Successful CRM systems start with a customer focused philosophy

Increasingly, organisations from different business sectors are using customer relationship management (CRM) systems to help boost sales and revenues. Depending on the approach that they adopt in selecting and implementing such a solution, they may have mixed results in terms of their sales and customer interactions. In this post, I discuss various aspects of an approach to help ensure a successful implementation of a CRM solution that provides practical business benefits.

Good customer relationships

Good customer relationships

What does a CRM system provide ?

There are many perceptions of CRM systems, ranging from a sophisticated contact management system to a sales planning and management system and that CRM systems are primarily a tool for Sales functions. CRM systems do indeed encompass these important customer and sales related functions, but CRM systems can have a greater scope and consequently a greater contribution to the success of a business and its’ relationship with its end-customers. The ‘right’ CRM system can bring benefits throughout an organisation, covering marketing, sales and customer service functions as well as facilitating better exchange of customer information with the various back office functions such as invoicing and distribution.

Lets start with the customer

To achieve this scope and impact, when an organisation is considering implementing a CRM system, it firstly needs to realise that customer relationship management is a philosophy as well as a system and that philosophy needs to be adopted in all aspects of the organisation’s business as a first step. The true CRM philosophy is a tried and trusted one that involves putting the customer first.

To implement the philosophy, an organisation needs to view every interaction or task that impact on a customer through the customer’s eyes in terms of whether it adds any practical value to the relationship with the customer. It is important not to underestimate the scope of this review as it not only includes activities where customers interact directly with an organisation, but also those back office administrative activities that are deemed necessary in fulfilling customers’ orders or queries.

Clear and concise targets

Clear and concise targets

To help define the ‘success’ that the organisation is aiming for with the customer focus review and the new CRM system, a set of clear and concise business goals should be defined. These goals can include specified targets such as growth in repeat customers, faster turn-around of customer service queries, improved success rates from marketing campaigns. Later, as new process changes are being implemented and after the appropriate CRM system is implemented, these targets can be measured to assess the progress that the overall review and implementation is achieving.

Select the ‘right’ contributors

Another key element in this review is the involvement of the ‘right’ contributors to ensure no innovative changes are missed. The ‘right’ contributors include employees that work with the processes on a daily basis, as well as the customer of the various processes under review. As organisations have developed, the definition of customer has broadened as well to include not only the traditional end-customer, but also other internal employees who await the completion of a process or receipt of information before being able to complete their own activities. Seeking feedback from customers, internal and external to the organisation, can help to highlight problems which were previously unnoticed, due to the daily routine in the organisation, where everybody just got on with their responsibilities unaware of the impact on the quality of service to the end-customer.

Another important contribution to the review can be made when the organisation takes time out to review and learn from the latest best practices from its own business sector, its competitors and other business sectors with similar processes.

As organisations’ business processes become customer focused, there is an added benefit for the organisation’s employees in that processes inevitably become streamlined and any unnecessary administrative overheads are removed. So employees can benefit by focusing on more value adding activities. In today’s business world, compulsory regulation and compliance measures are impacting more and more on business processes. However with a true customer focus, alternative ways can be found which ensure that the main principles of the regulations are maintained, but reduce or even eliminate any unnecessary impact on the customer.


Guidance from a steering group

As with any organisation-wide project, it is important to ensure that the team charged with the implementation has appropriate representation from the organisation’s internal functions and that team is being lead by an individual who has an in-depth understanding of CRM concepts and the benefits it can bring to the organisation. In addition, this implementation team and its leader should have access to a project steering group which would consist of the organisation’s chief executive and each of the internal function’s representatives on the senior management team. With the planned process changes and the implementation of a new CRM system, this steering group will provide the necessary authority and support for whatever measures are necessary to ensure a successful outcome to the project.

Good communications are important

With the appropriate project team and steering group in place, the next component to assist the progress of the customer focus review and implementation of a CRM system, is the establishment of an effective decision-making framework. The decision-making framework maps out the various roles and decision-making and communication responsibilities of the steering group and project team, as well as the organisation wide communication processes that will be used on the status of the project. Such a framework helps to ensure that any decisions made as part of the review and implementation are made in a comprehensive manner and are effectively communicated throughout the organisation.

The implementation of any system within an organisation can be a challenge, but with the appropriate focus on process, technology and change management, it can be managed in an effective manner and deliver practical benefits.

In a future post, I will concentrate on those aspects concerned with managing the selection and rollout of the appropriate CRM system to complement the above steps.

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