CRM as a Tool for Cultural Change
By Veronica Mikhail, and Senior Director of Marketing, APAC and Japan, SugarCRM
Business models and entire industries are being disrupted by new technologies, as digital transformation forces organisations to reassess how they adapt and provide their customers with value into the future
One common key theme that has emerged as one of the biggest obstacles to making the transition from product-focus to customer-focus is cultural change. Changing employee behaviour can be more difficult than redesigning products and services, or implementing new technology, and a failure to bring the organisation on this change will undermine any other investment.
Using CRM Technology to Drive Cultural Change
The often unrealised potential of Customer Relationship Management (CRM) technology is that it can be a very effective way of supporting organisational change.
“ Mobile technology is continuing to change the way we work, and providing the opportunity to free employees from their desks, to spend more time where their customers are.”
Customer-facing employees using a CRM solutionwill spend many hours per day using the system to support them and enable them to be more effective in their job. A sufficiently flexible CRM system can be configured toreinforce the behaviours you want employees to exhibit, to succeed in delivering the desired customer experience.
What Culture do I Need?
Organisational culture is as unique as the customers you serve and the products and services you provide. But there are some fundamental principles that can apply to any organisation.
Recognising and Valuing Customers
Your customers are people who want to be recognised, respected and valued as individuals as well as loyal customers.
One of the major obstacles facing employees trying to be more customer-centric is the access to information. CRM systems provide the opportunity to consolidate information from multiple sources and provide a single view of the customer; providing a way of recognising and relating to each individual customer.
Information about customers can be gathered from all of your information systems, including digital channels like online orders, the website, social media and more, and combined with information from human channels, where a person speaks to a person, such as in a contact centre or the sales team.
Customer-centric culture starts with understanding that a business’ customers are, and a CRM system which helps employees see the full view of their customers underpins this.
Customer loyalty and trust go hand in hand, and the behaviours for building trust are fairly universal:
One of the quickest ways to destroy trust is to break a promise, even if it is a trivial commitment like “someone will get back to you in 24 hours”. CRM technology can help employees learn to keep promises by reminding users of commitments, and escalating activities
that are likely to breach promised service level agreements.
Trust can be built by organisations being consistently responsive to customers, especially when there are questions or issues. CRM systems provide the opportunity to give your customer-facing staff the tools and information required to answer enquiries and address issues quickly.
Having a single view of the customer, with all relevant information in one place, will allow customer-facing staff (and automation systems) the ability to anticipate the needs of customers and proactively address them, rather than waiting for the customer to initiate contact.
It can be a joy to speak to someone who is knowledgeable and helpful. But knowledge about the product can only be part of the picture. Often the picture isn’t complete without being similarly knowledgeable about the customer, their needs and wants and previous history with the organisation.
Having Time for Customers
Desktop computers have made people more productive but at the consequence of tethering them to a desk in an office. In many cases, this has led to less face-to-face time with customers and reduced the customer-centric culture.
Mobile technology is changing the way we work, and mobile CRM is providing the opportunity to free employees from their desks, to spend more time where their customers are.
The process of automating otherwise frustrating and wasteful administrative effort provides another opportunity for a quick win. But automation only works when the data being collected and the supporting processes are in place, so the benefits of automation positively reinforce the new business processes.
Listening to Customers
When a CRM system pulls customer data together across the customer’s whole journey, it invariably crosses departmental boundaries and provides a basis for marketing, sales, and post-sales teams to collaborate. This transparency helps highlight where things are working and where there is room for improvement.
The process of configuring the CRM system forces teams to consider where the departmental boundaries should be, andthe optimal approach for handing off from one team to another. The new processes become embodied and reinforced by the CRM system, quickly defining the new normal. This works especially well when the early phases of the CRM project focus on those high-profile challenges facing two teams who need to work more closely together.
Measuring what's working
A CRM system can provide transparency into what’s working and what’s not. Measuring the organisation at three different levels:
1) Business outcomes such as revenue or profit,
2) Customer metrics such as net promoter score, and
3)Operational indicators such as time to resolution on customer enquiries.
Constantly monitoring performance keeps the organisation focused on the change that was envisioned, identifying the areas that are working and the areas that need more attention. Getting the measures right, creates a constant reminder of the new processes, making it part of “the way we do things around here”.
The CRM system that is flexible enough to continue to change and improve, without huge re-implementation costs, will help support continual improvement, and achieve the holy grail of business leaders; a “culture of innovation”.
Encouraging the organisation to continually improve information systems, will also drive constant innovation in the business processes, and ultimately the exercise of change itself will become part of the organisational culture.
The alternative of being handicapped by a big, complex, and inflexible system is the reduced ability to innovate, and adapt to changing customer demands, opening the door for new competitors who can.
Anchoring New Approaches in the Culture
Culture can be defined as behaviour and shared values among a group of people, who then pass those values on to new members. An ideal CRM system will support this normalisation of behaviour by providing reporting and transparency into whois effectively following the new ways of doing things, and highlighting those people who need more support.
Systematising this approach provides the opportunity to tighten the feedback loop, so that deviations from accepted practice are identified quickly, immediately, or even prevent the deviation from occurring in the first place.
A flexible CRM system, appropriately configured, can entrench a pattern of delivering great customer experiences into your organisational cultural.