Today's blog post was written by Adam Barr, Principal Consultant at Sonoma Partners.
In my experience implementing CRM, I have often been asked by clients, when do we know we are finished? Or, when is the application complete? Better yet, how do we know we’ve optimized our investment in CRM? The answer is relatively simple on both fronts: Never.
You should continue to invest into your CRM platform in perpetuity, defining success by hitting milestones along the way and measuring results.
This focus on building a program in perpetual motion will continue to stretch the optimization target while regularly adding value to your organization.
The key difference I want to focus on is between projects and programs. If we are generally managing CRM in the same manner as a “set-it-and-forget-it” implementation, we are settings ourselves up to become another failed CRM statistic.
Successful CRM programs are designed with a multitude of features supporting the organization cross-functionally which mitigates the risk of becoming stale. These programs focus on automating business processes, extending channels for customer touchpoints, and providing overall structure, efficiency, and consistency in your message. Saying a CRM program is complete is similar to saying, employee development has peaked and we're not expecting any future turnover - or - the way we interact and engage with our customers is working for us and there wont be any need to adjust our approach going forward...and all our competitors agree. Or - even more incredulous - the technology industry has plateaued and we won’t see any new innovations for our industry. Don’t brush these parallels off as just a dramatic ploy to get you to keep reading. Thought, I do want you to keep reading, so I ask you again, hear me out.
Think back for a moment, why did you invest in a CRM solution? A very common answer is to achieve the Utopian goal of obtaining a true 360-degree view of your customer. Why is this so important? Why do organizations dedicate significant resources, both human and financial, to achieve this goal? Why do you strive for consistent messaging, predictable interactions, and ultimately the ability to streamline or deflect non-value added touchpoints?
At the most basic level, it is because the customer is still king. For the foreseeable future, the customer will continue to be king. The challenge you are faced with is finding ways to optimize your customer value in perpetuity. You need to be able to manage process inefficiencies, balance employee turnover, minimize onboarding learning curves, and do so in a manner that is transparent to the customer to ensure they consistently have superior experiences with your brand. Frankly, your customer does not care about your internal processes, nor do they care about internal structure or any cost optimization pressures you may be facing. Your customer cares about having easy access to your product or service. Your ability to deliver said product or service in an environment that fosters a superior customer experience will drive brand loyalty and advocacy in the market.
CRM programs should underpin all initiatives that support these efforts. Internally, business processes should be reinforced through the CRM tool so the desired behavior becomes intrinsic simply through the use of your application. Externally, customers should have simple access to your company, on their schedule and through their desired channel. You need to provide them with a consistent experience regardless of when or how they engage with your organization. Connecting this omni-channel expectation to a shared CRM environment ensures a full understanding of your customer and mitigates any potential for a less-than-desired experience.
Only when your customer relinquishes their purchasing power. Only when technology vendors feel they’ve saturated the innovation market. Only when your employees have mastered every business process and your competitors decide status quo is good enough. Only then, should you consider your CRM program complete.