If not CRM, what?

Is CRM dead?

Research firms Gartner and META have gone so far as to say that anywhere from 50 to 80 per cent of CRM implementations have not met expectations.

But if you define CRM in the truest sense of the term – a set of business processes focused on enhancing customer (or perhaps taxpayer) relationships, rather than enterprise-wide complex software systems – then CRM is still very much alive. Perhaps what has died is the promise that there is a technological panacea for managing relationships between businesses and their customers – or, as the case may be, between public sector organizations and their constituents.

What many organizations in search of a magic bullet CRM solution overlook is that the customer-level objectives they seek cannot be obtained through technology alone. If an organization’s processes are broken – are not oriented around the customer experience – CRM tools and software implementations are almost guaranteed to fail. Business processes should dictate the tools, not the other way around.

With the right approach, the rest will follow So, if the tool-focused approach to CRM has proven untenable, what’s the best approach? Many CRM solutions focus on customer avoidance rather than the integration and migration of communication channels. Clearly, the largest mistake of any customer-focused initiative is to try to avoid transactions with customers. To end users, there is one channel – they have a need, and you need to meet it.

The best practice in customer relationships, then, is what might be called customer interaction management (CIM), which creates an end-to-end view of the customer where all touchpoints – including phone, e-mail, chat and web – advance a positive customer experience.

Instead of seeing customers as part of an expensive support mechanism, this approach is built from the perspective of the customer and improves business processes accordingly. Planned and deployed well, CIM can become a customer-centric, process-oriented way to save money, increase revenues and create happier, more loyal customers.

Key steps to transforming your business through CIM The following steps can get an organization on the path to customer interaction management in a way that substantially increases its capacity to meet organizational goals.

1. Identify customer-level objectives and understand user preferences

Eliminate silos to create a customer-centric path to multi-channel support.

2. Analyze current business processes and workflows to assess efficiency of customer interaction channels

How do you do business today? Who are the people that move through your workflow? How is each interaction channel currently used? What are channel capabilities and costs?

3. Align channels and service models

Map common tasks to the preferred channel and related environments for each user type. Then focus on filling gaps, such as service levels within certain channels, and creating incentives for one segment of users to move from an inefficient or poor performing channel to another. Decide how you want to handle exceptions and be realistic about the amount of flexibility you offer — the customer’s worst nightmare is trying to solve a problem online and then having a disjointed experience over the phone in an attempt to troubleshoot.

4. Create a transition plan

Begin moving users from one channel to another, or shifting the role of agents or other customer support staff to optimize the customer experience. This step often requires incentives, agent (re)training and sometimes a change in management strategy.

5. Design a plan and measurement tool for a continuous improvement process by:

• Integrating existing systems

• Adding capabilities incrementally to “transition to transformation.”

• Identifying important business analytics that will be tracked and reported to help make better business decisions

• Applying analytics to monitor user acceptance, track customer satisfaction, the effectiveness of various channels, and the “ROI” for each customer interaction

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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