A sure sign of maturity is the habit of questioning ourselves to see if we could be doing things better. When we take the time to answer important questions we start to see problems and opportunities we didn’t even know we had. As custodian of your organization’s customer experience strategy, you should always be questioning how and why you orchestrate CRM.
It’s accepted today that CRM is so much more than technology – it’s the fabric connecting the entire organization, creating an information-rich landscape through which the customer moves. So as CRM professionals the questions we ask ourselves must probe well beyond technology.
If you’re not asking yourself some key questions about strategy, people and processes it’s a sign you’ve got work to do, to drive your CRM to the next level of maturity.
Let’s look at 10 questions to get you thinking!
1. What does CRM really mean to your organization?
CRM tends to mean different things to different people across an organization. How can everyone in the organization get behind the real idea of CRM – and your customer experience strategy – if there’s no shared vision?
So, you’ll need to define and communicate your vision for customer experience and why it’s important to the organization. This helps everyone using the CRM to understand what part they play in making your vision a reality.
Everyone using CRM will have their own preferences, agendas and points of view. It’s important to openly address these, and hold them up against the organization’s goals so that CRM decisions are inclusive, transparent and objective.
If everyone understands that offering a better customer experience is what shapes your brand and determines success, and also knows what’s valuable to customers and can deliver it, then your CRM is in full swing.
But, if people don’t have this unified understanding of CRM, we find the opposite: various departments and roles interact with customers differently. There’s no cohesive approach and organizational idiosyncrasies are exposed to the outside world. This leads to an inconsistent experience for customers who end up dealing with silo’d individuals and departments, not one unified organization.
In a football (soccer for my American readers) match, every player understands the team’s ultimate aim: to score goals. They have their individualized view and their own role to play, but they all work towards the same thing. Success is clear, measurable and shared.
CRM success is also about common goals. But, success also needs to be measured at various levels and in ways that are meaningful to various people and areas in your organization.
If you don’t create a shared definition of CRM success, you won’t be able to identify improvements and show ROI, so your CRM investment will start to look like a black hole with no clear view of the value it’s delivering.
To meaningfully measure CRM success, consider these three angles:
Commercial: Sales are an obvious measure. But it can be a long time between the start of a CRM initiative and its end result, so you can look at leading indicators along the way. For example, the number of subscription renewals allows you to estimate revenue. Or, you can look at the margins for one-off sales as a predictor for final profit impact.
Customer-centric: Using measures like Net Promoter Scores, you can take a look at customer satisfaction levels before and after your CRM initiatives.
Operational: You can look at day-to-day performance measures like time to answer, time to resolve, first contact resolution, number of calls made or received, call length and pipeline size. These are all inward facing, but if they’re improving, so will overall business performance.
Someone who goes to the hardware store isn’t just wanting to buy tools, they want an outcome – a hole in the wall, a new door or a more vibrant color in the living room. Your customers are also trying to get something done, and you should help them to do it. Focusing on customer needs and outcomes is the main characteristic of customer-focused organizations.
The Three Es of customer experience[i] tell us that engagement needs to be easy, effective and enjoyable. If it’s not clear to all departments and individuals what your strategy is and how it relates to their interaction with customers, they’ll be going in different directions and often working at cross purposes. This means discontinuity for the customer. Their experience won’t be easy, effective or enjoyable and they’ll go elsewhere.
So, your CRM strategy should be based on what your customers ultimately want and how your organization is going to help them get it. With this bigger picture in view, you can provide clarity and motivation to every customer-facing employee to get behind your strategy.
4. How do you talk about CRM internally?
“The biggest problem with communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” —George Bernard Shaw
A big part of successful CRM transformation is about communicating the CRM strategy and explaining changes and new processes. If communication isn’t clear or sufficient, or if leaders assume that everyone will “just get it,” people won’t buy into change and they’ll actively or passively resist it. This is why many CRM solutions don’t gain traction with users, and fail.
You should craft frequent and meaningful communication to help every employee connect their role with the CRM and organizational strategies. Clearly explain how people can personally create a better customer experience and why this is critical to the organization’s success.
Your organization’s vision and mission statements clarify where it’s aiming in future and what it’s doing today, to get there. They’re designed to foster collaboration and reinforce the values every employee should work to. Your CRM goals and success criteria should map directly to the clear points of your mission and vision.
Without clarifying how your CRM goals support your mission and vision, you risk individual or departmental goals superseding them. This prevents collaboration and fosters a silo mentality which will end up creating a disjointed customer experience.
CRM is not software run by one department; it’s an organization-wide strategy for customer engagement. Those best positioned to lead something across all departments are senior executives. When your leaders share and advocate your CRM vision, it shows all employees that CRM is a critical part of the organization and its success.
If leaders don’t actively support customer-focussed initiatives, there’s little motivation for employees to do so. And if CRM is driven by one department, others usually feel marginalized or irritated.
It’s common to fixate on individual elements of the buying process, like what happens when customers buy, install or unpack a product. But unless you consider the entire buying process, each individual or department starts thinking of only their interaction with the customer and the organization ends up delivering a fragmented experience.
So you must also understand what happens before and after these individual moments.
Mapping out a customer buying process means connecting up all related touchpoints. You should highlight interactions that start long before direct contact and show how the customer journey extends well beyond that point.
Many organizations have some form of selling methodology, formal or informal. Often the CRM is configured to support this sales methodology, using industry terms like ‘marketing qualified lead’ and ‘prospect’ and ‘opportunity.’ However, this is inward-focussed and it causes us to lose touch with who our customers really are and what they’re thinking.
The underlying requirement for great CRM is personalization, which is really quite the opposite of objectifying customers in terms of internal sales language and methodology.
In truth, a customer is never a “qualified lead” – they’re actually “interested” or “researching.” Using real language that pertains to the customer will help you – and everyone else in your organization – understand them better.
It takes honest introspection to get to the root of a question like this.
If people don’t understand why they should change, they’ll resist. Your CRM project will fail if the software and its processes aren’t adopted. Conversely, if the people interacting with customers see CRM as helpful and valuable they’ll use it, and your organization will perform better.
There are a few reasons why people resist change or don’t think using CRM is important. Perhaps they don’t understand the consequences of not changing. Maybe they don’t see how new processes can make a customer’s life easier or why this is even important. They might not understand how CRM can specifically help them. Or it’s possible that they just don’t have the right training to use the system.
When employees don’t adopt CRM there are two key risks: that you don’t get any data into the CRM at all, even with threats. Even worse is you get “garbage” data as people just plough through processes to appear compliant.
10. Do employees actively use CRM?
It’s easy to set up CRM as just software or just a data collection system, but this fails to provide meaning to its users – they won’t understand the benefit to them, to customers or to the organization. This means they’ll have little motivation to use CRM.
Well-constructed CRM enables you to shape behaviors and get people working together to support your organization’s mission and vision. It can prompt people in any department to ask the right questions, talk the right language and add value to customers at every stage. But this all depends on people buying into CRM and using it actively.
So what does CRM maturity look like?
The answers to all these questions center around the idea that well-designed CRM is much more than just technology run by one department.
CRM should gather and utilize customer information from multiple sources. It should streamline customer interactions based on employee roles, and it should drive the right behaviors to deliver excellent experience.
All customer touchpoints across the entire buying process need to be coordinated through CRM so the customer’s journey isn’t disjointed. Also, of course CRM needs to provide customer insight and recommendations back to the organization, based on data intelligence.
A mature approach covering strategy, people and processes will see you using CRM to create a truly customer-centric culture across your organization, enabling every employee to play their part in delivering excellent experience during every customer interaction.
[i] Forrester’s “Three E’s of Customer Experience” are Effectiveness, Ease and Emotion