Don't Blame CRM

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When companies fail in their attempts to implement a strategy that they really don't want to implement, is it fair to blame the strategy? Unfortunately, that's precisely what's happening in the world of CRM: blaming CRM itself for implementation failures experienced by companies that lack the will or even the inclination to become customer-centric. Immediately some CRM implementers-to-be reading this will ask, "What does CRM have to do with becoming customer-centric? Isn't CRM about process improvement? Or lowering front-office labor costs? Or using new automation technologies to increase customer-handling capacity and monitor performance? Or moving customer interaction out to the Web, where it's cheaper?" The very fact that many companies are still asking these questions clearly demonstrates just how hard many CRM implementers work to believe what they want to believe about CRM. Moreover, it demonstrates how hard many CRM software vendors and consultants work to sell the notion that CRM is synonymous with whatever products and services they offer, rather than with developing customer-centric strategies. "The Blueprint for CRM Success," a best practices and ROI study conducted by CRMGuru.com, Caribou Lake Customer-1, and Mangen Research Associates, dispels many of the CRM myths and mantras disseminated by those eager to reframe CRM in their own terms and to their own liking. To summarize the study findings, CRM success does not stem from software, no matter how anxious software vendors are to sell their wares. Nor does success stem from process reengineering, no matter how anxious process consulting firms are to sell their wares. Nor from automation designed to cut costs, no matter how many companies take that approach and how many vendors and consultants encourage them. None of these factors is a key driver of success--not if we define success as achieving ROI. The element of CRM that provides the greatest financial return--based on data from 448 completed implementations--is development and deployment of customer-centric strategies. Surprising? It shouldn't be. Especially not when we're understanding more and more each day that the way to make money in the new economy is to develop customer-centric strategies that help us keep the customers we have and do as much business with them as possible--precisely what CRM is meant to accomplish. Customer-centric strategies are what separate true CRM from a range of other initiatives bearing the CRM label. CRM is a business strategy designed to improve customer relationships. And the minute the primary objective is other than improving customer relationships, it's no longer CRM--even if CRM software is installed. And just as the presence of customer-centric strategies is the leading predictor of positive CRM outcomes, the absence of customer-centric strategies is the leading predictor of unsatisfactory results. So don't blame CRM. Blame the implementers who try to fake it. And blame the software companies and consultants that try to twist it. But please don't blame CRM--real CRM. Dick Lee is vice president of consulting firm Caribou Lake and heads its Customer-1 practice, which specializes in helping clients achieve customer-centricity. Lee is the author of Strategic CRM: the complete implementation manual and
The Customer Relationship Management Survival Guide. Contact him at dlee@cariboulake.com
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