Does Your Culture Support CRM?

At the Frost & Sullivan executive summit on CRM held this week in Scottsdale, AZ, today's overarching message was this: If your company does not fully embrace CRM, the initiative will "drive off a cliff." "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. Companies want their people to use new CRM processes, but what's most important is getting those employees to think differently, said HP's CRM director, Mike Overly. "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. That philosophy works for Peter Weedfald, vice president of strategic marketing and new media for Samsung Electronics America Inc.: "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," Weedfald said.
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