The Challenges of Global CRM

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Since ISM was founded in 1985, we have helped dozens of global corporations develop CRM, social CRM, and social media initiatives. We are currently working with an aluminum industry supplier, an oil manufacturer, and a hotel chain on their global CRM implementations, and I want to use these companies to share some key issues associated with successful global strategies.

Global differences must be considered when implementing global initiatives. Companies must be sensitive to countries with different languages, currencies, financial statements, and data privacy laws. The oil company, for example, has set up different technical infrastructures to support differing data security laws.

It's a Small(er) World (Than It Seems)

At the end of the day, global similarities are far more common than differences.

While most global companies feel that their CRM functional requirements differ significantly across regions, at least 80 percent of global CRM requirements are common from country to country, and the remainder can be accommodated via configuration of the CRM software application.

Our aluminum industry supplier client does business in 61 countries. Some key executives believed they would not agree on a common set of sales pipeline stages, since they felt sales efforts differed greatly across regions and business lines. Yet it is becoming evident that the majority of enterprise-level sales steps are similar, and that differences can be accommodated in the configuration of the CRM software application. All the units will be able to operate off a common sales pipeline; the few with unique differences will have a distinct set of steps that still align with the pipeline. This lets them consolidate data so the desired common global sales dashboard and global sales pipeline reporting requirements can be met.

While securing global data naming conventions standards and global data formats to ensure data integrity are among the biggest challenges, they can also be overcome. This includes standardizing data formats (e.g., the way one stores dates—mm/dd/yyyy in the United States versus dd/mm/yyyy in many European countries) and global customers' naming conventions.

Coming Together for Change

The biggest change management challenge for global CRM implementations is getting the governance structure right. We have found that creating a steering committee with representation from each global region/business, complemented by a global champion program at the local level, is the best strategy. With the proper governance structure in place, change management activity alignment can be achieved more easily. This includes aligning business process training, manager training, CRM application training, and remedial training. It also includes aligning global CRM program communications, often in multiple languages, as well as aligning global incentives and rewards sensitive to local market conditions.

New Challenges: Social CRM and Social Media

Social CRM and social media bring their own challenges.

For starters, few companies have established a policy clearly describing employees' interactions with customers/prospects within a social community.

For our hotel customer, social media policy is important, since they have a 2012 goal to open a two-way dialogue with key customers. Capturing and leveraging social insight are essential to achieve this goal. This customer is challenged by knowing how best to capture relevant social insights while adhering to differing local data security laws, since it is hard to restrict what a customer might say in an open social community.

As we emerge from the recent global downturn, more companies are turning to international markets to expand sales. While this presents a potential boom, the increasing need to ensure a great customer experience at each touch point demands that well-thought-out global CRM processes and technology lead the way.

Barton Goldenberg (bgoldenberg@ismguide.com) is president and founder of ISM Inc., a consulting firm that applies CRM, social CRM, and social media to successful customer-centric business strategies. He is the publisher of
The Guide to CRM Automation (17th edition) and author of CRM in Real Time: Empowering Customer Relationships (Information Today Inc.).

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