A simple example of CRM done well

When I lived in England, I used to do a 60 mile (100km) round trip to visit my butcher. Within a 5 mile radius, there were major Supermarkets and other larger butchers but I would never consider “churning” from my butcher, Billy Baxter. He is a great example of CRM done well.
Billy ran a small Butchery having previously been a butcher at Harrods. It must have been there that he learnt the art of true Customer Management because this guy is a genius. Let me give you 5 reasons why I was a loyal customer and then I challenge you to think about whether this applies to your organisation, role or client:

When I lived in England, I used to do a 60 mile (100km) round trip to visit my butcher. Within a 5 mile radius, there were major Supermarkets and other larger butchers but I would never consider “churning” from my butcher, Billy Baxter. He is a great example of CRM done well.

Continue reading “A simple example of CRM done well”

Wanted: Customer Centric Recruitment

I am currently searching for a new career opportunity and have been shocked at the way a number of organisations handle the recruitment process from a “Customer Centric” perspective. Some organisations seem to forget that even applicants for opportunities within their organisation should be treated as valuable customers. Maybe this is why they are seeking a CRM Thought Leader in the first place?

An applicant, such as myself, may have been attracted by the hiring companies brand. If that organisation then fails to acknowledge your application or keep you informed, the brand is devalued in the mind of the applicant, who could also be an influencer, customer or shareholder. What does it say about the core values of the company the applicant is hoping to join. Does it not say “you are not important”? In fairness, the majority of companies do appear to acknowledge receipt of the application. It is after that the process seems to break down.

Some organisations recruit through Recruitment Agencies who often regard applicants as little more than a commodity, not an individual with hard earned skills that can add value. This is not just my personal experience. I have spoken to others who have experienced the same. These recruitment agencies act as a filter. They do not often understand the components that might add value to their client. Instead, they look for certain key words to reach a shortlist as quickly as possible. In one example, I heard nothing for two weeks and when I rang them, I found that I had not been shortlisted and they were conducting final interviews that day. That is fine, but wouldn’t it have been a courtesy to let all the non shortlisted applicants know? Agencies often appear unwilling to share information. When I recently asked one supposedly “leading” agency for information about the role or the client, I was sent a generic job description that was clearly drafted on the back of a betting slip.

Luckily, through my career, I have not always used agencies as I have found the majority to be lacking in insight, knowledge and integrity. Harsh? Maybe, but that has been my experience. I have tended to use my network to find new roles and have been lucky to have been approached directly by clients in the past.

However, that is where the lack of a Customer Centric culture breaks through the cracks. The onboarding process often appears to be designed to benefit the hiring company rather than the potential candidate.  I was lucky enough to have been approached last week by a company where I knew some of their key executives. All seemed to be going well until I was put in touch with the recruitment centre who refused to send me any details until I had sent them a formal application, despite the fact that their executives had approached me! Since then, I have left messages for them to acknowledge receipt of the application and to send me the role details. Even allowing for leave, surely there is a process to ensure continuity.

This blog may appear to be a whinge (I am a Pom after all!) but it does amaze me how a supposed Customer Centric culture does not extend to the whole organisation in many places, without any realisation or appreciation for the potential detrimental impact on brand, public image and customer behaviour. Becoming a Customer Centric organisation needs cultural change across the entire organisation. Everyone counts. Everybody can make a difference. I hope that my next role can impress this for my new client or employer.

Providing Customer Service in the Pharmaceutical Industry

Providing Customer Service in the Pharmaceutical Industry could be considered quite different to many other industries due to the heavily regulated nature of information that can and cannot be supplied. Evidence based research underpins all medical statements and arguments. You cannot just glibly answer an enquiry with an unqualified answer. This article will highlight several factors to be considered in the design of a Customer Service function in the Pharmaceutical Industry.

Providing Customer Service in the Pharmaceutical Industry could be considered to be quite different to many other industries due to the heavily regulated nature of information that can and cannot be supplied. Evidence based research underpins all medical statements and arguments. You cannot just glibly answer an enquiry with an unqualified answer. This article will highlight several factors to be considered in the design of a Customer Service function in the Pharmaceutical Industry.

1. Who is your customer?

In a previous blog, I explained the potential complexity in identifying what constitutes a “customer” in this industry. This issue is exacerbated in Customer Service as any or all of these various “customers” could make an enquiry. It could be a Patient (Consumer), Nurse, General Practicioner, Pharmacist, Researcher, Pathologist, Medical Advisor or even the Regulatory Body or Association. The level of detail and knowledge required to answr these enquiries can therefore vary enormously. Thought needs to be given to the approach required to satisfy the varied customer base.

2. The importance of knowledge. There is no doubt that as research is so vital to the detail provided to customers, the research should be stored in a knowledge base and cross referenced to all types of knowledge that may be called upon. As an example, a patient may call reporting symptoms of nausea and seeking medical advice. Depending upon the legislation in your country, it may have to be a qualified doctor who answers that call. The caller may need to referred back to their own doctor or it may be that “general advice” can be provided. In this “general advice”, it could be mentioned that there are no known side effects of nausea. The research backing up this claim will need to be linked to the article provided to the patient. In these days where litigation is as big an issue to the medical professional as some of the antibiotic resistant bugs, a Pharmaceutical company must ensure a very diligent process is observed in providing information and ensuring the information is fact, not opinion.

3. Linking Sales to Service. A huge opportunity exists for those organisations that can understand that the inbound caller could also become an advocate for the organisation and a sales lead or influencer. It is not simply a question of providing an appropriate response. It is understanding that the enquirer might be an influencer or may be a “Subject Matter Expert” who can become an advocate or your organisation and/or product. A complaint should be regarded as an opportunity to engage and convert. This can be alien territory for the professionals often assigned to the job of providing Customer Service for a Pharmaceutical Organisation. This may be a generalisation but medical doctors are not usually associated with being the most customer-centric of professions. Therefore, there is a huge amount of change management and culture change required to oil the wheel that turns customer service into an extension of the Sales and Marketing departments. Nevertheless, it can be done by identifying the right skills, attitude and remuneration to attract commercially savvy Customer Service medical professionals.

4. Different Customers- Different Service Offerings? In segmenting your customer base, it is soon realised that the different customer types have different needs from your organisation. Therefore, it is possible to provide a differentiated service to address each segment. However, I also believe it is important to be consistent across all segments. Levels of service should not vary across segment even though the offering might. As an example, an IVR could be used for Customer Service directing consumers to Nurses, Pharmacists to a Clinical Pharmacist and Doctors to a suitably qualified Doctor. The time taken to answer the call should be consistent even though the Average Handling Time might vary. The time taken to post out information to the enquirer could be consistent but what is actually mailed out might be different by segment.

These are just a few of many considerations for Pharma companies to think about in developing effective Customer Service that can become an asset rather than an overhead.

Single View Of The Customer- Top 10 Implementation Considerations

The purpose of this article is to share some insights for organisations embarking (or considering embarking) upon the creation of a “Single View” of the Customer within their organisation. Of course, there is a lot of detail surrounding the more technical aspects that could be explored but I would rather focus upon some of the more “business focussed” aspects that the organisation can consider. These considerations will drive the overall implementation and provide specialist Analysts and Modellers with a direction upon which the model should be based.

The overarching Data Management Strategy will determine a number of Project considerations. These will include the following Strategies and Requirements:

Data Stewardship, Governance, Standards, Bible, “Sources Of Truth”, Cleansing, Deduplication, Conversion, Migration and the Data Model. These are all subjects in themselves that any Project will need to consider.

The following list of Top 10 implementation considerations is more for Business People to consider as input to the aforementioned Project Strategies. The discussions will aid Organisational maturity in this area and can provide informed perspectives in tackling, say, the Data Stewardship model.

1. What is a Customer?

What is your organisations definition of a Customer? It could be an Organisation and/or an individual Person or Team. A “Party” is a way of representing an Entity that could be an Organisation or Person. It could be classified as a Customer amongst other types. Do you sell directly and/or indirectly? What about Suppliers, Partners, Resellers, Influencers? Would you want to consider these as types of customers or a type of Party? Perhaps a Customer could also be a Supplier and/or Partner. It is worth spending time mapping these different entities to work out who is a genuine customer and how they can be represented in your data model. This can be a significant piece of work in terms of time and also relevance.

2. Which Channels do you and will you interact across?

This is of primary concern to ensure that the same customer is appropriately represented within each channel. For example, if Customer Y was to email your organisation about a product bought from the Contact Centre, would you be easily able to identify that customer? With new interaction opportunities arising through Social Media, the ways in which your organisation interacts now and in the future should be discussed and agreed. Remember: It is better to offer consistency across all channels rather than great service in one and poor service in others.

3. What is the Customer’s perspective?

Put yourself in your Customers shoes, or even better, ask them directly. If a Customer interacts with your organisation, what do they expect you to know about them? If they interacted with you via their own Customer Portal, what would they expect to be able to see, do and modify? This will give you a greater understanding of the breadth of visibility required to be developed. By breadth, I am referring to the 360 degree view, e.g Sales Orders, Invoices, Interactions, Service Requests etc. The internal perspective (that of various employees interacting with customers) will be different from the external perspective (customers interacting with your organisation), but different “views” of the same Customer, using the same customer data, can be developed to address both sets of needs. 

4. What rules and legislation affect customer data in your geography?

Each country has its own unique sets of rules and policies regarding Customer data. Before developing a “View Of The Customer”, learn about the one’s that might impact upon design including Privacy Acts, Freedom Of Information and data retention. Some may be regulatory and enforceable. Others may be best practice. Others may be guidance. Whatever you do, make sure you are fully aware of the Information Management requirements for treatment of Customer Data.

5. Who, What, Why and When?

Who in your Organisation can view/edit what information at what times and for what purpose? In answering this question, it is possible to start building up user profiles to determine rules surrounding accessibility. For example, financial data (e.g Billing information) is normally “owned” by Finance yet Sales may need to see that data whilst Marketing might not need see it at all.

6. What relationships should be tracked?

Many organisations can obtain deeper insight and subsequent value from building a “network” of relationships between customers. These relationships are reciprocal. For Example, A is a Supplier to B. B is a Customer of A. John is the Father of Mary. Mary is the Daughter of John. By determining which relationships to track and identifying the appropriate relationship types e.g “Supplier To”, higher value sales, increased marketing effectiveness and more intimate relationships can be developed. However, please ensure these relationships are developed with the 4th point (above) in mind.

7. How do you validate and authenticate?

How do you know a Customer is who they say they are and do you care? Certain interactions may require no validation at all whilst others may require validation and authentication. Whatever you do, it is always good practice to make it as easy as possible for customers to do business with you. It can be very frustrating for customers to have to create an account, have the account validated and then authenticated prior to buying a $2 item from your webstore, especially if competitors are able to offer the same products and services without the need to validate. There is value to an organisation in encouraging customers to be validated but there should be a reciprocal benefit to the customer. Make it worh their while! Offer free P&P, access to specific information or loyalty points. Just make it worth their while.

8. Who can make updates and what rules apply?

A “Single View” of the customer often utilises “Master Data Management (MDM)” principles to determine the way the view is composed. Often, the Customer Data will be “mastered” in a CRM or within a Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) environment. It will be “fed” with data from other systems and this information will be consolidated and shared between the relevant systems. Rules need to be created to determine what data can be shared, who can view that data, who can modify that data and who is accountable for the integrity of that data. As an example, a Finance System might maintain a Customer Record containing Name, Phone Number, Billing Address, Bank account details and Payment Terms. The Finance department might “own” the Billing details Bank details and Payment terms. They might be happy to share the Billing address and Payment terms with Marketing and Procurement. The Sales team “owns” the  Name and Phone number and share this with all departments. They are the only people able to update those fields. This is very brief but is provided to give a context to the decisions needing to be made.

9. What are the customer roles going to be?

It is worth mapping the various ways in which a Customer interacts with your organisation. Each role defines a type of service that they are associated with. These services can be associated with addresses. For example, a customer exists in a Marketing database because they responded to an email campaign expressing interest in Solar Hot Water. The role could be “Solar User” and the address porovided could be of type “Home Address” and also “Solar” to indicate that this address might be associated with the provision of Solar Services. This can be a complex area but, initially, is worth business users determining what types of activities, related to your organisation, do customers perform?

10. The RASCI model applied to Customer Data

Who is Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, Supporting and Informed about Customer Data? When building the single view, this model will be critical in planning, building and supporting the overall model. Different aspects of the Single View can be attributed to different people as discussed in Point 8 but there needs to be someone accountable and responsible for every single component. Without this, data quality is likely to be poor and will eventually negate the benefit that could be derived from a Single View. It is also important to determine rules for who should be informed when data changes, who can be consulted to ensure accuracy and how is data going to be supported to ensure consistency?

Of course, your organisation may not need to do all of these 10 things. They are provided to give “food for thought” and to ensure that the right questions and discussions are taking place before embarking on the journey. If anyone has any feedback or additional insights, I would welcome the discussion.

Single View Of The Customer. Holy Grail or Holy Hell?

At my current client, I dared to introduce the dreaded “Single View Of The Customer” concept and promptly got shot down in flames. Two years later and we are about to start implementing it. Why did my client change its mind and will it be worth it? This blog shares some insights into these dilemmas.

I started my current assignment over 2 years ago.

I was brought into my clients Enterprise Architecture team to specialise in CRM (as a Strategist and Architect) and ensure that a new CRM project was being developed correctly and in line with corporate, rather than divisional needs.

My first question was: “What is the strategy driving the project?” There wasn’t one. “OK”, I said “Then what are they trying to achieve?”. The response I got is typical of many projects: The Division wants a CRM tool. Many months later and we had started to define and refine an overarching strategy, vision and objectives. These led to benefits to which we could link requirements. One of those benefits was to be better able to serve customers by providing pertinent, accurate up to date information ased upon all of their interactions with the organisations. I dared to introduce the dreaded “Single View Of The Customer” concept and promptly got shot down in flames.

Apparently, other consultancies had previously advised them against this approach as they cited numerous examples of failed implementations, huge overruns and massive spends. I would have been more popular had I suggested starting a Data Cleansing project!!!

Several months later, as we finally begin the implementation, a Single View Of The Customer is now accepted as a “must-have” and essential to help the organisation achieve several of its goals and realise benefits, not just for the organisation but for the customer (yes- a CRM Program that is actually delivering benefits to the customer too- hurray!!!).

It has gone from being the Holy Hell to the Holy Grail. I intend to unravel the reasons for this and what we are hoping to achieve. A seperate blog will look at some of the implementation considerations facing clients about to embark on the journey to a Single View Of The Customer.

My client has lots of customers. They also have lots of different sources of customer data. Each source has many duplicate entries and inaccurate information. The data is not shared between different divisions and there is a prevailing culture of departmental over protectiveness of their own “customer database”. Does this sound familiar? I have come across this on so many programs that I will be surprised when I discover an organisation with a single customer database of clean and high quality data!

As always, it was necessary to take a customer perspective to start the client understanding why change was needed. In most meetings I attend, I ask people to imagine a cardboard cutout sat in one of the chairs. Her name is Cathy. She represents a Customer. Whenever we get to a point where I feel we are becoming inward looking, I say “Let’s ask Cathy”. When we discussed improving the customer experience, I explained that Cathy is frustrated because she interacts with different parts of the organisation at different times but keeps having to repeat who she is and why she is calling, which surprises her as she thought these divisions were all part of the same organisation. In other words, her expectations are not being met leading to a poor customer experience.

I am not advocating that every organisation should develop a Single View of the Customer. Traditionally, the Financial Services industry has led in such initiatives, as the cross and up selling opportunities from this internal sharing of client data was perceived to be of high value. The reality in creating such a view proved harder than most thought. This is often due to poor data stewardship and data management processes. The projects often blow out in terms of time and cost. Quality suffers when organisations either cut corners (to save time or money) or have poor processes. Survivors from these initiatives told horror stories that gave the impression that achieving the Single View of a Customer is some form of Holy Hell. There is no doubt that if these obstacles can be overcome, there are benefits to both the customer (better customer service) and provider (increased retention and customer spend).

My client is not going to develop a full “enterprise” Single View of Customer. It is going to develop the “Contact Centre” view of customer. This is an integrated view based upon the records stored in legacy systems most frequently accessed in responding to customer enquiries. As these systems represent those most accessed on behalf of customers, it was agreed to limit the scope to this. It involves four “legacy” business systems and will utilise Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) to create a single view.

This “view” will be visible within the new CRM software accessed by the Contact Centre. Rules determining Push/Pull, Read/Write and Deduplication are yet to be established but the Data Analysts are currently finalising a Customer Data Model which will use Master Data Management concepts.

One of the key benefits will be what is termed the 360 degree view. This is the ability to view information relating to the customer from a single screen. For example, one might be able to see the Interaction History, Order History, Service Request History and Campaign Responses. This enables our Contact Centre agents to become the one stop shop for all customer enquiries. This would not be possible at present because we have no single view (multiple systems, duplicate records) and therefore cannot be sure that Customer X in the Order Management system is Customer X in the Service system. Enquiry time should be reduced and accuracy increased. These benefits formed part f our business case and the non tangible benefits (such as Improved Customer Perception and Image) only serve to strengthen the rationale. However, had we attempted to attempt the whole single view, the incremental benefit would be small whilst the incremental development large. It was therefore difficult to justify. Time will tell whether this decision will prove to be the right one.

In conclusion, the Single View is not easy but it will generate benefits for many organisations, especially those looking to support a single entry customer interface, upsell, cross sell or provide a strong customer self service capability. The expression “Knowledge is Power” is true but knowledge can only come from wisdom based on accurate information. A Single View Of Customer enables an organisation to have accurate customer information, if implemented correctly. Implementation Considerations will be the topic of the next blog.

Influencing Sales- the role of CRM tools (Part One).

I was reading recently an article that argued that “Salespeople have always hated CRM tools”. Having been involved in Sales prior to joining the wonderful world of CRM Consulting, I pondered this point of view and thought it would make an interesting topic for debate because IF it is true, then what can help influence the sale? Is it all about the interaction, the product/service being sold and/or other factors that a Salesperson cannot influence? If so, what role can a CRM tool play?

This is the first in a series of three blogs on this subject. The first will focus on the factors of influence in the Digital World. The Second will investigate whether CRM tools can help drive Sales and the final blog will look at why, if CRM tools help drive Sales, are Salespeople traditionally wary of them.

I was reading recently an article that argued that “Salespeople have always hated CRM tools”. Having been involved in Sales prior to joining the wonderful world of CRM Consulting, I pondered this point of view and thought it would make an interesting topic for debate because IF it is true, then what can help influence the sale? Is it all about the interaction, the product/service being sold and/or other factors that a Salesperson cannot influence? If so, what role can a CRM tool play?

This is the first in a series of three blogs on this subject. The first will focus on the factors of influence in the Digital World. The Second will investigate whether CRM tools can help drive Sales and the final blog will look at why, if CRM tools help drive Sales, are Salespeople traditionally wary of them?

Years ago, I worked in the Pharmaceutical Industry in England. I hasten to add that this was before Viagra but after Prozac! I worked for three different Pharmaceutical companies in that period but I will relate my experience directly to one particular major international organisation who are still a global leader today.

My division sold prescription medicines. We sold to Doctors (G.P’s) because Doctors prescribed medicine. We had a different team selling the same products to Hospital Doctors. Doctors were not the “buyers” though. Buyers were Pharmacists who dispensed the drugs that the Doctors prescribed. The pharmacists dispensed drugs to patients who were regarded by Pharmacists as their customers. It was illegal to advertise ethical prescription medicines to these “end users”. Pharmacists could only buy from Wholesalers who bought directly from my company. So, who influenced the sale in this complex purchasing matrix? At the time, all the focus was on G.P’s as they wrote the prescriptions which created demand.

Most Pharma companies spent an awful lot of $$$ targetting Doctors. Whilst the industry is heavily regulated, Pharma companies became well known for interpreting these regulations in creative ways. For example, I was able to organise a “medical conference” on “Sport Injury” that took place in the Corporate Hospitality box before and during a major local sporting event. The G.P’s attending had to attend the 30 minutes of discussion on Sports Injuries before enjoying 4 more hours of sport and corporate hospitality!!

However, despite the money thrown at them, Doctors regarded the Pharma Industry with a high degree of wariness (in most cases) and were (in most cases) difficult to influence. So where did their influence come from?

Of course it is different for every individual G.P but a lot of the time it came from:
1. Local policy dictated to them by an authority (or even within their own practice), who offered cash incentives to help cut prescribing costs
2. Independant research carried out by the National Institute for Clininal Effectiveness (NICE)
3. “Thought Leaders”. National subject authorities in their therapeutic field or Local Specialist Hospital Consultants who gave advice in written and verbal contact to G.P’s.
4. Financial incentives offered by some companies where Doctors could sell Drugs directly (Dispensing Doctors).
In terms of the power of influence, certain new and traditional channels made little impact: TV- irrelevant. Radio- irrelevant. Newspapers- irrelevant. Journals- some were very influential (e.g The Lancet), but WHICH journal was very critical in terms of influencing power.

Today, we have a powerful new tool: The Internet. CRM tools have existed for some time preceding the Internet boom but the Internet has enabled development in CRM tools, for example, “in the cloud”. The impact of Social Media and the increase in information being available more widely from a greater variety of sources helps decision makers research and validate decisions. Has the Internet changed the power balance in terms of influencing decision makers?

In the Pharma Industry, I don’t believe things have changed greatly, despite the Internet. The power of the written word still holds true in this industry and whilst I believe Social Media may enable greater potential for information (and disinformation), Doctors are still likely to keep on being influenced by the same channels as before. Practice or Authority based decisions, Government initiatives or discounted “deals” to Dispensing practices demonstrate that money talks!!! The difference in 2010 is just that Doctors are able to access that influential knowledge more easily. If anything, the poor old G.P is overwhelmed by information. Old traits still hold true though. People buy, primarily, from People. Relationship selling still has a role to play in the Pharma Industry but it is up to Pharma companies to use CRM tools and processes to better target the right decision makers, with the right message at the right time. In the next blog I will investigate how CRM tools can help drive Sales beyond the rhetoric of CRM Vendors. This perspective is from a Sales and CRM practicioner.

Incentivizing referrals

An interesting question was posted on LinkedIn asking “do you have great ideas on how to reward customers for their referrals of your brand or products to others?”

I thought I would throw my perspective into the debate in the hope that it will stimulate further debate and sharing of ideas.

I guess a lot depends upon the marketplace you are operating in, the type of customers you target and the value of the referral. I have come across lots of different models but I should point out that I think “Brand Referral” and “Product Referral” are two very different things. “Brand referral” implies that the referrer is already a Brand advocate and a loyal customer. Surely this is the goal of all Marketeers? If you are lucky enough to have customers referring your brand, the best way to reward them is to ensure you continue to understand what they like about your brand and keep doing it. I am not sure reward is appropriate as the customer probably feels that the brand is already rewarding them, hence their loyalty. The brands I am passionate about do not need to reward me. I already refer them without the need to be motivated to do so because I believe in what that brand represents.

Product referral is somewhat different as you still have the opportunity to grow the spend with that customer through cross selling, upselling etc whilst further building loyalty. In other words, you are taking the customer on the journey towards brand loyalty.

A few examples of referral incentives I have come across:

Recruitment: Refer a Contractor to an agency and we will pay you a “Headhunters fee” if they get the job/contract. This also occurs as common practice in many organisations where certain skillsets are in short supply.

Hotels: Invite a friend to stay a week at a discounted rate and you can claim a voucher to come and stay for a weekend free of charge

Cars: Refer a friend for a test drive and receive a $$$ discount on your next service

Insurance: Various but best one I’ve seen is the offer of free charity donations (in lieu of % commission) for each referred Financial Healthcheck.

Legal: Refer 3 friends for a fixed price, discounted Will and get yours free!

Telcom: Free calls to your friends and family members who join our plan. They then contacted the friends directly with a phone call saying that you had referred them because you knew they wanted to save money on their home phone bills. I’ve since noticed cellphone companies using similar tactics.

I should also mention Multi-Level Marketing (MLM) which used referrals as the basis for its entire business model. To me, it was always a way of shipping a product which was in some way deficient (in either quality, cost or market) and using cash as a way of incentivizing agents to rope in friends and family as fellow agents or customers.

I guess the morale of the story is that you have to calculate the value of the referred business and set a value on the recompense to the referrer that is appropriate to the value of the referred business. You can then devise whatever incentives you like so long as it is moral, ethical and not to the detriment of your brand and/or product/service. Remember too that it is always easier and cheaper to retain customers than to find new ones. Therefore you need to ensure that your product/service is able to delight the (new) customer and outstanding customer service processes, people and technology exist in order to retain them. In those cases, you may find referral comes easier and without the need to offer reward.

I have had personal experience with Referral methods in the last few months. My wife and I run a small Australian Bush Lodge Retreat. It is holiday accomodation in SE Queensland for nature lovers wishing to chillout and explore. We ensure that our guest book comments are posted on our website: www.nunyara.com Additionally, we follow up all guests after they have left with a Thank You email offering them a discount on their next stay and a discount to any referred friends or family who make a booking in the next 12 months. We are doing this to establish ourselves in the market but we are already beginning to get referred business. The interesting thing to note is that no-one (yet) has asked or mentioned the referral discount. When we offer it, they say they knew nothing of it and are even more delighted!!!! This has led us to question the whole value of referrals when you have a brand/product/service that has already exceeded the customers expectations. In price sensitive markets, I guess it is likely to have a bigger impact than we have noticed but we are now starting to consider rewarding the referrer unannounced, as a retrospective “Thank You”. We feel this might be a way of exceeding expectations rather than our current approach which is to reward based on a set expectation.

I hope this has provided enough food for thought and I hope will stimulate a debate that might further our knowledge on the effectiveness and innovation within Referral Schemes.

What is a CRM Strategist?

I have been involved in an ongoing debate within a LinkedIn group regarding the roles of consultants with “CRM” in their titles. Traditionally, consulting organisations have treated CRM as being within or even a dedicated Strategy practice. However, they will also employ CRM Consultants within a Technology practice (maybe aligned with a software vendor e.g Oracle, SAP, Salesforce).

The debate has raged on whether there are two distictly different roles (CRM Strategy and CRM Technology) or whether there is crossover. I argue that there is certainly crossover but it is not a skillset I come across routinely. This was confirmed to me when I had a recent meeting with Johann Jacobs, a Gartner eCRM Analyst, who admitted that he had not met too many CRM Strategists but felt that most CRM initiatives badly needed one!

I am currently consulting in a role titled “CRM Strategist and Archtect”. I am working with my client to help articulate their vision for Customer Service and subsequently develop and define a Strategy and Roadmap. We will then select and implement a CRM product to deliver the processes that are bound by that strategy and hence meet the strategic and tactical objectives.  I expect to be involved in all of those activities. If a Management Consultancy were to replace me, my client would be likely to get one person for the strategy and another for the product. The lack of continuity means that the Implementer needs to interpret the intent of the Strategist in designing the solution. This can introduce unnecessary risk. I therefore believe that, as a Business Strategist, it is important to have a strong understanding of the technological footprints and offerings that can help enable the strategy that has been designed. The Strategist should be able to help architect and assure the chosen solution to meet the objectives of the organisation.

However, there is a further complication: Software companies often subdivide their Software Consultants into Functional and Technical. The Functional Consultant tends to be understanding of the business environment and able to turn business requirements into a solution through basic configuration of the system. The Technology Consultant works with the IT Department to embed the new software into the IT Infrastructure. There is crossover with the Functional Consultant but this can be limited depending on the type of software and the skill levels of each.

In my experience, a functional consultant may understand the needs of the Sales, Marketing and/or Customer Service division but may not necessarily have the skills to help develop strategy, work on business cases or articulate future roadmaps. In my opinion, the CRM Strategist is capable of fulfilling the Functional Consultant role as well as being a Strategy Consultant. This really adds value to clients.

Without knowledge of the capabilities of a CRM Product, Unified Communications or other such enabling technology, how can a feasible vision or roadmap be developed? One has to know what is possible to be able to define it. Functional Consultants can implement a process that leads to improvements. The strategist will set the entire context within which the process sits. Furthermore, the functional consultant really should understand the strategic direction and long term objectives of an organisation in order to create the optimal, future-proof design. With the market changing at a rapid pace, increasingly innovative solutions are able to be developed. However, these “To Be” solutions should be within a context of where that organisation wishes to be. A CRM Strategist can bridge these worlds saving organisations the cost of employing two discreet skillsets and bringing the continuity of taking the conceived into the delivered. As more and more organisations appreciate and recognise the need for appropriate skillsets, there is likely to be a polarisation between Strategists and Technical CRM Consultants. This may seem like I am contradicting myself as this is how I described the structure of many Consultancies. However, I believe that Technical will mean Technical. Functional will merge into Strategy (and vice versa) meaning that the Strategists will be involved on Programs both before, during and, possibly, after an implementation. They will carry a broader set of skills and need to communicate with different audiences. However, the value to be added will be significant and the CRM Strategist should become he norm, not the exception!

Customer Democracy

I heard this term recently and rather like it.

As a self appointed “customer champion”, I like the idea of customers exercising their democratic right. In doing so, customers can exercise freedom of choice by churning from one underperforming provider to another. They could exercise freedom of speech by complaining or praising via Social Media. They can express freedom of thought by researching and investigating suppliers, products and services like never before.

So how can organisations respond to the growing democratic spirit of consumers? As with any democracy, its adapt or die. Those slow to truly listen to the voice of the customer and reinvent themselves from the outside-in may find themselves consigned to the history books. I am growing ever more confident that CRM, a term associated with software and, inevitably, IT implementation disaster stories, is finally becoming understood for what it is: It is a business STRATEGY that is supported by people, processes and product to generate MUTUAL value for both the provider and customer. I believe this message is beginning to emerge from the mire of the GFC and is being driven by the need to adapt to the new world of Customer Democracy.