When it comes to CRM systems, large companies are anything but centralized.
Stories by David Taber
Customers vote every day, implicitly through how they prioritize, how they spend their time, and where they engage in transactions (or not). So instead of asking your customers and prospects for an explicit vote, your CRM system needs to listen much more carefully to discern when they have made a choice, and decode what it means about their level of satisfaction.
CRM projects can have some very tricky technical elements, particularly when it comes to integrating with other customer-facing and internal systems. They can also be quite labor intensive when it comes to normalizing, deduping, cleansing, and converting data. But in many CRM projects, those issues aren't the biggest contributors to schedule slips. Look closely: the larger the CRM project, the more likely that the delays are coming from outside of IT. No, it's not time to beat up your vendors. It's time to engage more closely with your users and project sponsors.
The overall user population of CRM systems is dominated by sales and pre-sales people. And a CRM purchase is almost never done without at least the tacit approval of the sales manager. But driving the purchase decision is not the same thing as the long-term operational ownership of the system. I have yet to meet the sales manager who is interested in the governance, data quality, and deployment issues of a CRM system. But somebody has to own doing this work.
A day doesn't go by without headlines about cloud computing, virtualization, and the next computing platform. No doubt these computing models are important, but when it comes to CRM - what's important about cloud computing? And how should platforms be evaluated for CRM applications?
CRM systems have large and intricate databases that describe customer interaction, and most of the effort goes into recording and managing the ongoing conversation between your firm and the customer. CRM systems have information about prospects, customers, e-mail/phone conversations, sales opportunities, and post-sale support. But look inside most CRM systems, and there's very little information about collaboration among your employees: just basic profile identification information and a dozen settings. In most CRM systems, it's difficult to see the totality of a user's activities: the system's focus is on the customer and the development of a deal, not about the conversations happening between users and their attempts to leverage information across your company.
All too often, the cries for mobility have come from vendors trying to sell you devices and add-on software. But in today's field sales and support environments, the business drivers to support road warriors are crystal clear. Many of your sales reps work from their home office. And all of your field force is supposed to be at client sites, not sitting at their desks in headquarters.
At the core of customer relationship management is "who am I talking with?" In a simple SFA or CRM system, it's obvious: you called them, or they called you. But in enterprise CRM, it's tricky to identify exactly whom the interaction is with, and every new data source seems to make it harder. The problem occurs at two levels: contact information blur from multiple databases, and avatar confusion from multiple entry points into your company's web and social networking sites. This week, we'll cover the top layer of the problem.
There isn't a sales force in the world that says it has enough Leads. And you won't find many marketing VPs who want to do fewer campaigns. So there's a never-ending stream of new leads, prospect interactions, and conversations to be stored in the CRM system. At companies in consumer markets, open source software, and other categories it's not unusual to find a million leads or more. But that's just the beginning: if you're using the latest marketing automation system, every e-mail, web download, and prospect response is recorded in the CRM system. And if you have a large call center, every call and e-mail exchange should be recorded well.
CRM systems are almost always used for lead, contact and deal management. Sales and marketing put data into the system so that pipeline formation and deal flow can be seen and worked in a systematic way. Many companies also use CRM for customer service, which uses calls and cases as the core workflow. Once your company gets a decent proportion of the customer interactions in the system, you can easily produce reports and dashboards that allow management to see more about the business, spotting bottlenecks or other problems in your operation. Consequently, most companies use data from the CRM system to set standard performance levels for the sales, marketing, and customer service organisations, measuring them against quotas by month or quarter.
CRM systems are designed to be user friendly, not imposing undue security in the interest of usability and fast adoption. CRM users are business people who aren't likely to put up with sound arguments about the need for data hygiene. After a few months of disappearing data and incomplete reports, they're more likely to listen...but not at the beginning.
With most enterprise applications, the executive champions and the user community are typically measured and have manageable expectations. Think accounting. With CRM, it isn't necessarily so.
In the good old days of CRM, the software ran on your servers and needed heavy customization to really work with the rest of your business. The staffing decisions were pretty straightforward: There might be implementation consultants, but the system needed an ongoing team of your own staff. In one of these classic on-premise implementations I came across just last year, the CRM "permanent staff" was 1 development/operational person for every 100 users.
Almost all CRM systems are full of data that's been populated by your company's people. Sure, the notes and updates are about the customer relationship, but it's put in from your perspective and for your reasons, not the customer's. In many cases, the only information that has actually been put in the CRM system by the customer themselves is their name, e-mail address, and phone number.
In an ERP System, the core functionality has been well defined since the 90's. Some companies might need a different distribution module or a fancier scheduler algorithm, but MRP is pretty much MRP. An accounting system? You'd better not have a lot of creative requirements.