Drew Fredrick, Vice President, Home Building Technology, Clayton Homes
Drew Fredrick, Vice President, Clayton Homes is a versatile senior executive with a background in Infrastructure Operations Application Development, Project/Program Management, and Enterprise Architecture. In an interview with Proptech outlook he explains about the importance of customer relationship management implementation.1. In your experience, how have technology implementations changed the approach toward Customer Relationship Management in various enterprises?
Having been in the technology field for over 29 years, needless to say a lot has changed. Mobile devices are ubiquitous; cloud services are changing user expectations for availability and responsiveness; and the amount of information we collect and share has skyrocketed. Something else that has also changed is the amount of regulations and scrutiny around how data is stored and secured (Examples: GDPR in Europe, CCPA in California, HIPAA in the healthcare industry, and PCI in the payments industry).
What may sound like an obvious observation, though, is that we are living in a digital world, and our customers’ demands and expectations are increasingly requiring more interactive digital experiences. From a home building perspective, customers are eager to look at their future home, not necessarily in person or through online photography, but virtually through 3D renderings and virtual walkthroughs that are representative of the look, feel, and environment of the home. People are also changing to an on-demand or custom schedule shopping timeline, which means we need to provide several channels of communications including in-person, online chat, email, and chatbots so we can be responsive to their questions any time. We are increasingly becoming beholden to the always-on economy.
All of these interactions require platforms or systems considerations that are flexible and dynamic enough to meet the needs across the spectrum. These tools need to provide the personal interactions consumers expect but also provide the ability to schedule appointments online, or offer everything online and never require a customer to speak with another person. From a technology perspective, this requires a keen focus on how software solutions integrate, what the integration points are, if they actually need to talk to other systems or if they can stand alone, how many systems you need, and if the costs are worth the potential benefits.
The mobility of our workforce has also added an additional dimension to technology considerations. With the popularity of mobile devices, mobile applications, and the always-on economy, technology divisions need to consider multiple use cases for how their users will access data. Along with a variety of screen sizes for phones, tablets, laptops, and desktop devices, technology teams also have to consider low or no-bandwidth scenarios (Can your applications store-and-forward or must they be connected in real-time to operate properly?) and how much data needs to be shared. Sending large files needs to be considered and planned out as well, when you consider architecture CAD drawings and renderings.
As more and more elements of our environment become digitized, the complexity of the technology footprint continues to grow. Most businesses are growing at breakneck speeds and don’t have the luxury of planning and preparing for how to implement new technologies. Now more than ever, it requires planning and preparation. The saying goes “measure twice, cut once.” The same is very true in the PropTech space with technology implementations.
2. Could you elaborate on some of the challenges organizations face in the PropTech space?
I would break this down into three main challenges. The first would be the sheer volume of technology products and services that are available in this space and how you select them. With so many products available today, the sheer number of tools and solutions make it challenging to determine what products are the right fit for your organization. Picking the right solution is a matter of personal preference. Do you prefer Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) solutions or do you like to host the solution yourself? Do you like simple, single-user solutions or do you want enterprise-grade solutions? It depends on your company, your users, and your ability to support the solution to answer that.
Second, complexity of your technology environment is the next challenge. As the number of systems you have under management grows, the more systems you need to support and the more potential breaking points you have. If you have slowness in your systems, your customers (and users) will be frustrated, so expectations will be for quick, responsive solutions. You have to plan for maintenance and downtime, but in the always-on economy there are few windows that are convenient to have your systems offline. So, do you invest in redundant systems or do you risk not being available when your customers are looking for you? And if this doesn’t sound like it is important or relevant to you, then wait until you have put all of your eggs in one basket of a great software company, only to have them be unavailable during your busiest time of the day. It happens.
The third challenge is about managing costs and return on investment. As your business environment adds more technology components, you have three key areas of costs to manage: people (either hiring your own team or leveraging a services company), hardware, and software. Some of these are fixed annual costs while others are variable transactional costs, and each require planning and oversight to ensure they don’t grow out of control. Technology is an enabler, but it can very quickly become expensive and inefficient if not managed properly.
3. What are some of the best practices that firms can utilize and engage in order to enhance their Customer Relationship capabilities?
One of the most important practices for Customer Relationship implementations is to set realistic expectations up front. If your company is not using a Customer Relationship Management tool already, invest a good amount of time and effort in Organizational Change Management. Discuss the reasons for Customer Relationship tools at your company, how they will be used, how it will affect individual roles, and have feedback sessions allowing team members to ask questions and understand the drivers behind the plan. Make sure the goals and success criteria are clearly defined before you move forward.
If you are purchasing a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) solution to improve customer contact rates, then put the metrics and plans in place up front and build your implementation plan around those goals. If it is to manage sales processes, be transparent about how it will be tracked, monitored, and used so that it doesn’t create negative behaviors. Regardless of why you are implementing a Customer Relationship tool, engage the users before the tool is implemented so they have an opportunity to see the benefits and understand the plan.
One tactic that has been well received is to create journey maps as part of the implementation plan. The journey map helps tell the story of how the Customer Relationship Management tool will create a better environment to solve some of the current organizational challenges by walking through current state challenges and showing the perceived target state. By implementing a new CRM with meaningful processes that are relevant to the company, it makes the journey personal and real.
4. From a personal point of view, what advice would you like to share with aspiring executives seeking to build careers in the PropTech space?
Stay informed in the technology space, since it is such a rapidly changing environment. Participate in industry events, walking the Technology booths to understand what projects other companies are investing time and effort into developing and creating. Try to experiment with small, meaningful projects first. Don’t swing for the fences but start with a few small items and build on the successes.