Once bitten, twice shy could well be the CRM epitaph. The technology has too often failed to live up to expectation as organisations have embarked upon multiple tactical deployments that have patently not fulfilled the CRM promise.
But times have changed: the prevalence of highly functional, low-cost, mid-market CRM solutions makes the much vaunted strategic deployment truly viable. Software functionality is no longer the barrier to success — it is attitude. It is time for organisations to take a board-level approach to determining the business goals for a strategic CRM implementation that will deliver quantifiable return on investment (ROI).
Many mid-market organisations have unused software licences hinting at CRM plans that have failed to come to fruition. In most cases, such implementations have been tactical, driven by departmental managers with a specific objective. Often deployments were ill conceived and gained little staff commitment. Little wonder that many firms have a tainted perception of CRM’s value.
Yet no company can deny it is a critical business tool. Organisations need to create a single view of the customer; they need to design more effective customer-facing processes and achieve more effective measurement.
So how can a company juggle the need for CRM technology with a reluctance to contemplate business-wide deployment? Success is dependent upon achieving a strategic deployment that reflects key business objectives. Yet it is this reluctance to embrace CRM that jeopardises many implementations. The CRM software decision-making process alone can run to two years as organisations invite suggestions from every part of the business, creating huge wishlists.
This is absurd. Delegating CRM requirements to middle managers can only result in failure: their view is, by default, tactical and departmental. The only way to achieve a strategic implementation is to define a solution that meets the company’s top five or ten priorities.
CRM requirements are open to interpretation, but an organisation knows its key business challenges and objectives. Senior management should be able to pinpoint the areas that will deliver quantifiable business value and ROI.
A strategic implementation will cost more than any tactical solution. The product sets are the same — mid-market products now offer the functionality to support a strategic deployment. But getting a strategic implementation right requires consultancy and facilitation to help an organisation define its priorities, enable process change and ensure a smooth transition.
Furthermore, a strategic implementation raises the issue of data quality. Without the right tools to create a clean, consistent customer database, organisations will compromise the deployment.
In what is now a commodity technology market, it is these combined technical and consultancy skills, supported by the right senior management attitude, that are the key to CRM success.
Organisations have been down the tactical route before, so why repeat their mistakes? Yes, achieving a strategic implementation is challenging, and more expensive, but with the right approach, it can transform an organisation’s attitude to CRM.
John Haigh is head of CRM at CPiO