Transforming your one-time buyers into lifetime customers – Part 22
If you have followed carefully throughout the previous instalments, by now, you would be able to create a good CRM strategy.
You’ve learnt specific topics like e-commerce and handling conflict. And also, you’ve been told that if you want to be successful, your CRM initiative needs to keep moving forward. What’s now left are some how-to-do’s for sustaining your CRM effort.
In this instalment, we’ll apply a process for assessing, aligning, and continually renewing your CRM strategy.
The purpose of this process is to check for your business plans, and find whether it works well as a CRM strategy. We will check the alignment between what customers want, what your strategy tells you to do, and the tactics you’ve chosen to implement that strategy.
Sometimes you are right on track, but usually one of two things would have happened. Either customer needs have shifted, so your strategy no longer points you in the best direction. Or, there has been ‘drift’ in what your employees are doing to implement the strategy. A corporate reset ensures that everyone is implementing the right strategy for the right reasons. Let us customise your process for use in resetting your CRM Strategy.
Resetting your CRM strategy
The process for resetting your CRM strategy has three phases. As in an earlier instalment, where we looked at a process for creating your CRM strategy, the way that you implement this process will vary with the nature and complexity of your customer relationships. However, the basic roadmap remains the same.
First, let us take a look at how your CRM strategy is impacting your target customers.
Is it working to create the experiences, the buying patterns, the recommendations, and the expanded business opportunities you originally sought to create? Phase 2 requires you to look internally. How well is your CRM strategy understood, received, and implemented by the employees responsible for creating and managing your customer relationships? In Phase 3 we take the information learned by looking outward and inward and use it to reset the CRM strategy.
Phase 1: Are you hitting your target?
The ultimate test for your CRM strategy and the tactics you’re using to implement it is customer satisfaction. Go back to your ideal customer service/sales profile. Are you getting the number of initial/stand-alone transactions that you want or need to give your profile a strong foundation? How about repeat customers? And customer advocates? Are the percentages of each of the three levels of customer relationship right for your business?
There are at least four questions you need to ask in Phase 1 of your CRM strategy reset.
Are your CRM strategy measures in place?
You will typically have CRM measures at two levels. The first measure the overall CRM strategy and often look specifically at how well the CRM strategy contributes to the larger organizational business goals and objectives. The second measure the individual tactics you implement.
For example, measures of customer retention or customer churn address overall business goals. Measures of length of time on hold or in line address tactics.
Is the data from your measures being collected, analysed, and shared with the right people in your organization?
For example, comparing the two types of measures cited in the paragraph above can tell you which tactics contribute to your overall goals, which are neutral, and which may actually detract.
Are the measures accurate?
Just because you have a system in place to capture CRM performance data, doesn’t mean that that system is working.
Are your measures an appropriate reflection of your CRM strategy? If, for example, your CRM strategy stresses creative and innovative solutions to customer problems and needs that implies that you will value creative and innovative employees.
However, a local organisation known for innovative services tracked these ‘creative and innovative’ solutions by asking employees to fill out ‘exception reports’ every time they had to create a special solution.
The tone of the measurement and tracking process made employees feel defensive and a bit concerned that they were going to get in trouble for working outside the box. This is not the way to encourage creative responses tocustomers.
Phase 2: Does your CRM strategy work for your people?
This phase is about checking in with the employees responsible for creating, managing, and expanding customer relationships. Is your CRM strategy working for them? If they do not feel aligned with your CRM strategy, it won’t matter how carefully you crafted it, and it will never live up to its potential.
We find that internal focus groups are a terrific tool for this phase. In a small department or functional area, you may want - and be easily able to - involve all employees. For larger areas or for a company-wide CRM strategy, look to talk with a representative sample of employees. Create a discussion guide of the topics you wish to cover and the questions you will ask. Your discussion guide should also include:
Introductions. Usually, you will ask someone outside your department, or even a professional focus group facilitator, to guide the discussion. The facilitator, often called the moderator, should introduce himself or herself and provide an opportunity for the participants to introduce themselves.
A statement of purpose. Explain that you are working on resetting your CRM strategy and that their feedback is vital to the process.
A statement of confidentiality. If you are recording the session, how will the audiotape be used? Usually, you will explain that the focus group report or summary will include participant comments, but that no participant will be identified by name.
Housekeeping about the process. Tell the group how long the focus group will last. Plan for 90 minutes as an average length. You may want to ask participants to turn off pagers and cell phones.
Discussion questions for a CRM strategy reset may include: (a) It’s important for any business to create, maintain, and expand customer relationships. What approach or approaches does your department or functional area use to accomplish this? (The moderator may use a flip chart to capture a list of comments.) (b) Do you believe (a particular approach) is working? Has it been helpful to you in your contacts with customers? Why or why not? (c) What do you think your organization should do to create, maintain, and expand customer relationships?
One of the things that we often find is that support employees feel out of the loop when it comes to your CRM strategy. They may be focused on their specific job tasks but often feel disconnected about how and why their job duties are important to the company and its ability to serve and retain customers.
Phase 3: Time for change
Now, you’re ready to create the reset for your CRM strategy. Pull together the information you gathered in Phase 1 and Phase 2. It may be helpful to display your key findings in two parts. First, list the CRM strengths and successes you uncovered. It’s important to acknowledge and celebrate what you’re doing well.
The second part of your key findings identifies weaknesses. Prioritize this list. If your findings show that you need a major CRM strategy reset, use that process you have already learnt once again.
More often, your list of weakness or opportunities will focus on specific CRM tactics and tools. You can address these in a working session with a group of the individuals responsible for customer relationships. Again, use some of the brainstorming processes described in earlier instalments.
And remember those Post-it notes - the ones that your team used to create your initial list of potential CRM strategies. Now is the time to pull them out, dust them off, and use them to jump-start your new discussions.
(Lionel Wijesiri is a retired company director with over 30 years’ experience in senior business management. Presently he is a freelance journalist and could be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org)