The Pledge for CRM Success, Part 3

This represents the third and final part of a three-part open letter to corporate executives who are struggling with the issue of making customer relationship management (CRM) successful in their organizations.

In parts 1 and 2 of this series, I outlined the qualifications of the three-point pledge and described in detail the first and second pledges.

The first pledge can be summarized as follows: Don’t adopt new technology without a clear understanding of how it can generate economic benefit given potential risks and rewards and an understanding of your organization’s design, strengths, and weaknesses.

The second pledge goes something like this: Use a portfolio management matrix with quantitative performance criteria to prioritize, coordinate, consolidate, and streamline CRM initiatives across different business groups within your organization. Respect the fact that different businesses have different needs, and understand what technical and business processes can be shared, standardized, or both and which ones cannot.

The third and final pledge outlines the last promise for ensuring CRM success: Pledge 3: Take responsibility for the culture of your organization. In designing and deploying your CRM system, do the necessary preparatory work, make and develop creative solutions, and make the tough decisions. Senior management must ensure that it has the right people in the right roles with the right skill sets and the right incentives to be successful.

I promise to place the burden of formulating a CRM strategy and creating a customer-centric culture upon myself and our senior management team. We, as a team, take full responsibility for the behavior of our employees, based on the formal incentive structure and examples we set. We recognize that leadership cannot be delegated to an outside consulting firm. It will be up to us to design our approach; make the technical, business, and political trade-offs; and work together to fully leverage our assets and resources to deliver superior value to our customers.

This is the toughest pledge to take. If you — the senior executive involved — are not the chief sponsor and architect of the solution, then the project is probably doomed to fail. Consultants (such as myself) can provide great advice, competitive perspective, knowledge of best practices, and comparative analysis of solutions, but we can’t successfully implement the solution without your input, buy-in, involvement, and ownership.

You need to recognize that this is your CRM system, which youneed to design and run as part of your business tactics and strategies for your organization. It’s not some new thing dreamed up by the people at the corporate office (or even worse, the IT department) to make things run smoothly and efficiently. You need to understand that with CRM automation is a result, not a cause.

Sadly, many organizations have undertaken CRM without doing their homework. They embark on CRM implementation without first having a clear idea of:

  • Their customers’ behaviors, needs, and interests and how to attract and retain those customers
  • Their business processes and how to improve them
  • Their systems and applications and how to integrate them
  • Their technical infrastructure and how it fits into an overarching strategy and architecture
  • Their human resource/talent mix and what they need to change to succeed

The last point is particularly telling. Many organizations adhere to the definition of corporate insanity: using the same people in the same roles with the same skills, behaviors, loyalties, and incentives — and expecting completely different results!

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