CRM stands for customer relationship management. In reality, the modern-day CRM system has gone far beyond the customer: it has become the heart pumping data lifeblood around the organisation and lies at the core of business strategy.
Intelligent and strategic use of CRM can create new business opportunities and ROI; poor practice can allow inefficiencies to fester. Even with huge investment, careful implementation and technical expertise, two thirds of CRM initiatives significantly under-deliver. At a breakfast in partnership with Appirio, a group of CRM leads unpacked precisely why this continues to be the case.
Buy or build?
Members agreed that dealing with legacy technology is a hindrance to CRM progress. For one member, old technology was sparking discussion in her business around whether to buy off-the-shelf CRM or build from scratch according to the bespoke needs of her business. Other members nodded in agreement: the dilemma of buy-or-build is the very first step of CRM strategy and is critical to later strategy.
This is wholly to do with what your business objectives are, and how CRM fits into that. Other members recommended mapping out the challenges of the business and using CRM to address them: if there is a gulf between business objectives and CRM functions, there’s a problem. The two should be intertwined in order to give purpose to CRM use and thus increase efficiency.
Team is crucial
Communication between teams has two branches to it: firstly, to collectively understand precisely what the CRM system is for, and secondly, to define the tags that organise a CRM system (for example, what do we mean by a “client”? What do we mean by a “sector”?). Only once these things are established can CRM users truly begin to innovate with the business value that lies as dormant potential in the database.
One member shared their experience of their finance team using the CRM as a billing system, and the difficulties this caused between teams. For some members, distinguishing between CRM as a marketing tool and CRM as a data management tool gave greater clarity to processes and overall business objectives. When approaching any type of project - but pertinently, a CRM-based one - it is imperative that objectives for the whole business are set. Integrating capability modelling into this allows the objectives to shape better with business resources.
However, training the team on different aspects of a CRM doesn’t stop at defining organisational tags and functions: the importance of ongoing training around CRM cannot be understated. One member recounted an experience with an innovation team who were keen to implement AI into the CRM analytics. While a good route to explore eventually, the CRM system was still riddled with dead data and unengaged contacts - what’s the use of applying AI to inadequate data? He asserted the importance of educating the innovation team as well as the others: innovation of the AI-level cannot happen until the basics of CRM have been met and mastered - and perhaps that manpower can be effectively used in helping achieve that.
The gulf between futuristic innovation and mastering the basics is certainly broad, and something that members agreed to struggle on. Getting past this is about communication between teams and setting realistic goals.
Another aspect of this is where the ROI falls into CRM integration. Current technological innovation in the area is allowing machine learning to identify and forecast customer value to a business. However, before reaching this stage, members discussed the importance of giving ROI of a CRM to a specific owner - whether this is someone from the board or someone who is integrated into the CRM strategy at a user level. Other members suggested the importance of thinking about the benefits of the CRM which goes beyond relationship management and quantifying this aspect of it in terms of potential business proposition. Indeed, unlocking this potential value only comes after training and - as members agreed - this is where the real CRM innovation lies.
It became apparent that CRM must have a clear purpose, both for the business proposition and for internal use, and employees must stick to that. Members report that when this clarity becomes tangled within miscommunication, assumptions and misalignment of information between teams - as well as an inefficient use of the CRM.
Customer and USP
The crucial insight to begin with regarding the customer is around the fundamental truth that the customer wants the product - and doesn’t particularly care about the process of data management. However, using the data processes intelligently can help feed into the product and create a 360 view of the customer. For one member, however, these two collided, and the USP of his business was that they have a 360 view at client level.
Another member highlighted legislation around data portability: at any point, a customer can request their data in a certain format. It is crucial to be prepared for such an eventuality. Another commented that this is where one of the advantages of buying off-the-shelf comes in, since that responsibility falls to the software provider. Recapturing user confidence is another aspect of this. So much of the strategy data is about trust, but if customers are on your CRM, the likelihood is that they trust you already. However, GDPR is still something which all CRM leads must think about, and members agreed that it remains as a pain point within their CRM strategies and wider businesses.
Despite members coming from vastly different industry backgrounds (from higher education, to banking, to recruitment, to charity), common threads and pain points were found in their experiences with CRM strategy and implementation. It seems that the discussion around these areas are not concluded - on the contrary, they are merely beginning.
The Recharge CRM Breakfast was held in partnership with Appirio. Appirio is a technology strategy company, that provides customer-centric and data-driven solutions.