Transforming your CRM easily and exceptionally

Transforming your CRM easily and exceptionally

Selvaraj Shanmugam,

Re-thinking your customer relationship management (CRM) strategy and tools is a mission-critical effort for any organization, especially one where the future of your organization's growth depends on the sophistication and comprehensiveness of your solution. When you evaluate your current CRM system's status you'll realize quickly that there isn't a business area or project it doesn't impact. The complexity of any change in this area is overwhelming, but if you start in one place — the beginning — you can chip away at this Mount Rushmore of a project and find you and your team have built a flexible, forward-thinking CRM system that can meet your organization's needs and achieve your ideas for growth and evolution.

The term "customer-centric design" is used frequently to show how a business should think of their approach to CRM. Today's CRM solution must work across different sales and marketing channels. It (and more importantly, you) must understand what being your customer is like. Once you understand this, then you need to change how you work (or re-engineer business processes, to put this in other terms) to meet the needs of your customer. You might have to change organizational structures, salaries and benefits, and mandated training.

Setting expectations

At the top level of any CRM project, you must start right at the first moment of customer engagement. The moment a visitor makes that decision to purchase your product, whether it's a service, an object, or both, and enters your system, then your relationship with that person as a customer begins. They already have expectations about their relationship with you, and you must know what those expectations are and you must meet them. This sounds simple, doesn't it? If it was, you wouldn't need a CRM solution to analyze your customers' behavior to better serve them.

Gather your touchstone teams

A touchstone is a fundamental or quintessential part or feature. Your touchstone teams are those who interact with your customers at all aspects of your relationship with them. This includes your IT department, because they're the cement among your organization's building blocks. The success of teams, to a large extent, depends on the project methodology you choose.

You may incorporate the use of Agile or Waterfall methodologies, but don't be rigid about this — most large projects incorporate elements of both approaches. Waterfall methodologies utilize heavyweight business requirements documentation to make projecting scope and resources easier at the onset of the project. But these estimations often become brittle and inflexible as the project advances (especially during long initiatives), and lose alignment with changing business needs. Agile projects have the opposite problem because they use tighter and more flexible work cycles that can be adapted to the business, but struggle to stay in alignment with high-level strategies and goals. They can't see "the forest for the trees."

Either methodology can work, and your organization's expectations and best practices might drive your choice. Regardless of which you choose, constant communication with project owners and stakeholders will help keep your team both flexible and strategically focused.

Mission failure: The danger of scope creep

The success of your CRM system implementation depends on a clear understanding of the project's goals and the specific roles each team has in its installation. Initially, you need to keep to specific, realistic goals. The desire to create the most-encompassing solution is simply a characteristic of a motivated group, but doing too much can erase many of the benefits of the end result and negatively impact ROI, financially, and otherwise. Have a clear and concise plan for change management to fight scope creep. It's not a job for the faint of heart, and the strength of your project manager can make or break your CRM initiative.

Important steps in your implementation

Know exactly why you're conducting this project. The teams should identify real-world scenarios that define both what a successful customer relationship is and where customer interactions failed. Document these and other related processes so your teams can develop improvements, budget, and set goals for timing the implementation. Next, create points of impact that you need to address.

Process Development: Create clear processes for your people who will use the CRM system. Start at marketing and lead management, then sales, accounts, and service. Do NOT forget employee on-boarding and training.

Technology Development: Use proven software that is malleable to support your change management strategy. Clean up your current data to make migration easier.

Employee Resources Development: Create a solution that automates repetitive processes as much as possible, so you free up your employees' time and improve morale. You want to retain good people because replacing them is expensive both financially and with regards to lost talent.

After the first rollout

Now put your system to work. Gather and analyze information quickly and implement changes in a measured way. Most projects begin with rolling-out deployment to a single channel, functional group, or customer segment. The goal early on is to collect and measure "quick wins," which in this case are tangible business benefits that will validate the investment you've made and help you "earn the right" to advance the project further and obtain additional funding.

In most CRM initiatives, those wins often come in many forms, such as increased customer engagement, heightened brand awareness, improved campaign response rates, better agent or rep performance, improved operational performance, etc., so knowing how to speak the language of the business and what to measure is critical. If your sponsor needs to show revenue lift to prove the value of the project, then you should focus on measuring things like new customer acquisition revenue or improved upsell and cross-sell conversion rates. If they're focused on customer retention, then you'd want to show how you're reducing churn, increasing NPS, etc.

The main idea is that you need to show the project is succeeding and that it isn't just a waste of time, resources, and funding. To do this, familiarize yourself with your organizational KPI and business needs, and make sure that each phase of the project is aligned towards those goals.


  • Assunto: Ágil
  • Assunto: Transformação digital
  • Desafio: Agilidade comercial

About the Author

Selvaraj Shanmugam, Tata Consultancy Services