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Implementing CRM? Here are some lessons from those who faced failures  

Customer relationship management is more than just an IT program. It is the right people executing the right processes using the best possible tools that are affordable  

July 17, 2021 / 07:19 AM IST
CRM requires managing people, processes and systems. (Image: Shutterstock)

CRM requires managing people, processes and systems. (Image: Shutterstock)

More than 60 percent of the customer relationship management (CRM) solutions sold worldwide have failed. The reasons are many: failure to meet the set goals, cost overruns, delays in implementation, wrong objective setting, and so on. There is another big factor—high user resistance.

What is CRM? Most people think it is an IT program and that is the main reason for such a high failure rate. The heart of a good CRM is simply the right people executing the right processes, using the best possible tools that are affordable. Today, the best tools are software programs that help manage relationships between a company and its customers.

A CRM project should not start with software but with a mindset change and that calls for some self-analysis:

Customer relationship management is more just an IT program. It is the right people executing the right processes, using the best possible tools that are affordable

Customer relationship management is more just an IT program. It is the right people executing the right processes, using the best possible tools that are affordable

a) Start with team analysis. How is our organisation structured? Which jobs are customer-facing? Which job families are most strategic for customer delight? If we do not do this analysis at the beginning, it is not easy to evaluate next steps and improvement plans.

b) Draw the process map of the customer perspective processes. One should map both short and long- term processes. Processes that drive fundamental services to customers and bring new business should be included. Break down the high-end processes to the lowest drivers. What role each plays? Include sub-processes such as lead generation, qualification and signing.

c) Build a vision for the company’s customer-centric future. What processes would you like to change? What is the change agenda? For each process, devise the change agenda, linked to the vision.

Often managers think buying expensive CRM software will make their companies customer-focused and it will build great customer relationships. They forget that the people who do the actual job of interacting with customers play the biggest role. For instance, all of us would have enough horror stories of CRM as practised by most telecom companies in India.

Customer relationships are not built just by the front-line employees. It requires organisation-wide alignment. The commitment of top leadership is most critical.

The skills required of each function will be different when a change is to be implemented successfully. For instance, if one of our public sector banks plans to become more customer-centric, they need to look at customer service representatives and call-centre employees closely and train them for more empathy, responsiveness and reliability.

The executive in charge of CRM should focus on the following steps for a fair shot at success:

>> What are our business priorities? It could be building better solutions and shortening service time in one company, building more intelligent systems in another. It is important to prioritise and carry everyone around that.

>> What are our current challenges? To achieve our prioritised objectives, we need to know the key obstacles in our path.

>> How can we answer the employees’ question “what’s in it for me?” Establish the links between what employees do every day and the organisation’s priorities. Explaining how their work is benefiting the organisation’s bottom line will get their attention.

>> Can we show possible scenarios to all stakeholders? For stakeholders’ complete commitment, it is important to show the best and the worst-case scenarios and also what happens if nothing is done.

>> What is the business proposal on CRM? Turn the answers to all the questions above into a business proposal, so that the stakeholders can understand and approve. It is an investment and so establishing an ROI is important.

With these steps in place, you will be able to get all the stakeholders to examine the various CRM software packages that are available. That does not mean your work is done as the executive in charge of CRM. You now need to develop a roadmap that clearly defines how your organisation is actually going to accomplish the required tasks in a systematic manner. You may find that the timelines for this project will have to be extended beyond the scope of the allotted budget currently. It will also be a bit unclear as you map the road further into the future unchartered waters.

You will also have to draw the strategic roadmap with a strong implementation plan, with budgets linked to it. Scores of companies have found the balanced scorecard as one useful tool for driving the entire change agenda. Sometimes executives will be impatient for change but proper planning will be very beneficial. Occasionally we have found that executives in India lack the proper planning skills and it paralyses the entire project to a halt.

Since a CRM project is not a software project, it requires the skills of managing people, processes and systems. If you find the right mixture of these three skills in your team you will be in the 30 percent that finds success with CRM.
M Muneer is the managing director of CustomerLab Solutions, a consulting firm.
first published: Jul 17, 2021 07:19 am