Tell 'Em Like It Ain't

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I spent much of my time during my speech at a recent CRM conference gleefully challenging sacred myths of CRM. And when the inevitable "That's your opinion," retort came flying back at me, I smiled and said, "No, it's not my opinion. I'm relaying the outcome of new research on the implementation methods and ROI outcomes of almost 450 completed CRM initiatives." "The Blueprint for CRM Success," a joint best-practices study conducted by CRMGuru.com, Mangen Research Associates, and Caribou Lake Customer-1, not only rooted out the truth about what works and what doesn't in CRM, but also rooted out many falsehoods. Because I was frightfully behind on my "real" work when I arrived, I spent most of the conference holed up in the speaker/media lounge. With the new study's results in front of me on my laptop, I had the exquisite pleasure of overhearing self-serving pap from a number of CRM industry members who have mastered the art of artifice. You know the stuff I'm talking about... fables like:
  • CRM is the marriage of process and technology.
  • The economic turnaround is about to begin, and we expect to regain pricing power within months.
  • Next year companies will finally realize that they need to approach CRM tactically, and only bite off what they can chew.
  • The reason we have so many failures is that customers keep trying to overcomplicate their implementations.
  • If they would just run the software out of the box, everything would be fine.
  • We have a higher success rate than any other software company.
  • Our consultants can lead you through the full implementation in three months--start to finish.
  • You'll get ROI in 180 days. Claims like these were also made at exhibit booths, over breakfast, over lunch, at the bar, and probably even in the bathrooms. But in the lounge, peering over my laptop, I could counter them. And I did. Devilishly, I loved watching the discomfort I was creating by setting the record straight:
  • Process and technology actually lag far behind customer-centric strategy and change management as CRM success factors.
  • CRM software vendors' pricing power is history. They would know this if they used their own CRM their systems to gather the input required to identify market trends.
  • Larger-scale strategic CRM implementations succeed at a far higher rate than smaller, tactical implementations.
  • Staff reductions generated by automating processes do not typically contribute more than a very small portion of total ROI.
  • Software will have to adapt to user business processes, because going the other way means software trying to control customer behavior.
  • The brand of software selected is not a critical success factor, not even close.
  • Successful CRM implementations take time, and anyone promising otherwise is just taking customers' money. Yes, a whole range of CRM industry myths and fables needing correction, and they're all built around a central premise: Whatever the software vendor or consultant provides is the most critical success factor of all, and whatever they do not provide doesn't matter. That is why the "CRM industry" no longer represents what's happening in CRM--at least not what's happening successfully. And yes, I did avoid dark alleys on my way back to my hotel that night. CRM consultant Dick Lee is the author of The Customer Relationship Management Survival Guide and a set of implementers' handbooks titled Self-guided CRM. In addition to consulting and writing, he speaks internationally on CRM topics. Contact him at dlee@h-ym.com
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