Customer Relationship Management Strategies
Part Four: Strategies and Case Study
Mike Holland and Trinh Abrell
Keeping in mind the three main components of CRM, the customer, the relationship, and management, we will expand on specific customer relationship management (CRM) system strategies that will help you realize your investment.
Some crucial strategies you must adopt are
- Develop specific, measurable goals
- Establish ROI strategy to achieve your goals
- Build the technical framework
- Identify explicit sales and marketing strategies
- Outline Internet strategies
- Develop and maintain customer satisfaction metrics
Develop specific, measurable goals
Vague, abstract mission statements were pervasive in the business culture of the 1980s. Companies sought to motivate their employees by posting "catchy" slogans and ambiguous corporate agendas all over their office spaces. Statements like "to provide the best quality" or "to provide quality customer service" are all positive goals that employees want to strive for. However, these mission statements are hard to live up to if there is not a substantial measure of standard to compare to. "Quality" and "Best" are all unquantifiable.
Create your catchy mission statements but find ways to quantify the results. Set specific and measurable goals. For example, increase your revenue by x percent, decrease product exchanges by y amount, increase profit margin by x dollars, decrease attrition by y percent. If you want to increase the quality of your product, consider what happens when your products are less than 100 percent quality. Do you spend more money replacing the product? More dollars are spent servicing products still under warranty. Does your call center experience more calls? Is there high wastage? Do you set out to decrease money spent on replacement products or parts by $100,000, or decrease call volume by 40 percent, or decrease wastage by half? These are goals your employees can understand and strive for.
This is Part Four of a four-part note.
Part One discussed new approaches to CRM implementation,
Part Two discussed implementation strategies, and Part Three described achieving and maintaining the competitive edge.
Establish ROI strategy to achieve your goals
It is no accident that CRM performance accounts for a large part of a companies profitability or lack there of. Once you've identified your goals, compare those numbers to the investment you've made in your CRM system. Create a return on investment (ROI) strategy that delivers the best return on your investment, and will provide more dividends in the future. Utilizing the analytical tools that your CRM applications provide is the key to understanding and defining a company CRM ROI. CRM analytics help companies to recognize consumer behavioral patterns and identify new opportunities in the marketplace. Mine your data to learn about customer's buying habits, their marketing profile, consumer risk thresholds, and segmentation.
The main objective here is to ascertain if your investment was worthwhile. Did it reach optimal return? If not, how much did it reach by? Can you make up for it in economy in size?
To calculate your ROI, estimate your per-customer cost of implementation. Add to it the cost of maintenance, including head count and overhead (of the employees you've added to support the system), hardware, storage, user education, and upgrades. Multiply this by the number of customers you have. This is the cost of your CRM initiative. Next take your number of customers multiply it by your gross profit, multiply that yet again by your success rate. Take the product and subtract from it the total cost of your CRM initiative. The result is your return on investment.
Calculating ROI involves numerous factors and the analytical tool in your CRM application will help you with the complex equation. However, you need to determine what elements need to be measured and how to measure them. Key elements include per customer cost for the implementation, maintenance (including any employees hired to maintain the system), user training, upgrades, and general overhead. Also include the gross profit and the success rate, which is normally expressed as a percentage. It is here were establishing metrics is crucial. You need to determine what factors will be included in the success rate, such as office efficiencies, sales growth, customer growth etc. and you need to establish how they will be weighed. Depending on your industry and your company's goal, the presence and weight of these factors vary. Remember, you need to establish that your CRM investment will not only pay back in time, it will actually make or save you money. Knowing where your company currently sits and where the CRM system will take it, will make the case for a CRM system.
Build the technical framework
CRM strategies are turned into action items by implementing innovative software and powerful databases. Your sales and marketing strategies have worked for you in the past—there is a reason why your company is a mid-market organization and not a small business. To continue on the path of growth, your organization needs to relate your sales and marketing actions to the technology at hand. The technology is there, take advantage of it. Why invest in the system and not exploit it to make your job and your employees' jobs easier?
Your CRM system can automate processes and provide data analytics. Before CRM, your marketing manager would storyboard a marketing campaign, hold meetings to discuss the idea, put together a spreadsheet of prospective customers, make multiple copies of the list, hand them out to each sales representatives, walk back to his office, and wait for his sales people to make the phone calls, and write up the order.
However, your CRM system can drastically reduce those manual steps. Collaborative tools are available to users for discussing ideas, getting budget authorization, obtaining concept approval, setting up meetings, and exchanging e-mails. Marketing tools can help you import lists, assign leads, qualify leads, generate quotes, and create sales orders.
Sales analytics can help you recognize patterns and track buying habits. Knowing how to use these individual tools is not enough. A successful CRM strategy encompasses the entire CRMBC. Integrate your sales and marketing functions with your customer service efforts, and circle around to your customer satisfaction evaluation. The CRMBC is a continuous feedback loop that integrates the application with organizational strategies to facilitate, gather, and process customer behavioral patterns in terms of discreet units of data.
Identify explicit sales and marketing strategy
How will you achieve your company's goals? What key sales and marketing strategies do you need to get your organization from point A to point B, from 10 percent profit margin to 30 percent profit margin, from 50 percent attrition rate to 25 percent, from 800 service calls a day to 500? Your plan must be specific and detailed. It should consider your customer's needs and how you react to those needs.
Sales and marketing strategies can utilize CRM to provide contact points with the customer to present product offerings. It is this interaction that your marketing plan must take advantage of. A sales person that makes an outbound call is an event that can trigger a step in your marketing strategy. When a customer calls into your service center, that is a contact point. How can your marketing department capitalize on this event?
Wrap your sales and marketing plans around these points of contact for opportunities to execute.
Outline Internet strategies
The World Wide Web has decreased the cost of doing business by enabling economy of scale. Nowhere else can you potentially reach billions of people, make millions of contact points, and create a fortune in opportunities, all with the luxury of mass communication, dynamic content, and instant recall. You can invest very little in Internet technology and receive a high return.
Mid-market companies seldom capitalize on this relatively inexpensive tool. Consider a mass mailing of 100,000 households. The list would cost you a few hundred if not thousand of dollars. The print and paper would cost you more, and postage, if mailing in the US, would set you back about $17,000 (USD). If you're lucky, you will get a 10 percent response rate. Most people will throw your mailer away. If it crosses their mind later, they won't remember what was on it and they certainly wouldn't have memorized your phone number.
Successful Internet strategies must have three characteristics:
- Facilitate user interaction
- Provide a benefit to the customer
- Add to value to your system
First, users will not stay long on your site if they cannot interact, whether they are reading valuable information they cannot easily get elsewhere, or they are engaging in an on-line game, or the visual aspects of your site fascinate them. Engage your audience.
Second, you must provide an advantage over traditional sales channels. An Internet strategy must meet a need your customer has but in a way that is timelier, more convenient, more accessible, or more economical. If your customer logs a request for service via the Internet, will it be completed more quickly? Can your customer register his product on the Internet easier than mailing in a postcard? If your customer purchased a product on your web site, can they get it for less than on the shelf? For example, Barnes and Noble sometimes offers their books for less on their web site than at their stores.
Third, take advantage of this channel to add value to your CRM system. Have your customers verify their address when they re-order a product. Ask your customers to take a survey. Capture your customer's interest by tracking their traffic through your site. Did they spend more time in the electronics section than in the book section? Track your customer's buying habits. Do your customers wait for a sale to purchase a product? How many items do they order at one session?
Bringing It All Together: Total Integration through the CRMBC Feedback Cycle
We can see how this all works through our hypothetical case study: Cool Pool, Inc.
Company : Cool Pool , Inc., a mid-market organization with about 250 employees and sell pool-cleaning supplies.
Product: Beamer Skimmer, a robotic skimmer that floats across the top of the water in a pool to catch debris.
The Players : Marketing, Sales, Customer Service, Purchasing, senior management, customers.
In March, a lull time, the top marketing executives decide on a campaign to sell their newest product: the Beamer Skimmer. They create the Beamer Campaign in their CRM system, selecting team members and establishing a budget, and they schedule a meeting with the creative design team to create colorful collateral pieces and full-page magazine ads.
The creative design team loads a few mocked-up designs into the system, attaches them to the campaign, and sends it to Marketing for approval. Marketing receives e-mail notification requesting approval and Bill logs into his CRM application, reviews each design, and prints a couple out. Margaret, the Marketing manager, joins Bill and they select a design. Bill clicks the approval button for design #3 and an e-mail is sent to Margaret requesting her approval. After she approves, Bill has a brainstorming meeting with Marketing to update the web site.
Curtis, the director of sales and marketing, also receives an e-mail asking to approve the campaign's budget. He looks at the budget, compares it to the annual marketing budget, and approves the funding. Bill calls Curtis about a mailing list of households with income of $75,000 $200,000 that he will purchase from a marketing company. Bill commits to importing it into the CRM system by and tells Curtis that the web site has been updated to introduce the new product, and each unit contains a warranty registration card and instruction how to register on-line.
With the information in the system, the telemarketing department can now be assigned and can qualify the leads, and the sales department can contact the qualified leads to make a sales pitch. As the orders come rolling in, a strategic planning session is planned between sales and the company's senior officers. Hassan, from the Customer Service department, introduces the Summer Customer Care initiative. His department will use the CRM application to sort the sold leads, setup their telephone routing system to randomly call the numbers on the list, and his customer service reps will conduct follow up quality calls and remind customers they can register their product on-line.
Purchasing states there is an oversupply of hand-held manual skimmers. Curtis suggests that customer service reps cross sell those hand-held skimmers for those hard to reach places, like corners and crevices that the Beamer can't get to.
In September, Bill from marketing views several analytic reports from his CRM application to see how many Beamers were sold. From one report, he can see the overall cost of the campaign, from a sales report, the gross profit from the sales of the units. His CRM application calculates the ROI and he can decide whether to carry the Beamer Skimmer for another year. Bill also reviews the web site usage report and he notices a spike in hits after the campaign was rolled out. Then it tapered off and spiked again early fall. He sees an opportunity to market some pool covers in the fall.
Meanwhile Curtis looks at the sales report and he sorts the numbers by sales rep. He can see which of his reps sold the most units, which did not make their quotas and which did. He is able to make management decision based on results.
Hassan views the daily reports of inbound call volume. He can see, for example, who takes the most calls, the number of abandoned calls, and how many calls were due to customer complaints or quality issues and how many were for replacements or refunds. Hassan is able to make management decisions and report back to Marketing on the product reliability and servicing costs.
Hassan's customer care reps complete the CRMBC cycle by conducting follow up calls. His CRM application has a trigger that adds a customer to a call list one month after they purchase the Beamer. Using a scale of 1 to 10, they call customers to see how the company fulfilled their expectations in terms of the product and service. Because customer satisfaction is also about exceeding expectations, customers are asked about the buying experience, and if the customer would not just recommend the Beamer to their friends, but if they would recommend everything in the whole store. Customer satisfaction metrics are entered into Hassan's CRM application, and used to develop better products and provide better service.
Walmart developed a strong customer care reputation with their no hassle return policy. People are not afraid to make impulse buys because with or without a receipt, they can return the product and the store will refund their money or exchange the item.
You have just experienced a company that has fully integrated their business strategy with their CRM applications suite. It is a well-oiled machine that has a cause and effect on every aspect of the marketing, sales, service, and customer satisfaction cycle.
Changing your organization is not easy. You have many challenges ahead of you. From data quality issues, to change management, to selecting the right implementation partners, your CRM project is full of bumps and holes. You can manage these bumps. You can mitigate your risks just by being aware of them. With the right focus, the customer in mind, and the strategy outlined in these pages, you will be able to prepare your organization for a successful CRM implementation.
This concludes Part Four of a four-part note.
Part One discussed new approaches to CRM implementation, Part Two discussed implementation strategies, and Part Three described achieving and maintaining the competitive edge.
About the Authors
Mike Holland is president of Management Advisory Systems Corporation, which he founded in 1993 with a group of former "Big Six" managers and industry experts. He has managed and participated in hundreds of business-based technology projects over the past twenty years including projects for Arthur Andersen and PriceWaterhouse/Coopers. Holland is also the co-author of the Guide to PC-Based Software for the Manufacturing Industry and Requirements Analyst. In addition, he has developed and taught seminars for more than a thousand participants in the methodology for selecting and implementing business and technology infrastructure solutions, e-commerce, and web-based solutions. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Trinh Abrell is vice president of Management Advisory Systems, Corporation. She has been responsible for strategizing, selecting and implementing a wide range of technology solutions for diverse clients over the past ten years. Abrell has worked for Enron as a CRM senior specialist and for Retriever Payment Systems as the lead project manager on ERP and CRM implementations. She is a Siebel Certified Consultant, as well as a member of the Society for Technical Communicators and the Project Management Institute. She can be reached at email@example.com.