CEOs want CRM Vendors to Value their Vision

A CEO’s vision of Customer Relationship Management forms the crux of what a customer-focused organization must “feel” like to its customers.

Every company, over a period of time, builds up a unique personality which becomes the foundation of solid and ever lasting relationships with its customers. If, the vision is cloudy, neither stakeholders nor customers will comprehend what exactly to expect from the organization as opposed to competition, why they should stay around and what differentiates their experiences with that particular organization.
Also, employees will not have proper direction to their efforts, and all CRM efforts will fall apart.

The CEO’s vision hence becomes fundamental in maximizing an organization’s CRM success. The success of this envisaged vision lie in flawless planning, and perfect execution of the best chosen CRM solution provided by a capable vendor.

CRM solutions vary among organizations and need to be tailor made to suit company specifics. Vendors design their software on the basis of past experiences which is alright so long as the company already owns that particular vendor’s software solutions. However, in the larger picture, CRM technology offered by a particular vendor must fuel company success, support the company’s vision and strengthen its future.

Studies show that failure rates for CRM implementations range between 30 to 85%, and this includes discrepancies not just in mere facts but also their interpretations. It is interesting to note that in this range, if instances of the systems being completely abandoned or failure to go live is considered, then it falls in the lower than 30% range, however, if aspects like delays in production, cost over-runs, escalating post production expenses and complete failure in matching up to expectations is considered, then the actual rate of failure may jump over 80%.

One of the biggest reasons for such failure is the lack of alignment between the CEO’s vision and vendors who provide the CRM solutions. If the two are not parallel, failure is inevitable. Ironically, wrong vendor choice is also the simplest to avoid.

The Right Vendor

Every organization has various department engaged in different functions. While marketing teams focus on designing gripping campaigns and deliver them through varied channels, the sales department is responsible for productive lead follow up and juggling existing sales cycles. The top management is responsible to oversee all cross-departmental operations, and make sure that interactions with clients are professionally and responsibly managed.

The end goal of all departments, however, is to acquire, retain and continually offer support to customers – which is becoming an increasingly challenging task.

Already complicated activities are becoming even more web-like, and multi faceted procedures and workflows are becoming challenging to track, co-ordinate, and manage.

CRM is the answer to effectively manage and streamline all cross functional, cross departmental tasks and deliver the ultimate customer experience at the same time balancing it with company goals. Naturally, the “solution” itself needs to be correct, and only a correct vendor can provide the same.

The vision, goals, and overall objectives of the company should be clearly defined, following which, a weighted evaluation procedure must be designed so as to identify what is really important in the CRM solution of the business. After classification of the evaluation criteria, solutions must be chosen and evaluated from both horizontal as well as vertical perspectives.

Next, each selected vendor must demonstrate to the CEO, the superior-most level of their range of offerings and capabilities. Choices must be narrowed down to a few vendors, following which the short listed vendor list must be used to re-evaluate the objectives and vision to ensure that both are in line with each other.

To begin with, all goals and processes of the organization must be thoroughly understood by the vendor, and clarifications must be asked for when in doubt. Clarity and commonality in thoughts and ideas about execution of the vision should be in perfect sync between company and vendor. The vendor has to hand-make CRM processes in a way that they incorporate the shared goals and vision of every stakeholder, since this is what goes into better enabling of processes, yielding instant results, ensures collective buy-in, user adoption, and finally the achievement of overall success in the long run.

When stakeholder perspectives are completely understood, the long term organizational goals become as significant to the vendors as they are to the company itself. As a natural consequence, vendors automatically start taking action to ensure that objectives are achieved by all means.

Because different departments walk on different paths leading to a common destination, the journey may give rise to conflicts due to competing interests and viewpoints between different departments and the different stakeholders in question. It is the responsibility of the vendor to understand how to bridge these gaps and turn around conflicts into new solutions and enhance the CRM system further by converting roadblocks into stepping stones to success, as this is exactly what the top management envisions.

The different organizational networks, individuals who affect, those who get affected, those who are likely to have an impact on decision making - all must be actively involved in dialog and other necessary interaction with the vendors – so that there is understanding and synchronization between all people in the organization and the vendor. Only when a vendor engages with and confronts every person at every level and gauges their perspective, he can make sure that he has designed the best CRM solution keeping in mind everyone’s best interests and thereby balancing everyone’s requirements perfectly.

Training and Support

The vendor must ensure that the solution offered by him possesses the functionality to fulfill all business needs and solve problems at every level. It is wise to frame structured question sets or a check list for the vendors, to make sure that the right vendor is picked providing the right solution. A wise strategy would be to study similar customers’ buying history and check what solutions they have picked.

It is also necessary that the CEO’s requirement to ensure proper integration of the given CRM solution with other technologies or projects is met with.

The CEO will want that all individuals at every level can adopt the solution and that it is user friendly and flexible. The vendor must therefore ensure that his offering is such that it meets this requirement and incase there are complexities, proper training and support is offered to bridge the gap. The solution must also have inherent productivity and enable systems integration.


The roots of CRM success lie in well planned and powerful CRM solutions, with the CEO’s vision firmly embedded in it. The onus of providing this lies solely with the vendor after necessary interactions with all the stakeholders of the company. 

The main aim of any organization is offer an ultimate Customer Experience which is ensured when all important systems and processes are in place.

Running an organization requires strategic planning and absolute translation of the CEO’s vision to combine success with happy customers. This is achieved when the CEO’s vision takes actual shape when it is converted into tangible means through correct actions, processes and KPAs – all offered by an experienced CRM vendor.

Most importantly, CRM vendors have to realize that CEO’s don’t just want to ‘implement’ a solution, but their primary goal is to help his company march towards higher progress and this overall goal must always be in the vendor’s mind as well. Implementation must be from every aspect, completely understood and imbibed in every department and every individual in the organization – and it should not just be applied from the IT angle.

It is vital to always have a strong focus on the organization’s future plans, the related technology and changes it wishes to make in this regard. In this scenario, the vendor must make sure that he has provided such a solution which takes this into consideration and leaves room for the necessary changes.

Passion is what drives the CEO’s visions to lead his company towards unmatched success – and vendors have an upper hand of being able to view situations unambiguously. When the vendor and CEO’s vision go hand-in-hand, it optimizes relationship building with customers and progressively increases bottom line revenues.

5 Steps to Effective KOL Management

For companies in the pharmaceuticals, biotechnology and medical devices sector, the presence and role of Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs) is a matter of crucial importance. In order to gain credibility in the market and enhance their market share, these companies need to engage and establish productive relationships with KOLs. This area of KOL management is similar to customer relationship management in many ways. Just as businesses need to satisfy the needs of their customers, it is also necessary to satisfy Key Opinion Leaders who can have a major impact in establishing a reputation and demand for their products in the market.

Optimal management of relationships with KOLs is critical for the success of a product. It is important to be able to identify potential leaders before they gain popularity and overall credibility, if a manager can build a good rapport with an individual before they become an important figure in the industry, this will ensure a strong relationship. Here we take a look at 5 important ways in which effective KOL management can be facilitated through a CRM solution:

1 Holistic KOL profiles
CRM software is used to extract complete customer profiles for focused marketing. Furthermore, they point out potential customers and sales opportunities to cash in on. Managers can use this in KOL management by inputting specific data on key opinion leaders to build comprehensive KOL profiles. With specific profiles in hand, one can plan specific strategies to deal with different KOLs. KOL management software will carry complete details about each KOL, from contact information to past history with the company and brand. An effective CRM software will enable users to create a central database of publications, documents, URLs and videos related to KOLs through a Content Library. Access to social profiles through social CRM is an added bonus by enabling real-time access to content posted by KOLs.

2 Optimize relationships
CRM software records individual data on customers and make this information available as and when required. Furthermore, it can extract correlations in this data which may have been indecipherable otherwise. The same can be applied in KOL management. Every key opinion leader will be managed on an individual basis. This minimizes the possibility of relationship mismanagement by making the process much more efficient. Factors such as changes in the market and KOL can be highlighted easily so that these may be dealt with on a proactive basis. Additionally, a CRM solution ensures efficient activity management by ensuring open/ closed tasks and appointments are accessible under relevant records.

3 Ensure company-wide adoption
CRM can provide insights to facilitate adoption of a unified system for managing KOLs across the company. It is important to have a central database of relevant and pertinent KOL information, which can be securely accessed by employees across all functions from different locations. From Marketing to Research & Development, every function can require crucial information on KOLs to make business decisions. CRM solutions also facilitate generation of alerts or enforcement rules to prevent multiple employees from contacting the same key opinion leader.

4 Pinpoint relevant KOLs
One of the biggest advantages of CRM software is its ability to extract only the most relevant information, as and when required. This can be very useful to eliminate all unnecessary information while dealing with specific scenarios. Sometimes you may just need a focused analysis of the KOL data to make a precise decision. CRM provides the basis for such analysis. In case of a specific drug or product trial, one can highlight the relevant KOLs. This can especially work at times of crisis to isolate the most important KOLs for that time.

5 Analyze real-time information
At the end of the day, the aim of KOL management is to provide pertinent information to relevant individuals or roles whenever required. CRM software with KOL Management capabilities provide real-time reports which can facilitate accurate decision making by quantifying and collating details. For example, CRM reports can help managers study detailed reports on all activities related to KOLs for a specific span of time with their related status and due dates.

Establishing and sustaining KOL relationships can be complicated, the slightest mismanagement can have an impact on the company’s credentials and hence on the demand and adoption of their products. Implementing a CRM solution optimizes KOL management and ensures enhanced credibility for products and services.

3 Top Benefits of Incorporating Social Networking in Your Service Strategy

In today’s consumer-dominated market, customer is king. One of the top priorities of management everywhere is keeping customers satisfied in the most cost-effective manner. Traditional channels of customer service, via phones or face-to-face interactions, are still popular with consumers. But, the power and advantages of social media go beyond simple conflict resolution. The nature of customer interactions and activities on the social medium can act as a strong facilitator for proactive customer relationship management. In such an evolving market, it has become mandatory to explore the avenues of social media to build a strong foundation for customer relationship management.

According to the American Express Global Customer Service Barometer, in India, people are twice as likely to use social media for customer service as consumers in any other part of the world.

The importance of going social in customer service
Today, it’s not just about the increasing number of people on social networks anymore, but what these people are talking about. Customers have opinions and social networks are a popular platform for self-expression. Companies have to be aware of what people are saying about them, listen, respond and control online mentions about their brand to the best of their ability. 

The Benefits of Social Customer Service
Social CRM facilitates clear visibility by automatically capturing social comments relating to your products and competitors. It also collates details to generate actionable intelligence and optimize relationships. 

Social customer portals
A couple of the best characteristics of social mediums are the convenience and swiftness it offers. As opposed to going through long IVR menus or meeting an agent face-to-face, customers can post queries much quicker on a social platform, especially because of increased mobile integration. This leads to a much more engaged customer. Managers can use this to their benefit by leveraging a highly engaged customer as a brand ambassador - customer endorsements act as great catalysts for brands.
Connecting through multiple channels
The online world has its own set of norms. Customers are not just limited to service enquiries anymore. They interact through blogs, videos, instant chat, posts, tweets and much more. As consumers build their own virtual environments and networks, there is no end to how creative one can get with their consumer interactions today. One popular example of this is the Old Spice Man campaign which featured custom-made video responses to customer comments and queries. This viral campaign, which utilised several channels such as Youtube and Twitter, is one of the most popular social campaign today and lead to an increase of 107% in the sales of Old Spice body wash!

Monitoring perceptions
Furthermore, here is a medium which finally gives marketing managers the ability to grab a problem by the horns. By using social CRM diligently and efficiently, managers can stay aware of their brand’s mentions in real-time and take measures before negative publicity gets out of control. By quickly capturing and assigning a tweet, comment or conversation to the customer services team, they can ensure a better customer perception of their brand.

How to improve customer service and increase popularity
As customer service requires attributes like politeness, timeliness and efficient conflict resolution, businesses must provide a human face to their 'social' customer service. The social media approach also needs to be proactive – an organization needs to be active on their social media pages. To ensure popularity:
  • Respond quickly to queries, comments and complaints.
  • Give due importance to feedback and suggestions.
  • Managers need to listen to the employees directly dealing with customers - they hold the most valuable customer insights. These should be used in creating the overall strategy and policies for social media and customer service.

Ensuring success with an effective social CRM

Well informed customer care agents
CRM can equip the employees or agents directly dealing with customers by displaying essential information to handle customer queries and comments. A holistic view of each person an employee interacts with through a CRM solution will provide real-time information like –
  • Is the person a high value customer
  • Open/ closed activities
  • Preferred platform for communication
  • Likes and dislikes
  • Demographics such as age and occupation
This customer information and other details can help agents in responding to the customer and also building a one-on-one relationship. CRM has the ability to take customer services from simple conflict resolution to building meaningful customer relations.

Integration across platforms
The multi-channel nature of social media can make providing customer service all the more daunting. CRM applications offer managers with an organizational platform to integrate all platforms, all channels and all pages. These ensure that one never misses out on any tweet or like or comment. Furthermore, CRM software offer tracking solutions which ensure that managers are aware of their brand mentions and consumer’s online brand related activities, at all times and in real time.

Unique Customer Insights
Customer interactions and presence on social networks offers bundles of customer information that may otherwise require cumbersome and expensive market research. Data mining software can go through this vast information to help businesses understand who their clients are, what opinions they hold and where they air these opinions. Such information is highly valuable in building strategies for deeper and more meaningful customer relations.

At the end of the day, businesses everywhere are becoming more aware of their customers. It is pertinent to establish seamless interactions with clients and build strong customer relations. Customer service on social media websites offers a cost-efficient and highly effective way to do this. With CRM solutions to back this up, businesses can build holistic strategies, seamlessly integrating their social media marketing, customer service, product/ service development and other marketing platforms. 

Neha Kapoor 

3 Tips to Balance Sales Targets and Customer Experience

CRM projects are initiated by forward thinking companies for many reasons. Some initiate CRM implementation projects so they can increase revenue by better understanding their customers, some so they can gain insight into target market segments and some to optimize their business performance. The core of customer relationship management is:
  • The ability to increase revenue through the differentiation of products and services. 
  • Decrease the cost of sales, marketing and service by increasing the execution of these areas. 
  • Build customer loyalty by enhancing and improving the customer’s overall experience.
However, for myriad reasons, the goals of customer relationship management and customer centricity are not always achieved. While a customer centric approach may be what management desires, this does not always translate to the salespeople, they are often under the impression that the goal is to close sales at all costs.

Customer centricity and sales goals do not, however, have to be disproportionate. Customers buy products and services which fill a specific need, and that need must be central to each sale the company makes. By recognizing and capitalizing on these needs companies develop brand loyalty. However, if the sales force does not recognize or circumvents these needs in a desire to close a sale, the relationship with the customer is not established. It is this lack of relationship that can and will damage a company’s desire to become truly customer-centric.

Managing the balance between sales goals and customer-centricity through CRM best practices

1. Understand the needs of the customer
The sales force must optimize the experience of the customer, developing strategic account plans across all departments based on quantitative goals that can be evaluated against company goals. The sales force must be able to assist the customer in determining their exact needs and the exact product that will fulfill those needs. By understanding the customers’ needs they are also in an improved position to cross sell their company’s products. The sales force must also have the ability to adjust their account plan according to changing customer needs. Adjustment of the account plan, while continuing to support the quantitative goals set, will enable them to enhance the customer experience by providing differentiated products and services.

2. Communicate with the sales force effectively
Management must become effective communicators, reducing the “push to profit” with the “push to return.” While the sales force may believe they are accomplishing the corporate goals with each sale they close, if the sale is limited to a single time, then the return on that customer to the company is reduced. The sales force must be convinced and comprehend that a long term customer relationship provides greater value, or return, to the company than a single sale. Many companies opt for an outside trainer or the use of an internal training staff to communicate the company policy. While this type of training scenario can be effective, it remains critical that top management support and communicate their desire for customer centricity at all times.

3. Reward the desired behavior
While every company determines their compensation mix for their particular sales force, compensation can be both the carrot and the stick. In a straight commission environment the sales force may negate the company’s desire to become customer centric. This singular compensation may result in the sales force being focused on reaching their identifiable financial goals or quotas. This self-directed focus will often supersede the goals and desires of the company. Rewarding the desired behaviour can take multiple forms:
  • Reward employees that are named in customer surveys or specifically mentioned in customer feedback.
  • Recognize the people behind the sales force, that may not have direct customer contact but that support those who do.
  • Allow employees to recognize each other’s outstanding performance for customer-centric behaviour.
  • Align the rewards with the corporate goals.
Management needs to recognize that not all rewards must be financial – gift certificates, additional time off, even simple recognition among peers can have lasting benefit in driving customer-centric behavior.

In a nut shell
Companies who choose not to practice customer-centricity will eventually see a negative impact on their overall corporate performance. They will begin to see-
  • Increased customer churn 
  • Decreased customer satisfaction 
  • High turnover of the employee base 
  • Rising costs of doing business 
A company can never underestimate the impact of customer satisfaction and it is only through a culture of customer-centricity that progressively generates a positive experience that this importance will rise to the top. A effective CRM software solution and high impact implementation can prove critical in achieving this.

5 Reasons a CIO should Incorporate CRM with their Social and Mobile Strategy

The advent of social and mobile platforms has lead to drastic changes in the way businesses are run. Not only are companies marketing themselves on such platforms, they are also being used to support core business functions and facilitate cost-effective growth. In this regard, CIOs (Chief Information Officers) across the globe are taking to social and mobile strategies to expand their job profiles to a more revenue centric model. The Harvey Nash CIO Survey, 2012, points out that CIOs are becoming more interested in mobile strategies with 58% of them actively engaged in developing mobile applications.

In understanding the expectations that CIOs have from social and media strategies today, let us first understand the changing role of this business function in the current scenario.

Role of a CIO in revenue generation
By definition, a CIO or Chief Information Officer is one who manages the IT support of a company towards fulfilling organizational goals and in line with business processes. Traditionally, the main aim of a CIO has been to make business operations more cost-effective and efficient through use of information technology. To this end, they endeavor to bring about innovative IT solutions and setups for the business. Today, the role of CIO has seen a major shift from cost-cutting to revenue generation. As technologies are proliferating markets and become more important to businesses, CEOs expect their CIOs to not just cut costs with top-notch IT support but provide proactive IT solutions to bring in more revenue.

The link between CIOs and social/ mobile strategies
CIOs are responsible for technological innovations in the company. As social and mobile are technology based media, the role of a CIO in this context is to develop IT enabled services and applications for customers. For this, the CIO needs to understand customer needs and deliver on these through IT solutions which integrate customer needs as well as business goals. Hence, they have a two-fold expectation from social and mobile strategies – engage the customer and drive business growth. They have the combined knowledge of various channels as well as expertise for technical improvement to bring about higher customer satisfaction.

A CIO's expectations from social and mobile Strategies-

Cost-effective solutions
Within the traditional ambit of cost-cutting, CIOs have always sought inventive application of technology for facilitating business processes. On similar lines, CIOs expect social and mobile developments to stay within IT budgets while aligning perfectly with business goals.

Acquisition-centric strategies
As CIO roles become more revenue centric, their main aim is to develop mobile applications and social media strategies which boost growth and increase sales. Hence, they would expect these strategies to not just be centered on retention and customer service but also have a keen focus on acquisition. In doing so, CIOs look for deeper customer understanding to create technological solutions that can reach more consumers within the target market.

Internal benefits through technology
One of the main aims of CIOs is to create a connection through technology between their customers and the employees. Thus, they expect social and mobile strategies to have an internal application within the organization for improving productivity and team work. For example, mobile applications that enhance employees’ day-to-day tasks or social media platforms which offer them a chance to connect with other employees.

Online Business Processes
With the aim of eliminating costs, CIOs also look towards social and media strategies to drive down costs by taking business processes online. Many core business functions can be further enabled or completely carried out through social or mobile platforms.

Pinpointing customer needs
With the aim of revenue generation, CIOs are now tapping on customer insights to build social and mobile solutions that fit customer requirements. For example, mobile applications to place orders or social pages where one may surf and buy products. Such solutions are more likely to be adopted by the target, hence increasing sales and brand loyalty. In this respect, the Cloud CRM Software plays a crucial role.
Building successful strategies with a CRM solution
CRM software solutions can provide various benefits in relation to a CIO's point of view, the 5 most critical ones are-
  1. An effective Cloud CRM solution can provide the customer insights required to build customer-centric IT solutions.  
  2. It is essential that these platforms be developed in complete alignment with customer requirements and needs. A Cloud CRM Software can offer the rich customer data needed by CIOs to build customer friendly mobile applications and social strategies. 
  3. With CRM, a business can build mobile applications for employees that provide real-time customer data which is especially useful for customer care agents or sales personnel. 
  4. CRM can help identify potential customers which are then targeted through the specific social and mobile platforms which are most likely to reach them. 
  5. CRM can offer information about which platforms are most viable and which are most cost-effective using analytics to understand the customer base.
By integrating a business’ social and mobile strategies with the overall CRM strategy, one can create dynamic IT solutions which seamlessly integrate across various business functions. It is important for these strategies to align with overall business goals while being cost-effective. Technology's unique dominion will facilitate reaching a variety of people simultaneously, it is this power which helps CIOs develop solutions which offer rich customer experience across social and mobile media, while keeping their progress intact with business goals.

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