"One of the most important mantras of the 21st century is that the relationship between the company and the customer has shifted from the company pushing ‘stuff’ at the customer to a conversation between the company and the customer."
CRM or Customer Relationship Management is a system used by many businesses to manage their customer relationships. It is a system used to capture customer data and provide customer insight to the sales, marketing, and service teams. In recent years CRMs have become increasingly complex with the mountain of information available via the internet and increased customer sophistication.
Paul Greenberg has been the thought leader for the CRM industry for many years and the latest edition of CRM at the Speed of Light is now in its fourth version. A lot has changed since the early days of CRM in the 90s to today. In his book, Greenberg explains the shift of CRMs from an operationally-focused tool to a customer-centric platform.
It’s a well written, detailed book. Much of the finer details have to be left out (or we’ll be here forever!) so I highly recommend picking it up if the takeaways below resonate with you.
Pivot to your customers
"[Companies] need to collaborate with their customers, not just manage relationships with them."
CRM at the Speed of Light focuses on the importance of collaborating with your customers. CRMs need to go beyond the traditional focus on operations. No longer is it enough for a CRM to simply collect data or be an internal tool for the sales, marketing, and service teams.
With the technology we have available today, CRMs can help open up conversations with customers. Whether it is through integration with social media, blogs, podcasts, wikis, customer communities, there are many ways you can be where your customers are.
By opening up a dialogue with your customers you gain better data, profiles of customers, and customer insight which can turn into valuable feedback, new product ideas, and a more engaged customer base. Not to mention the increase in sales and customer satisfaction!
So here are a few questions to ponder on how you can pivot to your customers:
Where can you find your customers? Does your current system allow you to interact with them? How are you collecting data from these interactions?
Institutionalize best practices via technology
"CRM is a philosophy and a business strategy supported by a system and a technology designed to improve human interactions in a business environment."
In Part II of the book, Greenberg focuses on the operational as there is no doubt that the operational remains an important aspect of CRM. If a CRM system can create efficiencies for customer-facing departments like sales, service, and marketing, your reps have more time selling and servicing.
What resonated with me in this section was how CRM can help institutionalize company best practices with technology. For example, a commonly asked question in companies is “do we have great sales or customer service people?” But what if we reframe the question and ask:
“How do we institutionalize the kinds of practices, culture, and technologies to provide a customer with the kind of experience that makes him or her think of us as a ‘company like me’’.
Which has a corollary:
“When that great customer service person leaves us, how do we institutionalize all those practices, culture, and technologies so that we can easily replicate those capabilities?'”
CRMs that institutionalize best practices have a much higher likelihood of adoption and will make employees more productive. So how are you capturing your best practices? If a rep leaves, how long does it take the new hire to pick things up?
Create your evaluation criteria
"Before we go too far down the path of evaluating technology and other solutions, let’s pause to make sure you are ready to select, implement, deliver, and support your CRM investment. A solid understanding of the business, process, and customer experience goals is imperative prior to selecting any technology."
There are so many options available for CRMs today and it will take many months just to comb through the options. But here are a few things to think about as you make your decision so you can craft out your own evaluation criteria.
- On-Premise or Cloud based
- Cost/Total Cost of Ownership
- Expected ROI
- Mobile capabilities
Furthermore, there should be honest discussions within the company about the following:
- CRM strategy and vision;
- Value-add to customers;
- Buy-in from key stakeholders;
- Definition/metrics of success; and
- Documented business and customer processes.
The above criteria would be good places to start but if you want to dig deeper into them I would recommend picking up the book as it will give you greater insight on what each criteria should be based on.
For those looking to gain a deeper level of understanding about the CRM world, I highly recommend picking up this book. If you’re still new and want some simpler ways to get started, you can always start with Greenberg’s blog which can be found here. Finally, after a brief Twitter interchange, Greenberg has mentioned there is a fifth edition coming out soon so keep an eye out for that.