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.

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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!