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The Eight Steps to CRM Success

By Jerry Sparger, President, Global Business Solutions

By some accounts, as many as 70% of all customer relationship management (CRM) projects fail to meet their intended objectives. Technology failures get most of the blame, but technology isn't the cause in most cases. Many failures are due to inadequate business strategy, poor process development and lack of employee support. If you correctly implement technology that supports the wrong strategy or processes, you have automated your failure. To get your CRM used, you need employees to embrace it. A successful CRM project balances strategy, process, technology and employee initiatives so that you address all of them within the time and resource limitations you face.

This article explains the necessity for each step, provides a summary of how to implement each step and explains how the steps reinforce one another to create a successful CRM project. I want the reader to gain an understanding of how to use all these steps in concert to create a more useful CRM solution for his company.

A CRM project isn't successfully complete when you have implemented new processes or Software. A CRM project will be successful only when it helps the company achieve its strategic Goals.

The eight steps discussed in this paper are all critical to the long-term success of a CRM project. Often, companies will skip some of these steps because they think that they don't need them or that they have already completed them. To have a successful CRM project, you must complete all of these steps with your customer relationship in mind. There are no shortcuts. In the following sections, we will discuss each step and its importance to a successful project and provide an overview of how you might approach each step.

The steps are:
  • Create a customer-centric business strategy.
  • Translate your customer-centric strategy into goals and objectives.
  • Communicate your goals and objectives to your staff.
  • Work with your staff to define your business processes.
  • Define clear requirements for technology to implement your processes.
  • Plan your process and technology changes to minimize impact on your staff.
  • Implement a smart rollout.
  • Sell and reinforce the value of the project.

    STEP 1 -- Create A Customer-Centric Business Strategy
    A good strategy addresses the question, "How do I capture and retain the right customers for my business?" By defining the right customers for your business and then determining what you need to do to capture and satisfy those customers, you will focus your business efforts on customercentric activities. Creating a customer-centric business strategy is an important first step in a successful CRM project because it creates a broad definition of what you want out of CRM. The right customer for your business is one that can provide the business rewards you need for the current stage of your business and one that you can successfully serve.

    For example, a high growth start-up might want to acquire customers that are willing to take risks with a new company or product. Such customers might expect more handholding to compensate for early adoption of a new product.

    The opportunity for revenue might be more important than profit. A CRM strategy for such a company might focus on product customization and special client support more than sophisticated sales support. Conversely, once the start-up has proved itself in the market, the priority might shift to those customers that offer a greater long-term profitability opportunity with less risk. Customer segmentation, sales support and help desk functions now become important investments. You will have successfully completed this step when you have a clear definition of the right customer for your company, know where to find them and have defined the strategic activities necessary to capture and satisfy them.

    STEP 2 -- Translate Your Customer-Centric Business Strategy Into Measurable Goals And Objectives
    Once you have defined the right customer and developed the strategic activities for capturing and retaining those customers, you must document the specific goals and objectives you must set to meet your customer-centric strategy. Goals are broad statements about where you want your organization to be in the future.

    Objectives are specific, measurable courses of action that support your strategies. Goals and objectives provide the framework for optimizing the work of your staff and the investment necessary to meet your strategy. For each objective, you can define metrics that you can use to monitor your performance. You can use an approach such as the balanced scorecard by Kaplan and Norton to measure performance against a set of metrics that balances the various aspects of your customer-centric strategy. You will have successfully completed this step when you have measurable goals and objectives that, if met, will successfully implement your strategy. You also need a means of routinely measuring performance against these goals and objectives. Involve your management staff in this step to ensure acceptance of the goals, objectives and metrics you create. You need their input on what you can achieve, and you need their buy-in.

    STEP 3 -- Communicate Your Goals And Objectives To Your Staff
    Once you have created your goals, objectives and metrics to manage your performance, you need to communicate them clearly to your staff.

    Communicating goals and objectives is more than a series of memos and e-mails telling your staff what you have decided. Develop a communications campaign that continuously reinforces your goals and objectives and provides your employees comments on how the project is going. This could take the form of a kickoff meeting followed by monthly communications, or postings of Performance against metrics. Above all, emphasize how these goals and objectives will benefit them. If they understand that, they will more readily embrace changes to process and technology.

    You need an executive to sponsor the CRM project to demonstrate its importance to your staff. Communications regarding the project should come from the executive sponsor. You have successfully completed this step when you have begun to roll out a communications campaign. The campaign must provide for initial and ongoing communication of goals and objectives and of status against these goals and objectives.

    STEP 4 -- Work With Your Staff To Define Your Business Processes
    To define business processes that will fulfill your new objectives with the least cost, you need to understand how your operations currently operate. Then you can modify your business processes to meet your new objectives. The best way to understand the nuances of your current processes is through the staff that does the work today.

    Involving your staff provides several benefits. First, you gain valuable understanding of the processes employees use to currently perform their jobs. Second, employees will be more inclined to work hard to make the project succeed if they have a sense of ownership. Third, your employees can learn more about the project from firsthand involvement than from training alone. I can best demonstrate the value of employee involvement with a real example.

    A large corporation had created a new account-management process and had obtained software to automate its sales activities. It customized its software to provide specific functions for calendar management and meeting coordination. It instructed its users to use the new software for meeting coordination because it created a history of meetings by account. Project management didn't understand that all users were heavily dependent on Microsoft Outlook. The new software didn't integrate with Outlook. Due to cost constraints, account support personnel didn't have the new software.


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