A Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Implementation Lessons Learned

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The ever-increasing pressure to reduce costs and gain market share has led organizations to leverage technology in a beneficial way. Excellent customer service is becoming a distinguishing factor as companies strive to find that niche that sets them apart from the competition. Customers are an asset and customer data is critical to organizational success. It only makes sense that companies will look for ways to combine these goals and develop high customer service expectations and lower costs in order to help achieve revenue increases. Customer Relationship Management (CRM) solutions have been around since the 1970’s, but they’re taking on additional dimensions as solutions incorporate cloud computing, social media, and even Software as a Service (SaaS).

Those looking for a CRM tool to improve member service and support to improve the entire experience should consider the following:

First, is technology. Organizations need to consider their short-term and long-term goals and priorities. Trying to implement everything at once can be expensive and challenging for an organization to absorb. Further, technology is changing rapidly and it is a balancing act of wanting the latest technology (but not well established) and a more robust and mature product. Instead, focus on a scalable CRM product, that will grow as the organization grows. Also, look for products that allow for integration with a company’s existing products instead of those that require the procurement of replacement products. This can improve the adoption and sustainability of a CRM product and reduce costs.

Customer Relationship Management products are very powerful and can consume a vast amount of data. As a result, data is critical to the process, but can also be the most challenging component. It is critical to get the data right. Timing and accuracy must be understood and processes must be adhered to as they impact the downstream collection and utilization. Ensuring that data is normalized, data integrity is sound and there is a logical way to receive and send the data may take time, but is worth the investment and commitment.

With all of this available technology (and companies like SalesForce continuing to acquire additional technology companies), organizations need to ensure they have the right talent to support this new technology. New technologies may require training of existing resources in order to support any new skillsets required. Organizations should consider this as part of the implementation plan to ensure they have the money and time required. As an alternative option, companies could try to buy the skillset, but there may be limited availability in their marketplace and third-party consultants can come at a high price tag.

It is important to consider CRM as a corporate IT asset that brings about enterprise business value. The functionality in many CRMs is such that it can be used across many business units. In an effort to avoid multiple licenses, instances or agreements, considering this a corporate or enterprise IT asset can help eliminate unnecessary costs, complexities and streamline any associated implementation and maintenance costs. A centralized model may make it easier to quantify the true business value, which is important when a company is making this type of multimillion dollar investment. Another way to monitor business value is to use the agile delivery methodology. A CRM implementation is a perfect opportunity for agile as it will help ensure the value of the investment as well as track functionality.

Finally, companies need to consider which governance structure works for an asset that is used across the organization. Using a common platform can provide a single source of truth, leading to better data and servicing. However, articulating governance and ownership is still required to establish the long-term direction for the product. Ensuring that this is part of the enterprise strategy can make the asset more powerful and help lead the organization. A siloed approach could lead to inefficiencies and leave money on the table; money that could be used on other corporate priorities.

Technology is encouraging companies to reconsider how they interact with their customers. Competition is forcing companies to do it efficiently and in a way that will help distinguish from capable servicing to one that is marvelous. With a little bit of planning, communication, and training, companies have an opportunity to use CRM technology to exceed their corporate goals and objectives long into the future.

Laura Marble,
VP of MI Delivery Systems and Support,
Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan

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