• June 1, 2002
  • By Paul Greenberg, founder and managing principal, The 56 Group

The More Things Change, The More They...Change

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Who doesn't know the adage, the more things change the more they remain the same? But if you're implementing CRM and you buy into this adage, you can forget a successful implementation. You will fail. CRM necessitates not only cultural change, but also personal change. Not dramatic psychotherapeutic changes, but changes in the way corporate denizens do their business inside the company. Let's assume that you are implementing CRM and you've done all the right things. You have stakeholders who include internal users, customers, and senior management. A top-flight consulting company did your strategy. You have an organizational change-management method in place to take care of the expected corporate shocks to your business processes and culture. You've chosen an appropriate vendor, you've successfully installed and customized the software, you've educated the workforce to the changes that will be occurring and it is now lights, camera, action! But it all comes to a grinding halt. All of a sudden, you've seemingly fallen victim to the 55 to 70 percent CRM failure rate you kept reading about. You were sure that you'd avoid it, because you went by the book. What happened? One hyphenated word: Self-interest. This DNA-level fact of human life is usually forgotten in planning the grand IT scheme. CRM is a system that is based on the individual. Its Holy Grail is the perfect 360-degree view of each customer. CRM success means customer acquisition and retention--one at a time. CRM victory is successful personalization--appealing to each customer as if there were no other customer in the world--and doing this en masse. The appeal is in its ability to provide individual satisfaction to customers. What makes you think that this does not hold true for the employees who will use this system? Every human being is self-interested. I didn't say selfish. Even selfless people are self-interested. They are made happy by what they can do for others. If the CRM system doesn't seem to benefit the person that is using it, then that person won't use it. But how can you please each of those users at your company? Wouldn't it take forever? The answer is: Ask, involve, educate. Ask those users what they need to make this system work for them. Do it in the form of surveys, departmental meetings, whatever. Doing so achieves broad-based user interest. Involve
the natural leaders in the strategic planning for the CRM system. Natural leaders are those individuals respected by the members of their particular departments, regardless of title. These leaders can empower the others in the department and be the evangelists when the time comes for rollout. Educate all users to what the benefits are. Be iterative. If in the process of educating the users to the system there are still things that don't work, fix them before the rollout, no matter how much sweat the delay will cause. Better to be smart now than fail later. Do these simple things and your odds for success in CRM increase. They are human things, not business processes or technical fixes. Never forget that your customers these days are your paying clients, your suppliers and vendors, your partners and your employees. Things have changed. But the one part of that adage that is true is that we are still human. That hasn't changed, and that's a good thing. Paul Greenberg is executive vice president of Live Wire Inc., a CRM consulting services firm based in Ayer, Mass., and author of CRM at the Speed of Light: Capturing and Keeping Customers in Internet Real Time. Contact him at pgreenberg@live-wire.net
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