20.11.2019 | Blogg

Realizing the full potential of CRM

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Charlotte Åström, Senior Manager Consultant at Advania Advice writes:  A few key aspects of successfully managing and developing your customer relationships over time.

Many companies face the challenge of how to manage their customer relationships in an optimal way. Rapid development in digital technologies, changes in human behaviour and the individual perception of value creation - put organizations under massive pressure to transform in order to meet customer demands for great service. During my 13+ years of working with Customer Relationship Management (CRM) or Customer Engagement, I have gained a deep understanding of the complexity of orchestrating the perfect customer experience. Effective CRM is not a system implementation, it is the result of a company wide approach and commitment to re-design processes, develop the proper technical platform and nurture the right mindset to create true customer value and build long-term trust. Done right, there are great benefits to reap in terms of higher customer AND employee satisfaction, increased efficiency and organizational flexibility. And my experience tells me it is not the easiest thing to do, but sure is the right thing to do. 

Embarking on your CRM journey
Many companies realize at some point that they need to improve the overall customer experience and manage relationships in a better way. Customer satisfaction might be dropping, a comprehensive customer overview is lacking and interactions are spread out across channels and internal departments. They have difficulties keeping track of key stakeholders and suppliers. The organization tend to approach the customer in silos and optimizing the use of relevant data to proactively interact with the customer and obtain key business intelligence is difficult and time consuming. Challenges that you might recognize in your own organization. These indicators present opportunities that need to be acted upon on in order to remain competitive and transform in this fast changing digital world, but also great risks if you choose not to act.

Beating the odds with a 65% fail rate
At this point many companies start to look into Customer Relationship Management and traditionally, turn to CRM technology to find the solution and start a software implementation process with a few selected departments. Requirements are created together with key people and the scope is sometimes loosely defined. As many of you know, studies show that CRM initiatives have a fail rate of more than 65% and that is not very comforting. And this is why the concept CRM sometimes has a bit of a bad reputation and is the reason why many organizations decide to start small and expand and go for a quick „under the radar“ system implementation to solve many of the urgent issues. Off you go on a CRM journey that becomes lenghty, resource heavy and often met with internal resistance. This is really not where you want to start.

Company wide approach
Customer Relationship Management is much more than an „IT project“ although digital technology is of course an integral part of transforming your organization, managing relationships and connecting with your customers in the best possible way. In my opinion, true CRM is rather a business philosphy on how to create customer value that is (should be) an integral part of any organization‘s vision and overall strategy. And this is how CRM should be approached. With a company wide strategy and a customer vision that leads the way. Because the customer experience is not the responsibility of a single department or the results of implementing a single system, it should be the primary focus of the organization as a whole.
As such, the CRM vision and strategy have a much broader scope and should outline what is required of the entire organization in order to deliver excellent customer experiences and create value.

You might think your company is customer centric – take a closer look
The strategy process often begins with a realization on how customer centric your organization really is. Some companies have a customer vision and some simply don‘t. And even when we see a customer promise of some sort in print, it is rarely translated into behavior and actions. How do we know what and how to deliver, if we do not know what is expected? The CRM strategy looks into how the customer experience should be supported by internal processes – from a customer point of view. If you don‘t know what the customer expects – then you need to find out. The strategy also outlines the customer engagement portfolio – i.e. how technology should support the customer process, create efficiency, automation where needed and really covers every aspect from data management, document handling and integrations to information security and compliance. And last but not least, a solid CRM strategy covers the aspect of how to get the right commitment and develop the customer centric mindset – because no matter how good your plan is – you need to get your team onboard.

Support your Customer Engagement initiatives with change management
Clearly, CRM is often times misunderstood. So to that extent, that many organizations avoid using the term. When you have a clear strategy and vision in place, the role and neccessity of CRM in your organization becomes obvious and you are eager to get started. Funny enough, not everyone will join with the same enthusiasm. Change is not always well received and the journey of transforming into a true customer centric organization sure is challenging. It requires commitment on all levels, clear governance, internal marketing and communications, while looking at the current reality with future, customer oriented glasses. It will not be perfect from the start, but if everyone commits to continuosly learn and improve, your organization will most certainly beat the odds.

A matter of survival
In the age of digital transformation, industries are disrupted, new innovative business models emerge and existing companies need to transform in order to keep pace and redefine how to create competitive advantage. Can be easier said than done. But realizing that it’s not a matter of “nice to have” changes that I am mentioning in this article, but in fact a matter of survival - is key. In a bigger perspective, customer centricity is one of the main pillars of digital transformation.

In order to remain relevant in today’s turbulent times, moving from an inside-out mentality to one that is outside-in, and allowing for insights and information from customers to flow into the business, is essential to driving a successful optimization of the business’ products and services.

Key to this process of transformation is the ability to design the organization around the customer, the drive to ensure highly agile and efficient operations, and the realization that data is the strategic asset of the future. And finally, the most critical factor to this change is the organizations ability to transform the culture and nurture the right digital mindset amongst employees, that will be the biggest driver of innovation and ultimately company growth moving forward.

In Advania Advice we provide organizations with independent consultancy on how to optimize results and create value for the customer. Feel free to reach out if you want more information on the services we offer: charlotte.astrom@advania.is