CRM is a Tool for Cultural Change

Veronica Mikhail —  December 7, 2016 — Leave a comment

Business models and entire industries are being disrupted by new technologies as digital transformation forces organizations to reassess how they adapt and provide their customers with value into the future.

One key theme that has emerged during this time of disruption is a big obstacle to making the transition from product-focused to customer-focused is often changing business culture. Changing employee behavior is more difficult than redesigning products and services or implementing new technology. However, the failure to  consider the impact of organizational change will undermine any other investment.

Using CRM Technology to Drive Cultural Change

The often unrealized potential benefit of CRM technology is that it can be a very effective way of driving organizational change.

Customer-facing employees using a CRM will spend many hours per day on the system in order to be more effective in their daily job duties. A flexible CRM system supports and reinforces the behaviors you need in order to succeed in achieving your desired future state.

What Culture do I Need?

Organizational culture is as unique as the customers you serve and the products and services you provide. But, there are some fundamental principles that can apply to any organization.

Recognizing and Valuing Customers

Your customers are people who want to be recognized, respected and valued as individuals and as customers.

One of the major obstacles facing employees trying to be more customer-centric is access to accurate information. Modern CRM provides the opportunity to consolidate information from multiple sources and provide a single view of the customer; providing a way of “hearing,” understanding and relating to each individual customer.

Data about customers can be gathered from all of your information systems, including digital channels like online orders, the website, social media and more, and then combined with information from human channels when a person speaks to a customer on the phone.

Customer-centric culture starts with understanding who a business’ customers are, and CRM that helps employees see the full view of their customers underpins this.

Building Trust

Customer loyalty and trust go hand-in-hand, and the behaviors for building trust are fairly universal.

Keeping Promises

One of the quickest ways to destroy trust is to break a promise, even if it’s trivial commitments like, “someone will get back to you in 24 hours.” CRM technology can help employees learn to keep promises by reminding users of commitments and deadlines, and escalating urgent activities and tasks to ensure promises are kept.

Being Responsive

Trust is built by organizations being consistently responsive to customers, especially when there are questions or issues. CRM tools provide the opportunity to give your customer-facing staff the tools and information required to answer enquiries and address issues quickly.

Being Proactive

Having a single view of the customer, with all relevant information in one place, will allow your customer-facing staff (and automation systems) the ability to anticipate the needs of customers and proactively address them, rather than waiting for the customer to initiate contact.

Knowledgeable People

As anyone who has ever called customer service knows, it’s a joy (and a mild surprise) to speak with someone who is knowledgeable and helpful.  But knowledge about what you are selling is only part of the picture. The picture isn’t complete without being similarly knowledgeable about the customer, their needs and wants and previous history with the organization.

Having Time for Customers

Mobile Workforce

Mobile technology has changed the way we work, and provided the opportunity to free employees from their desks to spend more time where their customers are.

Automation

The process of automating otherwise frustrating and time-consuming administrative efforts provides another opportunity for a quick win. Automation only works when the data being collected and the supporting “what do I do with this data” processes are in alignment. When this occurs, the benefits of automation positively reinforce new business processes.

Listening to Customers

When a CRM system pulls customer data together across the customer’s whole journey, it invariably crosses departmental boundaries and makes it easier for marketing, sales, and post-sales teams to collaborate. This transparency will help highlight where things are working and where there is room for improvement.

The process of configuring the CRM forces teams to consider where the departmental boundaries should be, and what the optimal approach for process handoff should be. The new processes become embodied and reinforced by the CRM system, quickly defining the new normal. This works especially well when the early phases of the CRM project focus on those high-profile challenges facing two teams who need to work more closely together.

Measuring what’s working

CRM can provide transparency into what’s working and what’s not by measuring the organization at three different levels; business outcomes such as revenue or profit, customer metrics such as net promoter score, and operational indicators such as time to resolution on customer enquiries.
Constantly monitoring performance keeps the organization focused on the change that was envisioned, identifying the areas that are working and the areas that need more challenge. Getting the measures right, creates a constant reminder of the new processes, making it part of “the way we do things around here”.

Incremental improvement

A CRM that is flexible enough to continue to evolve and improve without huge re-implementation costs will help support a “culture of innovation”.

Encouraging the organization to continually improve the information system will also drive constant innovation in business processes, and ultimately the exercise of change itself will become part of the organizational culture.

However, the contrary outcome is that a big, complex, and inflexible CRM reduces the ability of the organization to innovate and adapt to changing customer demands.

Anchoring New Approaches in the Culture

Culture can be defined as behavior and shared values among a group of people, who then pass those values on to new members. An ideal CRM will support this normalization of behavior by providing reporting and transparency into who is effectively following the new ways of doing things, and highlighting those exceptions as and when they occur.

Standardizing this approach provides the opportunity to tighten the feedback loop so that deviations from accepted practice are identified quickly, immediately, or even prevent the deviation from occurring in the first place.

A flexible CRM system, appropriately configured, can entrench a pattern of delivering great customer experiences into your organizational culture.

Veronica Mikhail

Posts

Senior Director of Marketing, APAC and Japan, SugarCRM

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