The process component of CRM is the most delicate because inappropriate automation of the CRM business process will only speed up the errant process. While most companies do have customer-facing business processes in place (i.e., processes that directly interface with the customer during the purchase, payment, and usage of the company's products and services), many times these business processes need to be updated or even replaced.
To realize effective process change, a company needs first to examine how well existing customer-facing business processes are working. Then the company needs to redesign or replace broken or nonoptimal process with ones that have been created and/or agreed upon internally. In other words, while it is not wrong from an educational perspective to look at built-in processes within a CRM software package, new processes tend to stick better when the process had been internally driven. Companies pursuing a CRM initiative often make the dangerous mistake of trying to correct their own customer-facing process deficiencies not by agreeing internally on how users would like a process to be done, but rather by purchasing CRM software that contains one or more business processes that have been prebuilt by the CRM vendor and then forcing the "not-built-here" process upon system users.
When reviewing your customer-facing business processes, use a structured approach. For example, does each customer-facing business process have clear ownership, goals, and measures? Does each process have proper departmental interfaces that ensure that needed customer information flows across multiple departments? Does each process have documented procedures? Does each process have integrity (i.e., the process gets implemented the same regardless of who implements it and where)?
Here are a few examples of companies that have been substantially impacted by the process component within their CRM initiative.
A global life sciences company decided to revamp its lead management business process prior to implementing their CRM initiative. Why? Prior to the new process, leads would come in from a variety of sources including the company's Web site, trade shows, magazine ads, and word of mouth. All leads were quickly screened by the marketing department prior to being assigned to field sales personnel based on zip code and/or area of specialization. There were two kinks in this approach. First, during busy periods, the marketing department did not have sufficient time to qualify leads and the department was hesitant to send out unqualified leads to field sales personnel. The result was that leads often remained in the marketing department until they could be qualified, which might mean days or even weeks later, by which time the lead had become cold. Second, the field sales personnel were often overwhelmed by the number of leads received from marketing, and had difficulty knowing which ones to pursue first.
To correct this situation, the company brought together sales, marketing, and top management to create an "ideal" customer leads process. Leads were designated as "A" (ultra-hot), "B" (hot), "C" (warm), or "D" (cold). Designations were made based on a number of agreed-on weighted criteria (e.g., contact method, product interest, type of application). The result was a new lead-management process that was agreed upon and promoted effectively throughout the company. Next, all marketing and sales personnel received training on the new process. Last, the new process was automated using CRM software workflow tools. Today, lead screening takes place in an automated manner and sales reps are sent prioritized leads immediately after the company has received the lead.
Result: Improved lead close from 10 to 15 percent, which equates to millions of dollars of new and ongoing business for the company.
In a second example, a global consumer goods company embarked upon its CRM initiative. A critical component of the initiative was the creation and automation of a key-account management process, yet the company made a blunder right out of the gates. Rather than mapping out an appropriate key-account management process, the manufacturing company decided to look for a CRM software vendor who incorporated a key-account management process within their software. They did find a vendor who offered a generic key-account management capability. The manufacturing company purchased the software, and then trained their personnel on use of the software's key-account management process.
During the software application training, personnel became increasingly uncomfortable with the depth and value of the software's key-account management capabilities. Personnel felt that the software's key-account management process failed to address key internal issues such as their criteria for choosing a key account, guidelines for determining which personnel join a key-account management team, and policies for customizing service level agreements for each key account. After much debate, the manufacturing company placed the CRM initiative on hold, created their own key-account management process internally with full backing from potential users, and then went back out with a revised Request For Proposal based on the internally generated process specification.
Lesson learned: To maximize the effectiveness of your customer-facing processes, rely first on internally generated processes (preferably with customer participation), document and train on new or modified processes, and only then look into CRM technology as a tool to help make your customer-facing processes work more efficiently.
In a third example, a global manufacturing company proposed to streamline their sales process using CRM automation software. They mapped out their existing sales process using a Visio flowchart.
By mapping out their sales process, this manufacturing company determined that the process currently had seven steps, and they knew it took, on average, six months to close. The VP of sales suggested that by using CRM, a sales close could easily be cut by two months or from six to four months. By mapping out the sales process, however, the company also learned that delays in the sales process were not necessarily the result of delays within the sales department, but often were brought on by inefficiencies in other departmental processes that impacted the sales process. For example, to complete the fourth step of the sales process, namely the work scope and definition step, sales personnel were dependent on receiving timely drawing ("takeoffs") and preliminary pricing, which it turns out were always late to arrive. To complete the fifth step of the sales process, namely the proposal submittal step, sales personnel were dependent on both corporate and legal departmental approval of the bid, which also were regularly late in arriving. In other words, the ability to decrease the sales process from six to four months was as much dependent on streamlining how other departments conducted their own processes and interfaced with the sales process as it was on helping sales personnel to sell more efficiently.
Lesson learned: CRM software will not create or replace a business process, fix an ineffective or broken process, create or maintain customer relationships, make decisions, or produce products/services. Take the time to review your customer-facing processes in detail, and make necessary corrections prior to implementing your CRM initiative.