A CEO's Understanding of the CRM Maturity Path: Difference Between Success and Failure

According to Gartner’s 2012 CEO Survey, CEOs have cited CRM as their most important area of investment to improve business over the next 5 years. Decision makers everywhere are realizing the importance of CRM tools in today’s business environment. The reasons for these are two-fold. Firstly, the advent of social media has put power into the hands of customers like never before. This means that establishing sustained customer relations and maintaining customer satisfaction are top priority. Secondly, CRM software and tools have evolved to not just encompass the sales and marketing functions but provide support to other core operations such as HR and Production. This means that CEOs can no longer undermine the importance of a CRM strategy for their business. But do they understand the CRM implementation within the organization? Here we take a look at the top issues and obstacles faced by CEOs in understanding the CRM maturity path within their business.

Are we agreeing on the definition?
One of the top problems faced by organizations is inconsistencies in the understanding of CRM across business functions. It is essential for all departments and verticals to get a unified picture of how CRM is linked with business goals, work culture and organizational structures. If CEOs are not able to sort out and implement this basic understanding, the entire CRM development within the organization will be redundant. It is crucial for top decision makers to decisively establish what the goals and purpose for implementing CRM in the organization are. Furthermore, the day-to-day benefits and role of CRM in the business must be clearly outlined. Once this basic foundation is created, one can move on to sketch out a path for CRM maturity for the business.

CRM Maturity Path

  • The first step towards building a successful CRM strategy is to collect good quality data. This data must be accurate, timely, relevant, accessible and secure. Without the right data to back it up, any CRM system is bound to fail. 
  • Once the data has been acquired, the focus needs to be on bringing about user adoption. Getting the employees on-board and actually using the system is mandatory for its company-wide implementation. This will greatly depend on the quality of data and benefits accrued by users. 
  • After the system has been administered across the business, one must concentrate on making improvements. By removing inefficiencies and automating processes where required, CRM systems can be made much more effective and productive. 
  • Lastly, top managers and decision makers have the onus of measuring CRM performance based on Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). On the basis of such measurements they can take strategic business decisions.
What must the CEO understand?
CRM is not an isolated business function. It needs to be integrated with the business culture and across all departments. It’s a way to work and this is one of the most crucial things a CEO needs to understand. As CEOs are the main strategists, policy makers and decision takers of an organization, they must understand the role of CRM at this macro level. It is the CEO who will decide the ultimate goals of CRM in the company. In doing so, he must ensure that the goals are measurable and targetable.

Furthermore, CRM strategies need to be dynamic as they have to continuously adapt to customer needs and changes in the market. If the customer requires direct interaction, one cannot maintain a CRM revolving around indirect mediums. At the end of the day, the CRM must offer holistic support from the back office to front office needs.

Silver bullets or rusty nails?
CRM solutions can act as silver bullets for businesses. Their large knowledge base can offer crucial inputs for decision making and quick problem solving capabilities. Decisions regarding product deliverables, packaging, handling tricky customer interactions and even negotiations can be facilitated by the array of information on offer.

On the other hand, an inefficient or mishandled CRM software can lead to complete wastage of time and resources. If the CEO does not understand the CRM maturity path in the business, this will prevent the system from integrating into the business and offering profitability. Poor quality data, lack of employee engagement, lack of responsiveness to market changes are just some of the factors which can turn a competent CRM solution into a rusty nail on the business strategy board. With a clear understanding of the needs of CRM and the direction it will take in the organization, CEOs can ensure that CRM benefits act as vital differentiators between them and their competitors.

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