CRM and Technological Solutions: Be the Customer

  • Written By: Randy Garland
  • Published: June 22 2002

CRM and Technological Solutions: Be the Customer
R. Garland - June 22, 2001


"Be the bagel." It was a refrain I heard often in a metalworking shop class I took in one of my engineering classes back in college. The purpose of the class was for the students to both design and build an original device of their own creation, with the purpose of helping them understand that engineers can't work in a vacuum, and they need to understand the implications of their design decisions when they send their blueprints down the line to the shop for prototyping and, ultimately, production.

"Be the bagel" was the phrase that my coach used to get me to focus on what was most important about my creation - an automated bagel cutter. His point was that I needed to put myself in the shoes of the object around which I was developing my project; namely, the bagel. It was a running joke among my non-techie friends. But its point and implications carry forward, even to this day, as I write about CRM, or, Customer Relationship Management: "Be the customer" as you design your CRM landscape.

Be the Customer 

When we think about implementing a CRM application, we tend to think about automating processes within Sales, Marketing, Customer Support, Field Force, and even Partner Relationships. But really, we should be focused on the essence of CRM and its real reason for being part of the IT arsenal: Its ability to make the entire customer experience easier, less painful, and maybe even enjoyable, so that we can attract and retain customers and improve and maintain corporate profitability over the long run. Listen as the customer says:

"Tell me what kinds of products or services you have to offer, and why I might want to buy them at the price points you've established (Information). Once I've quickly located the right product/service, let me easily place an order for it, track my order, and maybe even cancel the order if I change my mind (Transaction). Once I receive the product (Fulfillment), if I have questions or problems, give me easy and direct access to information or other resources to help me solve my problem (Support). If you do all of those things, you've won me as a Customer For Life."

Figure 1.

These are the four steps at the heart of any CRM implementation. Constantly bring yourself back to these questions: By adding this bit of functionality through my CRM implementation, am I:

  1. Making it easier for the customer to access the information about our products or services that they need?

  2. Making it simple for the customer to transact and track their order with us?

  3. Fulfilling the customer transaction in a timely fashion?

  4. Helping the customer make the best use of the product or service?

Sounds logical, and simplistic, but if you don't focus your CRM implementation on these four requirements, and all four, you and your company proceed at your own peril.

How about your company's web site? 

A recent study by Forrester Research in Cambridge, Mass., showed that 45 percent of companies surveyed are considering CRM projects, either full-blown or pilots, and 37 percent have installations under way or complete. "These are Global 3500 firms," says Bob Chatham, an analyst at Forrester. "Our study also shows a typical firm in this category will spend $15 million to $30 million per year on software and services to enhance the customer conversation." These are dramatic numbers. If you're your company's CIO, you just better get it right.

Is it part of your plan to provide your customers with the tools to not only view information about your products, but truly interact with your company about the products, through product configurators, some form of interactive, guided selling, or online help via live chat, to get customers to the right products, quickly? If they can't find the products they want, they won't place the order.

Is it part of your plan to have a streamlined electronic shopping process defined and enabled, so your customers can place and pay for the order directly? Do you plan on linking information about your shipments back to the customer, so they know exactly when to expect the goods? Experience in the early days of the Web showed us some ugly statistics about poorly-designed shopping cart processes that were too difficult for the customer to navigate: some 80% of customers who began filling their online shopping carts abandoned them somewhere in the process. Things have since dramatically improved as businesses learned the lesson.

Do you plan on having electronic support tools in place, such as FAQs, searchable knowledge bases, and user communities, and technical support staff available through a variety of means (live chat, phone, fax, email) to answers questions and solve problems? Giving your customers what they want, but not being readily available to give them answers, means returned product, and probably losing a customer for life.

Bottom Line 

Technology doesn't exist for technology's sake. In CRM, or in e-CRM, lead with core requirements, specifically, those of the customer, or expect to fail.

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