The spoils in today's data-saturated business environment are increasingly not going to the organisations with the most sophisticated data capturing technologies, but rather to those that use their data to make the most of their CRM strategy. To do this requires a holistic approach – nothing can be done in isolation anymore. Developing such an approach depends in the first instance on creating an overarching strategy.
The “problem” with CRM strategy
It’s an open secret that strategy has been a bit of a hoodoo area for CRM, since the widespread lack thereof was first identified by an infamous Gartner report 15 years ago. Finding that a full 50% of CRM programmes were under-delivering, the report highlighted an emphasis on technology at the expense of strategy as the leading cause of these failures. A decade later, nothing had changed, according to a Forrester report, unless a 3% improvement in 10 years can be called change.
With so much hindsight we can identify that one of the main reasons for such a substantial lack of strategic planning is the seductive power of software. Because we so routinely view work through the lenses of the applications we use, we tend to frame our approaches and plans in terms of the capabilities of our software and systems. In other words, software determines strategy, instead of the other way around. This is a deleterious scenario for the hopes of CRM.
Where to start: strategy
True insight and effectiveness start with looking at operational strategies. You should develop goals and supporting tactics, linked to short-term and long-term deliverables. Like any plan it will need buy-in from internal stakeholders, so make sure that you engage with them early and often as you develop your strategy. You should also reassess the plan continuously, and measure actions against strategy to gauge success. It’s important to always refine your rationale as well. Don’t just tweak your CRM software for operational reasons. View problems and opportunities from a three-dimensional perspective instead. Look for ways of tool and solution rationalisation for the three layers of decision making – strategic, tactical and operational.
Measure everything (at last where possible)
You need a complete picture, so measure the good and the bad. Ask the question “why” all the time to get deeper beneath the surface, so that you can get all the information you need to deliver an exceptional customer experience. Ensure that every department is focused on customer satisfaction and fulfilling their needs to maintain a high standard.
Know the customer through good data practices. It’s not just about looking back using data analysis, but also about predicting the future.
To improve CRM effectiveness, you need to stop looking at it as an operational tactic and view it as a means of doing business in a whole new way, from the strategy development forward. Similarly, you should view measurement in a holistic way, using a tried and trusted measurement framework to ensure consistency.
Attribution – start at the beginning
Try to get as solid and detailed an understanding of the sales procedure and how the customer works within it. See where the value is actually created and make sure that you understand the conversion process thoroughly.
Understand your customer better, engage more with them and turn a business transaction into a relationship.
To do this, you need to map each customer touch point and determine what a successful interaction looks like, from the customer’s viewpoint, and then develop the tools and processes to deliver an exceptional experience.
Once again, measurement is crucial so that you can gain insight into all channels of customer interaction, both online and offline.
Social CRM – it’s more than basic information
CRM is also about sentiment, which in today’s world means engaging with customers on a social level. Brands can be made or broken on social media. There are many different channels that need to be monitored and managed, so organisations need to assign ownership of these channels to the right resources.
Social platforms are about conversations, not just about marketing. No longer can a company promote its external brand out of the marketing department while managing its CRM in a separate, siloed ‘customer-facing’ organisation.
However, we should always make sure to combine sentiment with a clear understanding of each customer with whom we interact. To achieve this we should use our CRM data to inform the social conversation ensure that it is consistent.
The fundamental starting point, which needs to inform the entire CRM approach and implementation, is to look at problems from a three-dimensional perspective, informed by strategy.
CRM has then become a function of strategy, integrated with business objectives and customer-centricity principles and ways of operation. CRM should provide continued return on investment, particularly when one considers that it costs less to keep a customer than to gain one, and that it’s easier to maintain a good relationship than it is to create a new one.
A good example of a CRM approach that integrates with broader business strategy is a loyalty programme. If worked correctly, these offer benefits for both parties.
Any CRM strategy must be allied with good data collection and measurement practices, to ensure that it is more agile and effective. Better CRM will create deeper loyalty due to the customer receiving the right messages and interactions at the right time.
Once a CRM strategy is in place, it needs to be constantly evaluated against incoming data, and adjusted accordingly. Strategy should be seen as a responsive element, fulfilling the dual role of setting the blueprint and altering it in response to real-world feedback.