Using your CRM system: Raising the bar

As I discussed in a previous article, a critical step in creating value from your CRM system is to establish a clear strategy/objectives that drive the technical development of your system. Clear direction always resuls in better outcomes and this serves as a reference point for project members. I said all that to say this: are we missing the most critical step in project planning?

Overlooked planning:

Think about what kinds of planning discussions you have had in preparation for your CRM implementation project. Technical – I.T., sales processes, sales culture, etc… These are the obvious requirements for project success. Take your implementation one step further by designing the impact to the customer. Think about what kind of value you can create for your clients with the kind of information and systems you have in place. What kind of add-on systems could you build that would change the way your customers do business with you? You may well find that you have the ability to significantly better the customer experience with the new tools available to you.

Raise the bar for your customers, and you’ll raise the bar for your competition.

Creating real value through your CRM system

Now that your software is running smoothly and your sales team is trained, you are probably looking to maximize your investment by creating measurably positive results.

The CRM system is potentially connected to every layer of the company, including people and culture, systems and processes. For this reason, you must be prepared to manage the resulting opportunities and challenges. Because of the high level of contact with other corporate layers, it is best not to rely solely on the installation of this software to create the end results you are looking for. CRM systems increase your potential to add customer value, but the results of this implementation hinges on your effectiveness in several other areas following installation.

By approaching this in a balanced way, you ensure other aspects of your company are prepared to leverage the new capabilities. As with corporate strategy, there are multiple drivers that increase sales, profitability or any other significant metric. These have to be addressed in a balanced manner because there are always several linked factors that determine success.

What are some of these factors?

Create and clearly communicate a relationship management strategy.

* When your team understands the objectives and how you plan to accomplish them, you will increase the likelihood of success. Begin by reviewing the sales process, and the results you are currently getting. Strategy is only useful when the majority of your staff clearly understand it.

Build data input guidelines that are based on your strategy.

* What information do your people need to help them accomplish the strategy? Do this early, because waiting too long will result in a database full of inconsistent and unusable data. (GI/GO) Once your employees understand the objectives and data input guidelines, the increased consistency will help you build customer information files that are easily understood and transferable.
* Any kind of increased accountability could result in push-back from team members. Coupling clear expectations around usage with a clear strategy will help to decrease instances of those who don’t use it consistently.

Maintain clarity as you move ahead.

* If your project lacked the operational guidance of a decision committee, there may be a list of questions your team has around how to best use the tool. Maintain usage guidelines on your intranet and keep your team up to date with decisions as they are made.

Build a sales culture that supports your strategy.

* Assessment and re-shaping of the existing internal culture is a recommended part of this project. The ultimate potential of your sales force is largely governed by the internal culture. Don’t underestimate the impact that a positive (or negative) culture will have on your project or corporate performance.

Create reports that support corporate and individual success.

* Building reports that are relevant and useful will help to establish the value of the system early. Reports should be created to support each level of the company, from the individual to the executive.
* Think through the performance management aspects of your employee reports early. Reports always generate behaviors, so create reports that generate the behaviors you want. If there are points on the report, people will need to know what it means to them. For example: If you want a high degree of cooperation in the sales process, increase the value of sales points given for referrals made.

Feed your marketing strategy.

* You’ve always wanted to know who those customers are, be able to create customer segments accurately, or target a specific group through online campaigns. Use the information now available to build more intelligent sales campaigns.
* A true CRM system includes more than sales force automation (ACE). Software solutions like Cognito provide the high level perspective you can use to feed processes like customer benefit segmentation, and make the right decisions around sales campaign targeting and product development.

Leverage the technology to build value at the customer level.

* One of the ultimate opportunities for this type of system is to strengthen your relationship with the customer. By leveraging this technology in the interest of creating real customer value, you will increase customer loyalty, which is the most critical goal of every credit union.

By recognizing and addressing the multiple factors that determine the success of your retail strategy, you will begin to see the true potential of your organization realized in your culture and on the balance sheet.

Do balanced scorecards really work?

Over the past 10 years, balanced scorecards have gained increased profile within corporate management. While it has been heralded by some as “the next fad,” it’s actually a significant step in management methodology. Now that a much larger percentage of companies have attempted a scorecard implementation, many have begun to wonder if it is in fact “all that and a bag of chips” as purported by our friends at Harvard.

So, why the mixed reviews?

“Management fads” are often just a step in the right direction. Take them for what they’re worth and use them to drive your process of continual improvement. Strive to integrate each new piece, rather than over-embracing them. The problem comes when we expect them to turn corporate performance around and save the day. Many companies have implemented the scorecard with little to no positive change. However, the challenges companies are experiencing are often much larger than your strategic management framework, and this is what blocks corporate performance. A better planning framework is a tool to create better clarity of direction, it doesn’t mean the result is automatic.

Why do some companies experience only marginal change?

– Perhaps they have an unusually effective way of using older systems
– Perhaps their implementation was managed poorly
– Perhaps they misunderstand the concepts and methodology of the scorecard

Conclusion

As Kaplan and Norton have suggested, most companies fail strategically because of their inability to execute the strategy. The validity of their strategic direction never comes into play, because it is never brought to life. I would like to suggest that the same thing is happening with the balanced scorecard. If it’s not implemented effectively, or if other operational issues are blocking corporate performance, you won’t see the potential of a more balanced management framework.

It’s about creating better direction and making sure that people can get behind it.

Here are a few things to think about…

Use this as a springboard for corporate change (Re-evaluate the direction)
Make sure your people see and understand the strategy (Communication and clarity)
Integrate strategy into everyone’s job and processes (Alignment)
Keep your eyes open for the operational and business issues that block strategic advancement

It’s about finding a better planning framework. It’s not about finding magic beans.