Successful CRM: Getting the People, Process, and Technology Mix Right
CRM success requires the seamless integration of every aspect of business that touches the customerincluding people, process, and technologyrevolutionized by the Internet. Each component presents significant challenges, but it is the ability to integrate all three that makes or breaks a CRM system.
The people component is the most difficult component given the sensitivity of users to change. CRM systems, which support and/or automate integrated customer processes, often imply changes in the way users do their day-to-day jobs. Users who have not properly understood the reasons for the change, who did not participate in formulation of the change, who did not receive sufficient information about the change, or who did not get sufficiently trained on the change will often be adverse to that change. The story of "the rotten apple spoiling the lot" is relevant here since negative feedback can substantially harm a CRM system's success.
Here are a few examples of companies that have been substantially impacted by the people component within their CRM initiative.
A globally respected telecommunications company launched a global CRM initiative. The launch included the formation of a superuser group (consisting of 1216 user representatives from sales, marketing, customer service, e-business, and other customer-facing functions). The superuser group, which is formed at the outset of the CRM initiative, is responsible for providing user needs input throughout implementation of the CRM initiative.
Senior management had some doubts about the company's ability to meet the initiative's deadlines, and therefore decided not to communicate or promote the initiative too loudly to potential internal and external users until the initiative was near completion. Needless to say, as with all CRM initiatives, a number of minor glitches occurred. All of these glitches were successfully resolved. Yet through the company's internal rumor mill, these minor glitches became major problems, even system killers. By the time the company was ready to invite internal and external users for training on the application, approximately 50 percent of the users said they knew little about the initiative, were not interested in participating in the initiative, and declined training for the initiative. The initiative struggled along for another four months, and the company then pulled the plug and absorbed a loss in excess of $800,000.
Lesson learned: the company should have launched a full-fledged communications program around the CRM initiative, thereby ensuring that key personnel and users were kept up to date on how the initiative was coming along and how the initiative would impact their day-to-day work lives.
In another example, a leading service organization launched a global CRM initiative. It formed a "core team" consisting of senior managers from technical, business, and training functions. Business users were not involved from the outset since the business manager (who was a part of the CRM "core" team, and not too highly respected by business management) felt that he could speak on their behalf. What a mistake! It became evident early on that the business manager was out of touch with the needs of the business users. More important, the business manager foolishly saw the business users as a threat to his next promotion and refused, despite putting up multiple smokescreens, to collaborate closely with the users. After 12 months and in excess of $10 million spent, the organization placed the CRM initiative on hold until a reorganization could take place (which fortunately replaced the business manager).
Lessons learned: Don't be afraid to let the users drive the system's specifications and implementation.
In a third example, a global publishing company launched their CRM initiative again using a superuser group. This superuser group remained very active throughout implementation of the initiative (e.g., they helped select the CRM software vendor, they reviewed software screen customizations, and many of them became trainers during the system launch). Moreover, the company launched a comprehensive communications program that included a Friday "paper" memo that updated all potential internal and external users on the status of the initiative, an intranet, and regularly scheduled question and answer sessions at all key company meetings (e.g., the annual company meeting, regional sales meetings, customer service get-togethers). When it came time for CRM system applications training, there actually was an internal argument between users and the training coordinator as to which users would get trained firstalmost all users wanted to be a part of the first training session! This CRM initiative went on to deliver an average productivity gain of 22 person-days per user in the first year alone.
Lesson learned: Get users involved early on, and help them to manage their own change.