Using CRM to transform Timeshare and the Customers Travel Experience: The SugarCRM experience 

Using innovation and Agile to transform the Sales process and Customer Experience for a leading Timeshare company

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Being recognised by an Industry body for game changing innovation is something I am very proud of. From concept through to delivery, a great team helped put together a solution which forms a new paradigm in Travel Sales.

Travel is something that I am passionate about. Therefore when the opportunity to “transform” a major player in the Travel Industry came knocking, I was genuinely excited. However, when I then learnt that it was in the Timeshare industry, for some reason, that excitement suddenly became muted. A bit of research revealed explained my reaction:

Timeshare is a concept that many are aware of but often the perception of what timeshare is can be very far from the reality. In its purest and original form, buyers purchase a share of a hotel room/apartment in a managed holiday resort. This share equates to a percentage of a year, usually a week. Historically, the purchase of this week bound the owners to holiday at the same resort at the same week year after year. It was a hard sell and became a haven for unscrupulous salespersons, developers and dubious incentive programs. This helped explain my initial cynicism.

Over the years, the concept has grown and evolved into a multi billion dollar industry which even includes household brands such as Disney, Ramada (as part of Wyndham ) and Accor. Some schemes offer points, some varied resorts and others have evolved into travel clubs. There are now timeshare companies offering yachts, RV’s or even private homes as alternate travel options.

Therefore, in early 2014, I became involved with Australia’s largest Timeshare Operator, Classic Holidays, who operate over 60 resorts in Australia and New Zealand. Its members have varied membership types representing the changes in the industry over the last 20 years and more.

Despite the modernity of the new Timeshare programs, I was surprised to see that much of the technology used within the industry was very verticalised with few specialist providers. Those that did exist appeared to focus upon the property reservation and management aspect of the process rather than enabling a member centric perspective. Classic Holidays were using a myriad of Microsoft Access/Google Docs and paper driven processes to attract, recruit and create new Members. Once I understood the core business processes involved, I suggested that a Commercial Off The Shelf (COTS) CRM software tool could easily replace the tools being used and become the hub for Member Centric processes in the future.

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Early Requirement Gathering

This met with some resistance as the commonly held perception was that the industry was so specialised that there was nothing that would meet the “unique” idiosyncrasies of the Timeshare industry. Therefore, after some product evaluations, I managed to persuade the Classic Holidays Leadership that SugarCRM seemed a good fit based upon functionality, price, usability, “openness” and being a SaaS based product.

In August 2014, I was asked to create and then deliver a project for a new “end to end” Sales and Marketing solution as the first phase in transforming the (prospective) Member experience. We called it Project CHARM (Classic Holidays Advanced Relationship Management). I will explain how CRM was used to address and provide solutions in some of the unique Timeshare industry processes.

The process of selling in Timeshare usually starts with Lead Generation with Off Premise Canvassers (OPC) representatives.

The OPC role at Classic Holidays was primarily to generate leads by enticing prospects to attend a presentation through the use of scratch cards which offered guests the chance to win prizes. Those with winning tickets were invited to a presentation (tour) to collect the prize upon condition of attending a 90 minute sales presentation. OPC’s used their own phones to look up a shared Google Sheet to check availability at a given wave. The prospect would then be given a slip of paper confirming the date, time and location. To try to guarantee attendance, prospects were asked for a deposit (cash) and were given a paper receipt. Often, the prospect would change their mind and “no show”. Whilst the prospect might lose their deposit, the impact on the company was costly as the cost of holding Waves (a number of tours all starting simultaneously) was a fixed cost. I found it a very amateurish process for such a quality product and thought that if I was approached by an OPC, there was no way I would trust them enough to pay a deposit and give up 90 minutes of my time for something seemingly shrouded in mystery. Again, I was told that this was just “how it worked” but I felt that better tools, processes and empowered people could bring about significant transformational change.

  • The OPC Portal

An application was created that acted as a “portal” for the OPC’s in the field.

OPC Portal New Home Page

Each OPC was given an iPad with a direct link to the Portal. An OPC would log in to a personalised Dashboard. From here, they could review the status of previous bookings and add new bookings, thereby replacing the paper forms and Google sheets.

 

We were also able to include a digitised version of the “pitch book”, a leaflet based piece of collateral that was often used by OPC’s to show imagery of the Classic Holidays resorts. Since OPC’s only had a very short space of time to make the booking and collect the deposit, the User Experience was a vital part of the design, ensuring it was quick to use, well laid out and met the User Stories that were developed in our Agile Project. A key function was a real time look up of availability of each wave at any location. This ensured that Prospects were booked to waves which had availability.

OPC3

  • Bookings

When an OPC made a booking, it was previously hoped that the Prospect would turn up. CHARM introduced additional communications with the Prospect which consisted of a SMS and/or eMail confirmation, a link to a new landing page on a new CMS (Kentico) where they could confirm their attendance whilst also learning more about Classic Holidays (rather than keep it a secret).

SMS

This allowed better planning because a trigger was built in that sent an optional reminder SMS should they not have confirmed within a predetermined timeframe. By using sophisticated web tracking tools (Woopra), we were also able to see whether the prospect had visited the site and analyse what information they had accessed. This gave insight into the reasons why people might “no show” and allow Classic to change their future messaging accordingly. We did not have the capacity to undertake AB testing but this would have been a benefit to learn and adapt the landing pages more quickly. However, the insight gained was a real game changer and has seen Classic become better placed to increase Sales.

 

  • Guest confirmation

OPC6OPC7

When a guest clicked on either the SMS or email call to action, they were taken to a personalised landing page which congratulated them on winning a prize and gave them further information on the presentation and more reasons to confirm their attendance. Once they confirmed, the status of their booking was updated in Sugar to reflect their intentions. This enabled the Sales team to have greater confidence in the likely attendance and ensured that Sales Managers could have the right number of Sales Representatives available for each Wave.Booking Dashboard Chickenburger

  • Wave Management

A Wave is a scheduled set of concurrent one to one Sales Presentations (known as Tours) by a Timeshare Sales Rep to the prospective Members. It typically consisted of a PowerPoint style presentation which resulted in various membership options being offered to the Guest. The Waves therefore have a number of tours to be filled in order to keep the Sales Reps productive. These waves occur at the local Sales Office and can occur three or four times a day. Calendar management met this requirement perfectly and through the use of web services, a web front end was built which could allow these Waves to be exposed to OPC’s via the OPC Portal who could create Leads and assign them to Waves where there was availability. We were even able to create wait lists to ensure that each wave was well attended. The new solution allowed Sales Reps to know who was attending and, by capturing the lead within CRM, allowed downstream processing without the need to re-enter data or, even worse, asking the guest to complete more forms!

  • Registration and Check-in

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    The new online Guest Survey

On the day of the Wave, often wary prospects would arrive not knowing quite what to expect. Despite friendly receptionists and a warm welcome, the prospect was given a pen, paper and clipboard and then asked to complete a paper registration form. Ironically, the details asked for were already known by the OPC but until CHARM, there was no sharing of data. Now, the experience was rather different: On arrival, they were asked their name which was already on the Manifest having been added by the OPC. The Status of the booking was determined by whether the Prospect had confirmed.Rec1

The Receptionist now was able to check them in “online” which generated a QR code on the screen. The Receptionist then scanned an iPad against the code which opened up an online survey on the iPad (replacing the paper form and clipboard). A digital signature was also captured to acknowledge refund of the deposit which was then emailed automatically to the Prospect as a PDF.

Rec2

Rec3

  • The Tour

Once the survey was complete, the status in CRM was updated to reflect the transition in Sales Stage. The Sales Representative then took the Prospects through a “standalone” presentation. We identified that we could rebuild the presentation into Kentico and incorporate data from SugarCRM and, in turn, export the data captured. This became a secondary project (known as S2S) in itself which I will blog about separately. For the purpose of this initiative, the only direct intervention was for the Sales Representative to update SugarCRM with the outcome of the Tour. This translated the Sales Opportunity into either a Won or Lost state. For those declining to become Members, they were still awarded their prize which, in turn, generated a new Lead to reconnect with the Prospect whilst they enjoyed their gift. For those who decided to buy, the next stage was to create the paperwork necessary for them to become Members. This process was known as “The Button Up”.

  • Button Up

The Button Up process is where once a Prospect agrees to purchase, the deal is finalised or “buttoned-up” with all the paperwork and, if required, finance organised. Prospects are entitled to a 7 day cooling off period. Many of the documents require signatures and the long standing process required much printing, manual entry, signing, scanning and photocopying of documents.

As SugarCRM already had a lot of the data required from earlier stages of the process (Guest Survey, Booking etc), we created digital images of all the documents which were populated with data already captured upon an opportunity moving to a relevant status. This was a big time saver. We also integrated Docusign, an electronic signature solution, which allowed quicker completion of the forms although the real benefit would come later when guests wished to buy additional products (i.e To upgrade their Membership) from home. The Button Up process could take up to 90 minutes. The CHARM solution dramatically reduced this and also allowed the downstream processing to be quicker (I.e Loan Approval) as the forms were now digitised.

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  • Loan Application

Memberships were bought for periods from 7 years up to lifetime (>60 years). The longer the Membership purchased, the more expensive it became despite offering better value. Classic Holidays were able to offer financing through an associated Financial company. Loan Applications can be typically arduous and although we digitised the application form, little benefit was seen until we were able to integrate to ARMNet, the Loan Management software solution used by the Finance company. This allowed real time decisioning and drastically reduced processing time as the staff no longer needed to re-key the application into the ARMNet solution. The data required for a Loan and Membership Application was captured in SugarCRM (see below) and interfaced to ARMNet as well as prepopulating the forms ready for signing.

mortgage and liability dropdown

  • Cooling off

In the 7 days post Tour, many new prospective Members suffered from “buyers regret” and therefore the churn rate is often high. However, the CHARM solution now offered the potential to communicate digitally during the cooling off period with personalised offers and comms.

  • Memberships

A legacy system, Viewpoint, written by a small software company, At Work International (recently acquired by Classic Holidays) was used to manage inventory (rooms) at resorts and bookings for members. It was not envisaged to replace this system but I proposed that in the future, Classic should use Sugar as the main interface for Members. SugarCRM could call web services to check inventory, make bookings etc. At the time of leaving, this had not been started but will further transform Classic Holidays once complete. Once linked to a Member, personalisation of the digital channel throughout the Membership lifecycle can occur with relevant offers and options being presented across multiple channels. Therefore the conversion of a Lead to an Opportunity to a Sale needed to go to the final step: A Member.

In conclusion, CHARM has opened a world of opportunity for both Classic Holidays whilst also improving the overall Customer Experience. What was a once amateurish, shady Sales process is now professional and transparent. Of course, Timeshare is not for everyone but given the high degree of customer loyalty experienced by Classic Holidays, this new process can only bring benefit through efficiency and reducing churn in the Lead to Sale process.

Massive kudos to the Classic Management and delivery team and the Project team (including the SugarCRM System Integrator, CRM Online ) that I put together. There are too many to mention but the recognition goes to them.

Why I have changed my view on CRM technology

For years, I have been preaching to anyone that will listen that the strategy must come before the software. People + Processes + Technology. I have used examples such as buying a car to explain my argument.

Most people would not go out and buy the car that looks best. They would first of all decide what they need a car for. They might then decide on a few criteria to narrow the search depending upon their own needs. safety, Speed, Economy, Luggage capacity, Auto, Price etc. Once this “strategy” had been reached, the search for a car could begin.

I have always believed that CRM software should underpin the business strategy and facilitate providing benefits to the organisation and its clients. However, maybe I was wrong?

Technology is now at a stage where it is providing features and capabilities that can INFORM a Strategy. In other words, a business strategy could be built around a CRM tool. Having seen some of the latest tools and capabilities from the likes of Salesforce, Sugar, Oracle, Kana etc, I am increasingly convinced that for many organisations thinking about CRM, the software could give them market leading strategies and game changing capability. There are capabilities that many companies would not have thought of which might create huge value. In the past, industry processes led the design for software. Now it seems that software design is opening new doors for business processes. Just look at how Social Media has “forced” organisations to change its internal and external processes. Does your organisation have a Social Media strategy? If so, I bet it has only been developed in the last two years.

I can imagine young or smaller enterprises could benefit from this wave of new capability. App Exchanges and Open Source platforms are driving a wealth of rich, new CRM capability that is beyond the imagination of most companies.

With immature processes and potentially tight budgets, a software led strategy can help enforce new processes (that could be leading practice for that industry) and can help cement in customer centric processes.

However, I still believe that larger organisations will need to develop strategies first and then find software that can support and extend those strategies. It will be interesting to see how the SaaS model affects uniformity and adherence to standardised processes and whether we do start to see software led customer centric transformations.

I would be very keen to hear any thoughts or experiences on this topic.

Buying a CRM system? Top 10 tips

Buying a CRM system? These tpis from an Independant CRM Specialist can give you food for thought before you start the procurement process. As a Vendor and Purchaser of CRM, Nick provides some tips based on years of experience to help mitigate risk, reduce cost and make a quality decision.

Over the years, I have been both a Vendor and Purchaser of CRM systems. I have always maintained that choosing the right CRM system is not one of the critical success factors for an Organisation wishing to gain benefits from a CRM initiative. It is , however, the subject of many long hours and a lot of the program costs.
It is also highly emotive as many stakeholders will wish to have a say and influence the eventual procurement decision.
However, a lot of time and money can be saved by establishing some ground rules and a strategy up front. Without wishing to patronise Procurement Specialists, I argue that by considering a few simple tips, a decision can be reached more quickly, cost effectively and lead to better outcomes.
Therefore, this blog highlights a few suggestions aimed at helping Organisations wishing to buy or upgrade their existing systems. These tips are based on experience, not theory and is certainly not an exhaustive list. Neither is the list in any particular order of priority!

Tip #1. Do not buy “generic” requirements

Many Organisations put together a RFP (Request For Proposal) by compiling or acquiring an exhaustive list of generic features or functionality and then score vendor responses against “weighted” values such as Highly Desirable, Desirable and Very Highly Desirable, even Mandatory. The challenge of this approach is that business users are often lulled into stating system attributes or features that may bear little or no difference to their future “To Be” process. It becomes more of a “wish list”, rather like a child compiling a list for Santa having visited the Toy Shop. A better approach is to take the requirements to a higher level and then determine which group of functions is likely to be important for the future. Lists of generic “functionality” or requirements can be bought on the Internet. These lists are very thorough and detailed, often drilling down to a level where the relevance of each function may not be understood. Keep it simple and just use the groupings or categories to give vendors a good idea of what you are looking for. Another reason for doing this is to be fair to the vendors who could have overly high opportunity costs to fully respond to 2648 questions (as I saw recently) where the RFP had gone to 15 vendors. In that example, I decided that the effort to respond was not worth the small chance and we chose not to respond. The sad thing is that we might have had the best solution.

Tip #2. Apply weightings carefully
Getting the weightings right to score the responses and presentations is critical.
Start at the highest level: What weightings should be applied to different aspects of the Procurement? Price, Functional Fit, Non Functional Requirements etc? Often the Business users will wish for a higher percentage on Functionality, I.T will push for Non Functional with Finance and Procurement keen on Price or Value For Money. I cannot say how you should do it but I will stress that the overall weightings will greatly affect the decision you eventually reach. The weightings are then cascaded down through to the requirements and open questions. My suggestion is to keep in mind that what the system does is not the main success factor. Compromises may have to be made in order to get, for example, broader integration versus deeper functionality. The irony is that the impact of the weighting decisions (often made before issuing the RFP) is not really understood until you start the short listing process. That is the time when earlier weighting decisions may be regretted. Spend a little longer to get this right and the quality of the final decision may be much better.

Tip #3. It’s not the software, it’s the process
We have all heard of examples where the “software was poor” yet subsequently changed (at great expense) for something just as bad. The irony is that the same “poor”software is being used elsewhere and delivering value. Every software vendor has customer reference sites and customer horror stories. The difference is therefore not the software. It is the people and the processes. I cannot stress enough but to become truly customer centric, you must regard CRM as a transformational journey and ensure that people are willing and able to change to adapt to the new world enabled by the software change. Similarly, the software must enable great processes that deliver internal and external benefits. We have all experienced ringing a Call Centre to be routed around the organisation before finally reaching the right person. It may be great technology employed but you cannot hide a bad process. Implementing cRM with poor processes is like putting lipstick on a pig.

Therefore when buying CRM software, make sure the business representatives are change agents who are not bound by what they have always done. Similarly, stretch the vendors by testing their industry understanding to propose new processes and practices, rather than just reimplement what you do today.

Tip #4. The Integrator and the Integration
So you are buying new software. Who will implement it?

The Vendor? A Systems Integrator? A Shared Service provider? Maybe your own I.T department?

The answer to this question should drive part of the assessment. What skills are required to administer the system? How will Knowledge Transfer be managed and assured? What training is available, where and how often? Again, there is not a prescribed answer to this but the overall strategy is hugely influenced by the direction your Organisation chooses to take. The implementation is (in my opinion) more important than the software being deployed. Make sure the implementation is considered aspart of the decision with at least the same importance as the choice of software.

Tip #5. The role of I.T and alignment to architectural direction
Your IT department should be the facilitators to the process by providing an Organisational strategy and Architectural direction to which the solution should comply and conform. Decisions such as Cloud, Integration, Database and other Enterprise considerations should be informed by I.T and help the procurement. This direction should be reflected in both the weightings and evaluation team composition. However, be wary of the situation where IT chooses a solution on behalf of business users. In CRM, the importance of adoption and acceptance by the end users is probably more acute than in many other types of software selection. The trade off between IT and the Business is often as necessary as it is emotive but without trade off, time and costs escalate and the “losing party” often starts to undermine the chances of future success.

Tip#6. Composition of Evaluation team
The size of the Evaluation team will vary by Organisation but I tend to find that the larger the Organisation, the more likely it is to have an unnecessarily large evaluation team. It goes without saying that the larger the team, the higher the cost and the slower the process. Does it lead to better decision making? I don’t think so because the internal politics are then brought into the Evaluation team. Surely it is more important to create a lean and empowered team who can represent the interests of multiple departments without feeling the need to follow a particular political directive? This may sound like a Utopian state but it should be the objective of the overall Owner to create the optimal team to represent the best interests of the Organisation (not department). One other consideration is to empower a panel representative of differing levels of seniority. It is often a mistake for Managers to buy a system for their staff to use and vice versa. Ensure staff from the most junior to the most senior are represented on the assessment panel and decision making.

Tip#7. The value of the business scenario
If you want to really test (and differentiate) your shortlisted vendors, develop some typical business scenario’s that require a product demonstration requiring flexibility and creativity. Do not ask for what you do today. Imagine a future state and a desirable outcome. For example, imagine you are a traditional retailer. Create a scenario asking the vendor to demonstrate how their solution could utilize new channels and media to identify and acquire new customers whilst measuring the impact and effectiveness of each channel? That scenario is not prescriptive or specific. It allows the vendor to demonstrate potential value of their solution whilst offering you a glimpse into their understanding of your business and industry. A good vendor will have researched your needs, your weaknesses and gained a good idea into the potential opportunities their software might provide you. Give them a scenario whereby this can be demonstrated. In saying that the scenarios should not be too prescriptive, it must obviously cover your requirements as highlighted by the categories described in Tip#1.

Tip#8. Mandatory or not
If you make a requirement “Mandatory”, it has the potential to eliminate solutions that may have been a strong fit otherwise. Therefore think very carefully about what should be mandatory and use it as an initial screening process. For example, imagine you are an international business and believe that your solution must be multilingual. If you make “Multilingual” a  Mandatory requirement, you will eliminate a large number of solutions that may currently only have one or two languages. Is that requirement truly a “Showstopper” or is it just simply very highly desirable? By making it a “Very Highly Desirable” requirement, you can assess these solutions without them being rejected as non compliant. Usually, the first pass of assessments eliminates vendors who are non compliant. Therefore only make requirements that you simply cannot operate without the only ones that are mandatory. This tip may not sit well with many but, in my experience, it is easier to seek compromises than it is to live with the implications of the wrong choice.

Tip#9. The after sale strategy
One of the often hidden and unforeseen aspects of procurement surrounds the strategy once the solution has been deployed.

Who will provide Support? Is it required 24/7? What is the Upgrade strategy and frequency? What is the future product roadmap and vision?
Often Evaluation Teams can be caught up in what the solution can do today rather than thinking about the future state. One can never predict the future but mitigation should be considered for different scenarios and be managed within the procurement process. As a former General Manager responsible for the CRM Product of a Software vendor, I was often asked to make commitments to future development but was rarely asked to commit to this new functionality contractually. Why not? I would have been happy to had I been asked but without the contractual need, the client has no assurance of that future capability which increases their future risk and exposure. Even if software companies cannot commit to future development, this could be used as a bargaining chip in negotiating price. There is a big difference between intention and committment, especially to Software providers!

Tip#10. Benefit realisation
How will you measure whether you made the right choice? It will be whether your business case was justified. Therefore a win/win scenario whereby your vendor helps develop and is incentivized to help you realise genuine benefits (and thereby justify your business case) is compelling. These benefits must be quantifiable and the inter dependencies (people, process etc) understood and managed. However, wouldn’t it be nice to select a vendor that is motivated to help you realise benefits rather than simply deploying software for a set price?

This may again sound utopian but it is the way things are moving in our customer centric universe and is worthy of consideration.

 

Of course, these tips are only suggestions and you may get great outcomes even if you ignore them. However, I do believe that these can only add value to you and hope that they do help in some small way. Good luck!

“Do what I do, not what I say”

How often do we hear of people who say one thing yet do another?

Unfortunately, for the last year, I have been tasked with developing a CRM product but without being “allowed” to use Social Media. I was not allowed to blog, tweet or even post video’s on YouTube to evangelize my strategy, thoughts or latest updates.

I’m now free from such constraints and will be again blogging about things I’m passionate about:

  • Responding to “The Voice Of The Customer”
  • Developing and delivering mutual value from customer centric processes
  • The use of Social Media to drive value, loyalty and awareness
  • Understanding the best way to deliver CRM
  • oh, and maybe the odd bit of naming and shaming!!!!!

In doing so, I am only intending to pass on a perspective based upon my own learnings and experience. It is not instructional and should be taken as food for thought. In my own business philosophy, I try to inspire and lead by getting others to do what I have done rather than recklessly following what I say without question. Therefore, as always, feedback and discussion is invited and please do continue to share this blog with anyone with an interest in putting the customer at the heart of everything they do.

Single View versus the 360′ view

This is a short post as I’m often asked what the difference is between the two views.
A single view is about an aggregation of data designed to ensure that many internal systems are kept in alignment. The benefit to the customer being that they only need maintain their customer details with the organization once. Years ago, I had arranged to visit a CRM vendor to discuss CRM partnerships. I rang the Alliance Manager and made an appointment with her. The day before the meeting, I thought I should research their offering so I went onto their website. I had to register for an online demo. About 5 minutes into the demo, my phone rang.

” Hello, it’s Jason here from XYZ software Inc (for those about to Google this company, that is a made up name!)…I notice you have just logged on to our demo. Do you have any questions?”

I was not that impressed. I mean, it was just a Telesales guy trying to sell to me wasn’t it? He had my details from the registration form. I told him that I was just researching their latest release.

“Oh, I guess that’s in preparation for your meeting with Sandra tomorrow?”

I was blown away. That was my first experience of a Single View and it had me at Single.
A 360 degree view is an aggregation of data to provide an all round view of that customers interactions and transactions with your organization. It is supported by a Single View but the difference is that it enables great potential for upwelling, cross selling and providing superior customer service. A good example is that of a citizen contacting their local council. They may wish to check up on their rates bill, report a pothole and see what has happened to their planning application. This information may reside in three different systems but the citizen doesn’t care. He sees it as “dealing with my Council” and expects the answer to his enquiries at your fingertips. Technically, there are several ways to achieve this view but there must be an identifier common to all systems to ensure that the information being accessed really does relate to that particular citizen.
There is no doubt that both of these concepts are closely related and are not always easy to achieve. Poor data quality has scuppered many well intended attempts to create these views. Nevertheless, the value can be enormous and well worth doing properly.

The DNA of a CRM system

In thinking about a generic CRM technology product, I was recently asked what the common components are. Having recently been involved in a high profile government RFP and Vendor Evaluation, I have come up with the following list of common components. I believe these components represent the DNA of a CRM Technology solution.

In thinking about a generic CRM technology product, I was recently asked what the common components are. Having recently been involved in a high profile government RFP and Vendor Evaluation, I have come up with the following list of common components. I believe these components represent the DNA of a CRM Technology solution.

Continue reading “The DNA of a CRM system”

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.