Go to any CRM vendor's website and you'll be inundated with wondrous tales of how the CRM system can transform your business, increasing profitability and customer satisfaction at the same time. Providing executives with a 360-degree view of the customer relationship, enabling real-time responses to myriad customer problems, and improving sales productivity and predictability, all while whitening teeth and freshening breath. The good news is that there isn't a single lie in any one of those websites. (What they say has to be true in some universe, if not the one we inhabit.)
Of course, a CRM system itself doesn't transform anything. It's a piece of code providing visibility, automation and follow-through. What actually will change business performance are the behavior changes in your people and the process improvements enabled by the CRM system.
Buying the best CRM in the world is like buying a Ferrari or Lamborghini. You won't immediately win any races. In fact, by themselves, these cars won't make you a better driver.
Seen in this light, a CRM system can be viewed as a tool that helps you realize your team's potential. It's like buying a better tennis racket or the coolest new skis. If your organization doesn't have the potential to really do what you want - to play tennis, as it were, or to ski - the CRM project merely exposes that.
Think realistically about your organization's readiness and the breadth of how you actually manage and cultivate customer relationships today. There are plenty of business categories that have yet to evolve to need everything that's on the CRM menu. So let's look at the big three CRM use-cases from 50,000 feet.
1. The CRM System As a Smart File Cabinet
In professional services firms and boutique financial services, for example, the main focus of the CRM system is to make sure everyone in the organization knows the history of the relationship. The relationships are long-running, sometimes lasting decades, and there's no classic sales focus.
One telltale sign of this kind of organization: Nobody has the word "sales" or "account manager" on a business card, and there's little focus on traditional lead generation. Of course, transactions occur - but the real deal-making is done over dinner or golf. The sales cycle is implicit, and the deal stages may be as simple as universe, interested, negotiation and closed.
The focus of this use case is collecting and organizing as much information as possible, as easily as possible, about prospects and customers. Key inputs are email, contact lists, address books, event planning/execution and documents. Key outputs are customer and prospect status reports and activity summaries by segment. Even in these simple systems, however, there's a real need for mobile device access and remote collaboration. That's why cloud CRM applications have been cleaning up in this area.
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