CRM Vision – Why You Need One and How Far You Should Take It (Part 3)

5 minute read

In our first two articles of this series we were talking about the why and how you should have a CRM vision. We also touched the first three maturity levels of CRM visions. Let's now close this topic off by having a look at the levels 4 and 5.

Level 4 — Focus On Business Enablement

If you define elements of your CRM vision better, add further items to complete it, or improve further some of the elements, then you can step it up to an advanced level.

An advanced CRM vision assumes that the program’s focus is on business enablement. In other words, you expect to improve not only individual business processes, but you have the interaction of these processes and the end result they create together in focus.

Let’s take an example: if your CRM vision is to have a standardised way of managing customer complaints, then your focus is the incident management process, and your vision is process-focused. If your vision instead is creating an end-to-end view of all interactions with your customers, then your objective uses the combination of multiple business processes. The marketing process would engage with customers by sending promotional messages to them. The sales process would interact with the same customer by having meetings and calls (activities) with them with the goal of closing a deal. The customer care process would manage customer inquiries and/or complaints. This example shows how three processes have to be addressed together in order for a CRM vision for business enablement (single view of all customer interactions) becomes a reality.

The advanced level of maturity also assumes that the program ownership belongs to an assigned sponsor. If you leave the ownership with the program manager, there is only a limited impact the program can achieve. Why?

Implementing a CRM program will bring along changes to the ways of working. However engaging the program manager may be, employees will not change their behaviour and working patterns overnight. A project or program manager will ensure that the expected new working processes get defined, communicated and trained. But to make these new working habits stick – requires higher-level support and ownership.

It is recommended to have the CRM program ownership assigned at least on the leadership team level. When selecting which member it should be, there are three questions that help you find the right owner:

1) Who owns the customer in the organisation?
2) Which team’s work will change the most with the program roll-out?
3) Which organisation will have the most users of the CRM?

With this in mind, the Head of Sales or the COO is the usual suspect for ownership.

Having a leadership team member owning the program will increase the program’s visibility across all stakeholders. It will also help introduce new ways of working by having a leader “eating his own dog food”. There is hardly anything more disappointing than the management team requiring changes in working practices yet themselves not taking part in it.

An advanced CRM vision can only be one that you documented. It is easy to understand why. If you do not have a confirmed, documented target for the value the CRM should create, how can you communicate it? Leaving the information flow about company-wide programs to the grapevine is dangerous, and it easily hits back. Employees may expect a change that they categorise as negative, although the particular change may not at all be on the program agenda. This leads to fear. Others may set unrealistic expectations about how the change will impact them in a positive fashion. This leads to disappointment. Thus, communication is vital. It can, however, be only effective if the CRM vision is documented properly.

Level 5 — Focus On Business Transformation

Can you improve an advanced CRM vision even further? You certainly can.

Your company may decide to assign the CEO as the sponsor. This, while fortunate, hardly happens by coincidence. It is often a signal indicating that the program is business-critical. Companies that consider their CRM programs transformational have a program vision driven by the company strategy. For example, if your company selects customer intimacy as the selected value principle, then your CRM program will be crucial in making this happen. In this case, your focus with the program will be building a business capability. This raises the goal-setting of the program to a more advanced, strategic level. When this happens, the CRM program will focus on driving a fundamental change, at the end of which the company will operate in a largely different manner than before.

You can also enhance the vision by defining the program phases and steps on a longer timescale. For a well-defined CRM vision, a 3-year time horizon is quite normal. Of course, everybody understands that multi-year programs are difficult to steer because the business environment can change overnight. Yet, by taking a longer perspective on the definition of the desired future state, you can define a more far-fetched vision. This the company can then use as a guiding star when breaking the program down into manageable phases. The longer perspective you apply, the more likely it will be that most user requirements can be fulfilled. Compare, for example, the engagement level of your finance department in these two cases: you tell them that their requested automated order processing and invoicing capability will be addressed in Phase 3, as opposed to not telling them anything because their requirements do not fit into the first year of the program. They will stay on board if they see that their desired business capability is, even if only later, on the agenda. But they will disengage on Day 1 if you cannot offer them anything because the vision was too short-sighted.

Another area where the CRM vision can be perfected further is the frequency at which you evaluate the program against the targeted objectives. Many companies have annual reviews of their strategy. Some change course completely, and others only make adjustments. When you have a multi-year CRM program, and it is linked to your strategy, then it is imperative to regularly review whether the CRM strategy needs adjustments. Learn more about the strategic approach in our article here.

Strategic priorities may change, and it is far better to understand these changes early on rather than coming with the program to an unexpected stop on the grounds that it no longer supports the direction the company pursues. The regular validation of the vision is also fuelled by technological advancements. Information Technology evolves at the speed of light. Smart CRM systems now use Artificial Intelligence (AI), which helps companies make more sense of all collected data. The same logic enables previously unthinkable automation of complex tasks and processes. These take many customer attributes into consideration when deciding on the next step in the flow. What may be a valid vision today, one year from now, can be obsolete.

Finally, your CRM vision cannot be state-of-the-art without having your users internalise it as their own. It is something that is not easy to achieve and requires proper coverage of many other areas.

Zsolt Keszler

Chief Transformation Officer

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