I interviewed 58 business and IT executives to uncover best practices for wringing more value from CRM deployments. I found that successful companies focus on five proven strategies. Attention to discipline in execution is what sets CRM winners apart.
1. Redouble efforts to promote user adoption. New CRM processes and technologies that have a clear benefit for users but are not properly introduced to the organization will not be adopted. These initiatives can quickly grind to a halt when they run up against "not invented here" (NIH) attitudes of users who feel that they have not been consulted about their needs. A good example of how to bring users into the fold is a multinational bank that I interviewed that had more than 3,000 CRM users. It invited 84 users to participate directly in the CRM vendor selection decision. These users attended videoconferences to review vendor solutions and then voted for the one that best fits their needs. This was followed by a series of Webinars that enabled users from around the world to view and critique prototype solutions developed by the CRM team. Finally, the end solution was tested in pilot programs in four countries. This process built a strong user constituency that eagerly embraced the final solution.
2. Focus on underlying business processes. Forrester has long maintained that business process and applications professionals should address underlying business processes before pursuing technology enablement. For example, a water utility company I talked with was facing public criticism for its poor customer service. It formed a customer service process "reengineering team" comprised of representatives from all departments — clean water, waste water, customer service/call center, service contractors, IT — as well as an external consultant. Once it had completed the work of redesigning business processes, the team sent out an RFP for a technology solution and insisted that any software purchased fit the new process vision.
3. Rethink your approach to executive sponsorship. Employees pay close attention to executive behavior, so it is important for senior leaders to be visible in CRM initiatives. Senior managers at a telecommunications firm I talked with wanted to improve customer satisfaction. But, they recognized that customer service reps were not effectively using a new CRM application to monitor and resolve customer problems. In a bold move, executives moved their desks among the customer service agents in order to better understand how they used the system and what steps needed to be taken to increase agent productivity and enhance customer service.
4. Reinvent data management practices. Customer data integration and management was a sore spot for many of the companies I spoke with. Progressive companies are moving away from previous efforts that focused on technology and after-the-fact customer data cleansing and working to manage and use customer data more proactively. A financial services organization was challenged by more than 250 million customer records across diverse product lines. To achieve a true "360 degree" customer view, it implemented a program of data standardization across the LOBs. The company also implemented more robust customer data management tools to cleanse and de-duplicate its customer records prior to loading information into its CRM transaction systems. Access to "clean" and up-to-date customer information is now the foundation for executing more effective marketing campaigns.
5. Define and track the right metrics. CRM technologies are a means, not an end. The managers I spoke with emphasized the necessity of establishing CRM objectives and defining the business process changes needed to meet these objectives before considering a technology purchase. Avoid vague goals like, "Our company will become more customer-driven." Define concrete measures to track the rate of success. For example, a global manufacturer decided that the right measures for sales processes were improving the prospect-to-sale conversion ratio and decreasing lead–to-order cycle time. For marketing, boosting campaign response rates and accelerating the lead maturation time (the time from when a customer shows interest to the time when the customer requests a sales call) were most important.