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CRM: An Essential Tool for Operational Efficiency

Andrew Ward, Head of Digital Customer Experience/ Head of Digital Product, British Gas Business

Andrew Ward, Head of Digital Customer Experience/ Head of Digital Product, British Gas Business

We all know that bad news travels around the world before the good has its boots on. Historically most experiences stood in the middle ground not worthy of conversation when a subject arose. However, with the plethora of social channels, it’s even quicker for the bad to circulate the globe.

A good Customer Relationship Management System often abbreviated to CRM can be a key driver between a good and a bad experience. But when implemented poorly, a good-intentioned journey can turn into irritation breaking the experience.

When we consider a CRM, there is usually the conversation as to how it will help the organisation. It will bring the data we have about the customer together, and it will mean we have one place of truth. We won't need to use excel sheets to see who may be interested in X or Y product or need to know when Z is unavailable.

But we commonly forget the main point of these tools; they are here to improve your relationship with your customers. If they are painful to use  or are implemented poorly, even the most motivated staff member won't be able to use it well; and will miss things which will bring about bad interactions affecting your relationship.

What would happen if you didn't bill a customer properly but then chased them for outstanding debt via a debt collector as none of your letters/emails to them had been sent? This is easily the case if you don’t integrate systems and practices correctly.

This all boils down to the mixing of disciplines, here are a few:

• Technical elements led by an IS/IT function who will focus on making the technology work in the most functional way.
• Marketing function that will look at how to use it to understand the customer, so they can drive more traffic to the sales team.
• The sales team will want to understand how their targets are going and who needs to be contacted again to convert that end of month sale.
• Procurement will want as cheap a solution as possible or wanting to capitalise an item which is best as Opex on a subscription model.
• Finance would want transparency of who owes money and who has paid.
• Customers expect a seamless experience as possible, and in some cases such as B2B, they will also potentially be direct users of the CRM.

"When we consider a CRM, there is usually the conversation as to how it will help the organisation. It will bring the data we have about the customer together, and it will mean we have one place of truth"

Only when we have a good IS team will they look at integrations and even then, they will only look if they know that X data alongside Y data gives the business more insights to do their job.

So how do we pull all of this together?

As a blanket statement using architectural disciplines such as TOGAF would help understand the business, data, and technology and bringing them all together into a perfect world solution design. I would recommend UX Architecture as they have the link between the business and the customer experiences, leading to well-structured journeys.

If we do not have the luxury of an architecture team, then there are some elements which can be done to help. 

Cloud instead of local

It's a general premise now for most things, but unless you’re dealing with national security level data then using “software-as-a-service” makes sense. It may seem more expensive when you look at the subscription costs, but if you could add up all the costs of an on-premise solution done well with the same level of security, product improvements and support you would see this. The subscription charges are a drop in the ocean comparatively.

Find the right match

You can either take your existing practices and processes to adopt a system to meet them, or you can change your practices and processes to meet a system. Ideally, see if you can find a tool which shows a similar structure to what you have currently. This will make the migration easier but learn from those who have gone before us.

Organisations like Salesforce, sugar, Zoho etc. have had customers on their platforms from many different industries, adapting their tools to serve these industries best. So why not learn from them by following those good practices.

Consider the audience

If the story is king, this is your opportunity to set the story. Make sure you understand who the target audience is. This is best drawn on customer journey maps to see the before and after experiences. Ideally, structure your CRM based upon the customers’ lifecycle, it will follow a story even as you are developing it.

Its not one and done

Implementing a CRM takes time, you should not plan to build it all, and expect it to work straight away; instead work on iterations.. Migrating departments to features, customising the tool as you go, this will allow you to explore what is possible. But do try to migrate the back-office functions first, making your staff experience better so when you launch it to a customer there is an obviously better experience.

Don't be scared to do it again

By the time you have got through your migration, you will know what you didn't know at the start, and this may mean you’re in a position to take a bigger jump than you previously thought. Just because you have recently completed a CRM project, doesn't mean you shouldn't continue your transformation.

My two critical takeaway messages are
1) Understand your business models - 
2) Understand your customer journey 

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