer opportunities, and for acting on and measuring the effectiveness of customer-facing communications, providing key insight into: customer segmentation, segment planning, successful program execution, and measurement, according to Manning.
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