Friday, December 28, 2007

On predicting the future

I was trying to watch for all kinds of list including CRM predicitions for 2008, but Paul Greenberg apparently has a keener eye than me. He's come up with a comprehensive list of predictions from various researchers and key crm minds out there. Rather than copying his work, I thought I'd just refer to it. Enjoy reading his post.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

On CRM and User Adoption

Triggered by a post on the usability of enterprise software, I ended up reading an article on CRM and user adoption. CRM spending is on the rise again in the US (us Europeans have been experiencing a CRM "mini" boom since mid 2006 already), but one of the main issues in succesful CRM technology implementations is getting users to work with the system, atleast according to AMR Research. One of the most interesting remarks made in the interview with Robert Bois is the following:

"The challenge in CRM is really specific to the sales and marketing applications. Much of the software on the market today helps automate process, but doesn’t necessarily provide incremental value back to the user. Sales people often complain that CRM or SFA is just an administrative burden, and does little more than prove to their boss that they are doing their job. So adoption wanes, and users go back to using familiar tools like spreadsheets, databases or even just Rolodexes." Robert Bois, AMR Research

Over the years I've been involved in service and sales related projects and have worked together with colleagues implementing marketing resource management or automation systems. I've found that service related employees adopt crm solutions far quicker than sales or marketing professionals, mostly because sales professionals do not recognize the added value of a CRM solution, or perhaps I should say because the added value of a CRM solution is not always communicated clearly to sales and marketing professionals. The aim of this post is not to provide a solution to this issue, that has dominated the CRM arena for quite some time, but to merely go into a number of possible causes.

Adoption by service representatives

A CRM application, providing a consitent view of the customer, is the key asset for a service representative. If a service representative would have to work with a combination of spreadsheets, access databases, dispersed information he would simply not be able to perform his work in an efficient, customer friendly way. In other words, a CRM, or service automation application, makes a service representatives life easier and customers happier, which in turn leads to automatic high levels of user adoption. A key driver in implementing a service related CRM application is enhancing a customers experience, by making the job of the service rep (call centre agent or field engineer) easier.

Adoption by sales representatives

Perhaps I should start of with a definition of what a sales rep is, for the purpose of this post a sales rep is the hard working man or woman, travelling around the country or his district to perform face to face sales activities and not the student with a side job in a call centre selling a cheap product, or a long distance phone subscription. What motivates the typical sales representative? His sales based bonus! In my personal experience adoption of sales force automation application is the lowest among simple, one man, account management driven, sales environments. The reason for this is simple, his bonus will not increase by spending time on recording information on a sales visit or recording customer attributes needed for segmentation purposes. Only when a need arises to share information among a team of account managers, jointly pitching to close a deal, does the sales rep start entering and sharing information, after all, if he doesn't share, he might not help win the deal and therefore loose out on his bonus. A typical SFA implementation focuses on asking sales reps to enter information that can be used by the (sometimes hated) 'HQ' to improve segmentation and ensure sales reps focus on selling to the right customers. I believe the key to getting user adoption is to ensure a sales specific CRM system also provides direct benefits to a sales rep that allow him to close a deal (and thereby increas his bonus) quicker. Don't implement an SFA solution just to get more information on your customers for better segmentation so that you can in the end replace your field sales reps with a call centre (which could be your end goal off course), which will require you to beat your sales reps with a stick to get them to work with the system. Implement order or product configuration possibilities as well, provide your representatives with the means to quickly calculate prices and generate offers for customers and sell, sell, sell! This will make the job of the sales rep easier, increase his bonus, and will motivate him to enter the information the rest of the company needs to better target customers and develop new product or service propositions.

On end of year lists and receiving accolades

The holiday season is upon us and a new year is about to start, which means it's time for all kinds of top x of 2007 lists. I've been watching out for these kinds of lists in the CRM area, to see if anything worth sharing was being published on the web. Much to my suprise I seem to have made it onto one of these top x lists, apparently I'm one of the top 20 CRM bloggers, according to Inside CRM. I'm pretty proud of the fact that I'm appearing on this list, with CRM greats like Paul Greenberg, even if I'm only in 20th place. Let's see if I make the list again next year.

On outsourcing your services

A consistent brand experience and high quality service usually leads to a significant decrease in customer churn, after all, a happy customer remains a customer. Some companies are finding benefits in outsourcing customer service to achieve a more consistent brand experience, which sounds somewhat contradictory. An article on Destination CRM provides some more insight into what to look for when wanting to outsource your services.

Monday, December 17, 2007

On seeing the financial benefits of an improved customer experience

An article on CRM daily, written by Natalie L. Petouhoff and Brian R. Johnson from Hitachi Consulting in the US, provides interesting insights into the quantifiable benefits of an enhanced customer experience. All too often CRM applications are implemented just to replace a legacy system, because of a management hype, or due to an intangible need for a new and consistent customer experience. Natalie and Brian provide interesting insights into how to tie the customer experience to financial long and short term objectives of a company and ensure accountability and commitment from senior management through a tie-in with financial reporting standards. Read the article up to page 4, as it turns to a bit of a sales pitch after that.

Friday, December 14, 2007

On customer service lessons from a shopping survey

Marketwatch posted the results of a Wharton survey into the way women and men shop (US Based). The overall results indicate that men are more focussed on buying whereas women tend to shop around. The article also contains some interesting pointers on service within a store, such as a man's tendency to never return to a shop once the item they need has been out of stock once, whereas women tend to not return if they do not get enough attention from shop assistants. Perhaps something to look at when optimizing / revitalizing your storefront / service concept.

Monday, December 10, 2007

On Salesforce to salesforce

Already a big Web 2.0 application, is adding additional features to its product: Social Networking. The salesforce to salesforce part of has been recently launched and provides opportunities for salesforce subcribers and developers to connect and collaborate. Read more on this at Destination CRM.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

On customer data integration (3)

This is post 3 of a 4 part series on the concept and application of Customer Data Integration (hereafter referred to as CDI). The first post dealt with the definition of a number of concepts that make up the field of CDI. The second post, dealt with applying these concepts and defining an overall CDI approach. This, the third post will deal with key success factors in implementing CDI. The fourth post will highlight some of the application solutions that provide CDI specific solutions.

Key success factors

Projects often fail, because the goals and targets are not clearly defined at the outset of a project. The key success factors detailed in this post are mainly derived out of this principle, and measuring whether your CDI implementation is still on target to achieve it's goals. There are of course other KSF's that one could list, but I've limited myself to the three below:

KSF 1. Get the basics right, define a data model first.

In implementing a customer master data application one has to define a uniform customer model (sometimes combined with a uniform product model). The uniform customer model should contain the definition of the attributes a customer has within your organization and which attributes are available in which of your domains. In other words, a customer for your organization is: Someone with a first and last name, a date of birth, social security number, a number of hobbies and a visiting and billing address. The address entity is made up of street, house number, zip code, city, country code etc. The hobbies may be interesting for your marketing department, but not so much for the billing department and as such is not a shared attribute. Define your a bandwidth for deviation in domains and agree on using this as the basis for application implementations. Be sure to leverage the customer master application you have selected, it usually has a standard data model that only need limited revision. Introducing a governance structure such as a design authority that monitors whether projects and departments stick to this guideline can help ensuring success. Only start implementing applications, once you have the customer model defined!

KSF 2. Consolidating customer facing processes

Look at all your customer facing processes, can they be consolidated or reorganized? Would it be beneficial to your organization to consolidate the existing customer call center into a single one, without the need for a customer master system? One of the main reasons behind needing a customer master systems is the need for consistent and on time customer data across channels and processes. If the processes and organizational elements can be consolidated, the need for a customer master system may diminish as well. In other words: get your organization in order, before trying to implement new technology!

KSF 2. One step at a time

The biggest benefits of CDI are reaped once every process is connected to the system of record for your customers, but this does not mean one needs to take one big jump straight to the top of the CDI mountain. This leap could either see you crash landing into the side of the mountain, or jumping over it and completely missing the goal. As with any IT implementation, try to break your CDI initiative into small steps, which deliver quick results while keeping your organization on the right road to climbing the top. Trying to reach the top with a turbocharged initiative could lead to you loosing out on business and not being able to work, once the turbo fails. Get your customer data model in order, get your processes aligned, try out your CDI system for a small department before slowly rolling out across your organization.


Success is not success if it's not measured. In order to ensure one delivers added value through CDI one needs to measure whether improvements are made. In the second post I referred to identifying the pain as one of the first steps in implementing a CDI solution. This first step should also help you in creating a baseline measurement for your CDI KPI's. The first KPI's fall under the category data quality KPI's:

  • Level of duplication (how many customers have you stored more than once).
  • Standardization of data (How many different ways do you to have to store a D.o.B. for instance?).
  • Data completeness (What percentage of attributes in your uniform data model has been given a value, on average).

Initial scores for the KPI's mentioned in the bullets above can be found using data profiling tools (such as Informatica Data Quality ). Frequent measurement throughout your CDI initiative should allow you to measure whether your customer data improves over time.

  • Throughput time and measuring reduction. Is the time it takes to complete your customer intake or order intake process reduced? Is your customer information available across processes and channels quicker? Measure up front and measure during project execution to see a reduction.
  • Customer satisfaction surveys. An obvious KPI is to measure customer satisfaction and measure improvements over time. Are you customers more satisfied because they are able to quickly execute and close interactions (instead having to cal 3 times for each product a customer has, a move is handled with a single call).
  • Net promoter score. The amount of customers that recommend you or your products to others minus the amount of customers that discourage / recommend against buying your products to others. Also a key indicator of customer satisfaction. Does the NPS improve as your CDI initiative moves forward?
  • Number of complaints registered. Related to customer satisfaction, are your customers complaining less as your CDI initiative moves forward?

Post 4 - Vendor specific solutions

The fourth post in the series, which is to be posted next week, will dive into a number of vendor specific CDI solutions and their maturity.

On CRM in 2008

It's time to look back at 2007 and gaze in to what the future holds for all of us. CRM Magazine features an article on CRM 2.0 and possible developments in the CRM arena in 2008. Interesting to see Mitchel Lager's view of the future combined with the views and vision of several industry experts and research analysts. The focus of the article, as in CRM 2.0, is on collaboration, the collaborative enterpise and working together with your customers. Let's see whether the trends and predictions in this article will indeed manifest themselves in 2008.