As the CEO of a technology company that provides Customer Management software to small and mid-size companies, I spend a good part of my day talking with other executives about the challenges they face in their business. What’s interesting is that for the most part, these challenges fall into three categories. The most common one is data consolidation. At each of these companies information is streaming into their business every day via the telephone, fax e-mail and the web. What happens to this information is the problem. More often then not vital customer information simply falls through the cracks causing inefficiencies within their organization and keeping them from improving how they sell and provide service to their customers. This is the first challenge.
The second challenge companies face is improving their brand recognition. Every executive wants to improve their visibility in the market they serve so that they can generate new leads and turn those leads into new sales opportunities, but most do not have a marketing department or the tools to create consistent and effective marketing programs. They also need to efficiently manage the sales process by utilizing a structured approach that enables them to manage each phase of the sales cycle from introduction to closure. Implementing a structured sales methodology or process in an organization that does not currently have one can be an enormous task and one they should not take on alone. This is challenge number two.
Lastly, these businesses are working hard to meet customer expectations. Customer retention is mission critical to the health of their business and they need to be certain that they can provide a level of service that drives customer loyalty. This can be a difficult task if the support staff does not have access to customer profiles and history. This is challenge number three.
So what are companies doing to meet these challenges? Many are struggling to address these requirements using a contact manager or an Excel spreadsheet, while others have run out and selected a popular CRM system with all the bells and whistles and are struggling just the same.
So what’s the answer?
It starts by spending the time to really understand your business and taking a hard look at where you are today and where you want to be in the future. Some businesses are simply more mature than others and have well defined internal business processes, state of the art back-office systems and computer savvy employees that can quickly adopt to change. Other businesses do not.
What I continue to find disturbing in the CRM sector is that recent industry statistics have shown that 73% of companies that have purchased CRM software have not utilized the majority of the functionality they have purchased. The industry continues to blame the software providers for making these systems too hard to use, but the real problem lies within the companies themselves and the process they used to select the CRM applications.
Small to mid-size companies have a tendency to approach the selection process the same way. They start out with a feature list that only an enterprise company can deploy then determine who can offer that level of functionality for the lowest cost.
This process is flawed because it fails to take into consideration whether the company and its staff will be able to adopt the new technology.
At Commence Corporation we have taken a different approach to positioning our sales, marketing and customer service solutions by asking customers as series of questions about their business, their internal systems and their people. These questions help us to better understand how well defined their internal business processes are, whether they are currently automated, and how well positioned they are for managing change.
|LEVEL 1||Loosely defined processes that are ad-hoc or unstructured, limited to no automation – using email and Excel spreadsheets|
|LEVEL 2||Some defined processes — using contact management software, no marketing or service automation|
|LEVEL 3||Structured internal processes with disparate departmental automation (silos of information)|
|LEVEL 4||Well defined internal processes –fully automated & integrated systems|
Based on what we’ve learned, we then recommend only the software components that we believe the company can quickly adopt and master, so that they realize the maximum value from our CRM software. This approach has helped customers to put down the feature function list for a minute and realize that CRM software does not run their business, people do. If you’re a level 3 company with mature processes, systems and people, then you are most likely well equipped to implement a robust CRM solution across multiple departments, but if you’re a level one company, then start with the basics and focus on fixing one problem at a time.
We recommend that you begin by addressing the first challenge data consolidation, then move on once you are comfortable. This approach will guarantee that you will realize a return on your investment.
About the author: Larry Caretsky is the CEO of Commence Corporation, a leading provider of CRM software which can be deployed in a web-based, cloud-computing environment or on premise. Caretsky is considered an expert in Customer Relationship Management and has written numerous white papers on the subject, which may be accessed via the company’s web site at www.commence.com.