Troubleshooting CRM: Taking A Cold, Hard
BY JAY GAUTHIER
CRM visionaries and project managers: Does this scenario sound vaguely
Your global, multichannel company has decided that customer
relationship management (CRM) is a corporate imperative.
Management is looking to increase customer loyalty, customer satisfaction,
top-line revenues, and drive more accountability into marketing and sales
activity. The sales support call centers are an operational mess, and
nobody has been able to get any of these customer-facing entities to
interface seamlessly with your customer activity on the Web, or the
back-end systems that control billing, shipments and marketing campaign
Here's the great news: You've been tapped as the business executive to
lead the project. Deploy this one successfully in North America, and you
will be giving CRM "best practices" speeches to your counterparts in the
European headquarters by June. It's your baby'the project plan, the
team, the big budget and the end-state deliverable. You have never had
this much power, nor this much at stake.
The CRM Life Is Good
No sooner do you get started than you hit the first of many speed bumps.
You didn't see it beforehand, though, and hitting a speed bump you don't see feels
more like hitting a small wall, right? And the bumps keep coming.
The organizational boundaries and departmental fiefdoms -- people you
thought were on your side at the project kick-off party -- are now hugging
trees, and not exactly helping you move their teams, or this project,
forward. You have a few project managers running key teams, but they have
other responsibilities that take priority. They are uncomfortable with telling peers that the CRM effort will enhance critical
skills and eliminate project and job redundancy. Job redundancy is job
Undisciplined and undocumented business processes seem to be the norm, yet
the business groups you are working with are insistent that
there is "No way we can change the way we do business'it's always
been done this way."
You now find yourself in a world of pain in the technology environment
-- you have more solutions supporting CRM than employees to use them.
Unstructured customer contact data repositories are everywhere -- managed
internally and housed externally, they are the sales reps' notebook, date
book, PDA and ex-wife's PC, and are all categorized as ultra vital by their
owners. To make matters worse, your internal IT counterparts
assigned to implement the soon-to-be-selected CRM technology on your
behalf have gone on record saying, "Your business team has no idea
what its CRM requirements are," leaving you with a perceived vote of no confidence from your peers. In fairness to you, a
member of your business process task force made a request for a
"requirements template" from IT, and you were told weeks later
there was no such thing.
You turn to the CRM packaged application vendors for insight and
customer references; arming yourself to the teeth with information that
will help you reach a vision of what you "could or perhaps should ask
for" relative to CRM features and functionality.
Now you're getting somewhere. You begin thinking, "The opportunity
management module looks strong on Package A, but Package B has a more
robust territory assignment manager. On the other hand, Package C is a
pure Web-based application, so the business partners will use it for
opportunity management, as well. Then again, it looks hard to use and I'm
not budgeted for training external resources on the product."
You press on with a plan to research ten, consider five and shortlist
three software vendors. Trouble is, all of the sales pitches
boast the same all-encompassing, multichannel, back office-integrated,
just-press-the-button CRM fantasyland. A recurring six-word phase is
permanently etched in your brain: "Yeah, our software can do
In search of unquestionable truth, you then spend $20,000 to fly your
whole team to three reference site visits in search
of greater clarity and a like-minded perspective. You see marvelous
things. On the final flight home, an eager twenty-something program
manager is inspired by the day's visit: "Did you see what
their CRM system could do? Their sales reps get leads sent to their PDAs!
We absolutely need that!" Do you? You really don't know. Let's face
it, you're still trying to figure out the benefits and differences between
a 200-seat universal license and a 200-seat concurrent license. The trip
may have been merely a complete distraction to what you should be doing.
You perceive the IT gang back at corporate has been secretly working on
their diabolical plan to finish you off once and for all, and get your
project delayed, perhaps killed. Take tomorrow off and make time to think.
The CRM Life Is Bad
The project isn't exactly what you thought it would be after all. It
is, however, your project, and you will persevere in the end, and get the
project off the ground, just like so many other fearless champions of
What happens next is pure fact. Project failure rates are high.
Industry data confirms that nearly 80 percent of CRM front-office
initiatives that set out to automate sales and marketing functions fail to
adequately meet customer care expectations. Moreover, these enterprises
lose an estimated 15 to 35 percent of their customers annually due to poor
sales and service interactions. Considering that an enterprise may invest
upwards of $10 million in its initial CRM launch, this statistic can be
downright daunting. What's most troubling is that the worst
implementations have little or nothing to do with the CRM software or the
tactical software integration effort. The chief risk to business success
is often the business approach itself.
MAKING IT GOOD AGAIN
How can your CRM effort be one of the stellar ones? How do you help stop your business from losing long-time, profitable customers? What are the
lessons learned from these pitfalls, and how do you troubleshoot your own
project before it short-circuits a great vision and plan?
First, leave the debates about CRM-enabling technology on the sidelines
for now. Three primary considerations will help you keep a CRM initiative
on track from the start: executive sponsorship, the customer and the
Many CRM consultants and successful CRM project managers would argue that
genuine executive sponsorship is the only way big, complex CRM projects
ever get started. The executive sponsor doesn't necessarily mean the
person who pays or manages the group executing the program. The sponsor is
the person that takes the heat when the project gets rough. Often, the
best sponsor is the senior executive in charge of sales or marketing. The
primary reason for this is that the greatest internal resistance to these
efforts comes from salespeople. In companies where sales is king,
salespeople make the rules. The executive sponsor ensures those rules are
in the best interest of the customer and the success of the CRM project.
The project sponsor is also instrumental in helping to establish,
communicate and stand firm on the documented goals and objectives of the
project. Significant thought needs to be given to the metrics of a CRM
project. What are the measurements? Is it customer satisfaction? Revenue?
Demand generation? How will successes and failures be communicated? This
will set the tone of the project from day one and ensure a consistent, company-wide
assessment of the CRM end-state product and return on
How do you suppose a project of this magnitude came to be in the first
place? What company's board of directors allocates multiple millions of
precious capital -- margin-crunching dollars -- to an initiative just for
the sheer sake of running a project? Your customer -- or more appropriately,
the value of the customer to your company's revenue and profit picture -- is
at the root of all this. Unfortunately, most companies react to CRM long
after simple losses in customer satisfaction and loyalty.
It's important to acknowledge that above all, a customer-focused
approach will almost always keep a project directionally accurate.
Simulating customer experiences is perhaps the best way to clearly witness
operational gaps in customer interaction management. Many companies
accomplish this by teleconferencing with reps, going on sales calls and reading e-mail. This may be necessary, but it's definitely insufficient to
understand the cradle-to-grave process of the customer buying cycle.
The Customer Process
Here's a great twist on a theme: Forget conferencing and forget surveys.
Live the experience. Place a few mock orders into your customer call
center or regional field office. They should be realistic, so include some
errors (model numbers, quantities, purchase discounts, etc.) Carefully
document what happens next. If the order is faxed in, how long does it
take for your business processes to identify and rectify the problem? What
does the customer experience throughout this process? If the order is
called in, how are the order management issues handled? What happens if
multiple resources are required to handle the order? What is that
documented experience like for the customer? Would you buy from your
Once you synthesize the data, bring the business teams together to
discuss the experience and the customer perspective you've gained. Get consensus from business leads that current processes fail to support
routine orders. With sufficient team buy-in, consider facilitated change
management sessions to sort out how these, and other customer-facing
processes, can be made more customer-focused. Communicate the results of
early achievements to help other business groups understand how the work
has impacted team building, morale and meeting core business objectives.
This represents an operational base case for extending the proven business
process element of the project across organizational boundaries.
FINALLY, SELECT YOUR PACKAGE
From this model, requirements can be successfully gathered and compiled
to ensure the CRM solution you choose will support the user community. Translating
business requirements into the technical specification for the packaged
application integrator is not a job for rookies. Evaluate the processes and
tools integrators use to collect, organize and prioritize user
requirements, and consider hiring a consulting company with professional
process modelers that possess a working understanding of the various CRM
packages. This will ensure the requirements gathering and process modeling
job is done right.
Once documented requirements are in place, selecting the right packaged
application to enable these processes is much easier. Working closely with
IT at this point can help the team identify the tradeoffs between one
application's strengths and weaknesses and those of another. Implementers
worth considering will use case scenarios to ensure the software vendors
can simulate the required processes. Customization may be necessary,
but you will know this prior to selecting the package to fit the need.
Select the integrator last. Work with the software vendor to identify
integration partners they trust. However, never lose sight of the fact
that you own the deliverable, and thus you are ultimately responsible for
the performance of the integrator, not the software vendor.
CRM need not be a daunting process for companies. Simple steps, strong
leadership and conviction to get the job done right consistently win big.
Jay Gauthier is executive vice president and co-founder of Berkeley
Enterprise Partners, an eCRM consulting company that helps
organizations design and build customer interaction solutions.