Be CRM Before You Buy CRM Solution

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In today's fast-paced environment, companies frantically seek the competitive advantage - that one ingredient to set their business apart. In their quest, many companies invest in CRM "solutions." However, all must understand that they cannot buy successful CRM. As Chevy Chase offered such astute advice in "Caddyshack" ("See the ball, Danny. Be the ball, Danny."), aspiring organizations must become CRM.


To achieve that sustainable, competitive edge via CRM, they first must get their ducks in a row.


What is CRM, really? Basically, customer relationship management is using resources to draw (and keep) your customers and your organization closer so that you can provide the highest value to customers, thereby realizing more revenue, customer share, etc.


Contrary to a lot of what we read, CRM is not a technology. It's a result of applied philosophy and behavior across an organization. Its principles are not new - they are age-old. Buying a new technology does not give you CRM. The technology is only a tool to be tightly integrated with your people systems, technology systems, processes and environment.


Incidentally, these organization components must be integrated and aligned with a customer-centric vision before the CRM technology can be integrated in a manner that will produce sustained success. The CRM solution must mirror the sound, previously-founded principles, values and beliefs of an organization to produce the desired results.


Not implemented in a vacuum. Most organizational or operational initiatives, from CRM implementation to other strategic planning efforts, affect the culture and behavior of much or all of an organization. This includes the four unique but interdependent components (people, technology, process and environment) that make up the systems, relationships and interfaces of any organization.


Being cognizant of this fundamental absolute from the beginning stages of envisioning and strategic planning is the first step to creating sustainable solutions aligned with the corporate vision.


Systems must align with vision. Asymmetry in an organization makes sustained success of any initiative nearly impossible. Alignment must be top of mind. The customer-centric vision and mission must be known, understood and embraced by the individuals in the organization top to bottom (this requires constant commitment and communication from leaders).


Where do you want to be? Why? Explain it, define it, agree on it, understand it and communicate it clearly so that all can understand and adopt it. Then evaluate "where we are now" in relation to the desired vision.


Systematize the vision. The vision must be translated into operational systems. These form the operational structure by which to turn the vision into reality. Sub-visions and sub-missions (these are what result when your people understand and embrace the vision) are the frameworks of operational systems that will run/work separately yet integrate with other systems.


Business is relationships. Relationships join systems together, and they bind the entire organization together. Simply stated, implementing CRM, or any major initiative, affects relationships across your organization, not just in sales or customer service.


Enable your people. The operational structure on its own is not very useful. The organizational structure/culture must be strategically formed, and empowerment of the work force must occur. True empowerment lets individuals and teams effectively traverse the operational systems for maximum effect in relation to the corporate vision and goals.


When you have all your operational and organizational ducks in a row, you will have already implemented various levels of CRM (without spending a zillion dollars). You will have done this by making the most of what you already have, and by designing and implementing functional, no-nonsense systems that work together (interface) effectively.


Of course, these systems should aim to make your organization more valuable to your target customers, thereby getting more value out of them.


Once your organization is fine-tuned, you can safely consider buying a compatible CRM turbo booster technology/solution to strategically and tactically integrate with your systems. Be sure not to deviate from the sound operational and organizational principles that got you ready for this step. Stay in alignment. Achieve sustainable success.


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