Managing CRM in a Slowing Economy

With rumors of layoffs whizzing through the ether, can digital pinkslips be far behind? The economy seems to be slowing and worried CXOs are getting caught with their P&Ls down. They're looking at their fourth-quarter 2000 numbers, shrugging in ignorance when they are asked why they didn't see this coming and grabbing the axe.

If someone at your company hasn't pushed the panic button yet, they are bound to soon enough. So where will this leave your initiatives aimed at making your organization more customer-responsive? Should you buy the latest upgrade of your CRM software? Should you continue with the planned rollout of the wireless e-mail project? Should you continue building that intranet knowledge portal?

I recently discussed these issues with Anthony DeNunzio, CEO of D7 Consulting, a new firm in Chicago that specializes in maximizing valuable customer relationships. I asked DeNunzio how important it is to stay the CRM course in the face of budget cuts. "It depends," was his very consultant-like answer.

This decision depends on your current CRM strategy, he added. "If there is not a viable strategy, it will be extremely unlikely that a CRM technology and training initiative will succeed and deliver the anticipated returns. In that case, the CRM initiative should be re-evaluated in the short-term."

You might also want to think review your CRM projects--whether they be traditional CRM, mobile solutions, knowledge management, whatever-unless you have top-down buy-in to support your efforts with an employee-focused change-management effort, he cautioned.

But if you've gotten to the point where your CRM strategy has matured into alignment with company goals and you have a way of measuring positive results, by all means fight to keep CRM away off the chopping block, DeNunzio said. I couldn't agree with him more. In these days when everyone is looking closely at revenues with one eye and layoff-rumor Websites with the other, it is not to time to start shirking CRM.

The more you invest in strengthening your customer relationships now, the more apt your company is to survive the downturn. And the stronger it will be when all the corporate gutting is done.

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