I was reflecting the other day on my clients, and mentally sorting them into two categories, those with successful CRM programs, and those still struggling to find success.
The success stories are extremely rewarding – these organizations have achieved the benefits people associate with CRM and that the CRM vendors tout, and have demonstrated that the technology can deliver on its promises in the right environment. In reviewing how these organizations are using CRM, clear examples of success are obvious and easy to find: improved access to customer information, thoughtful automation to reduce manual work and streamline processes, and management reporting that is meaningful and helps drive decisions. Usage of the CRM tools are high and the mood around CRM is upbeat.
The struggling clients, on the other hand, seem locked in a cycle of poor user adoption, user dissastifaction with CRM, and leadership that seems disengaged (looking upon the CRM program almost as if they are an external observer) and ready at any moment to toss their existing technology aside for the next new thing from one of the CRM vendors.
Our team and approach to our CRM client engagements are relatively consistent – why do we not see consistent results in our clients?
The obvious answer is that we can’t make clients successful with CRM, despite what we want to believe about ourselves and our abilities. It’s not really about us – like the CRM software we help clients implement, we as consultants are merely another tool that can be used effectively to craft a successful CRM program, or used unsuccessfully on a project that ends in failure.
What drives CRM success is effective and committed leadership. Organizational leaders who possess the following qualities are the true “secret sauce” to CRM success.
- A clear vision and a set of measurable goals for the CRM program
- The willingness to invest the needed resources
- The ability to drive change in their organizations
- The perseverance to remain committed through the challenging beginning phases of launching a CRM program
What does the importance of organizational leadership mean for consultants? How do we deliver more successes for clients? I think there are two things for us to do:
- Continue to educate our client leaders on how to establish and steward successful CRM programs. Our experience can help clients put programs in place that can support a healthy, satisfied user community and ensure that the CRM application continues to evolve to meet the changing needs of the organization. We are experts at doing this, and our expertise can help a capable leadership team find success with a minimum of missteps.
- Be more upfront with prospective clients about the true driver of success in CRM programs. Share candidly when we think that the client is not equipped for success. While this approach may result in a smaller number of clients and projects, it will yield a higher percentage of CRM success stories.
What does the importance of organizational leadership mean for clients?
- Understand that CRM success is not wrapped up in a technology product. The “success story” organizations would have been successful with any of the top CRM technology platforms. Don’t look to the technology vendors for answers if your CRM initiatives are failing.
- You need a strong partner who can show you how to plan and implement a successful CRM program, but they can’t do it for you. You and your colleagues have to own the CRM program, to lay out the vision and sell it within your organization. It is your commitment and grit that are the only things that will deliver success.
As CRM consultants we have a large role to play in helping our clients achieve their CRM goals. But success for both our clients and for ourselves will come from each party understanding the role, capabilities, and limitations of the other.