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CRM 2016: Stop Thinking Technology; Start Thinking Strategy

From its inception, CRM has focused primarily on sales, pipeline and forecasting orders. And with very few exceptions, it has remained essentially the same until the last few years, when a new evolution of CRM began incorporating new devices, analytics and mobility. Today’s reality is that your CRM system can, and should be, much more than a recordkeeping system.

A few years ago, Mitch Lieberman wrote, “Both the technology and the strategy of CRM need to evolve, and then needs to do so in lock step with each other.” Well, that time is now. (Mitch’s blog post contains a fascinating chart on the evolution of CRM, by the way.)

According to Aberdeen, this evolution speaks to the value CRM is capable of generating throughout your enterprise. Understanding the buyer’s journey across multi-channel, multi-touch engagements is of primary importance. What better to help with this process than CRM?

CRM is not just a software technology, it needs to be the strategy underlying every business objective.

CRM needs to be the strategy underlying every business objective. This means that every business application should work together and not in silos, as has traditionally been the case. (Check out this warning about The Perils of Piecemeal.)

Modern CRM systems are platforms built for extensibility. They include not only all of the functionality required to support sales, marketing and services, but can also be extended horizontally and vertically, supporting multiple devices and multiple deployments, with an architecture that is easy to integrate with other applications within the enterprises.

According to Paul Ledbetter, Sr. Manager of Microsoft’s Worldwide Industry Supply Chain, “When you incorporate analytics and BI into CRM and ERP, the acronyms no longer apply. Add cloud infrastructure, mobility, attractive UI and apps and visualizations and our ERP and CRM systems of five years ago are essentially unrecognizable.”

Stay Focused on These Two Critical Success Factors

Most CRM systems can be integrated with other software. However, you have to make a conscious decision to connect it all and then to use it this way. But, be careful. This is not just an IT effort; it is critical that the entire company believes in the approach. Here’s what to stay focused on as you go through the process.

Customer Engagement

Why else are you doing this? Customers are what it’s all about. A recent McKinsey survey found that this was the number one concern of global companies. Take a look at how your business engages customers and what the resulting customer experience looks like. If you’re like most companies, both areas could use some improvement. One way of improving customer engagement is by integrating traditional systems of record (such as CRM) with systems of engagement. For instance, this presentation on Mobile CPQ shows how the integration of this system of engagement with CRM can help to reach customers where they are, delivering both a better experience for the customer and a better outcome for the company.

Today it’s imperative that you support customers across multiple channels and devices with real-time, personalized information when and where they want it. Add-on solutions can be applied to your CRM system to address customer needs and improve engagement.

Corporate Culture

If customer engagement is what it’s all about, then the ability to use CRM successfully as a strategy tool means that everyone in the company has to be onboard. It’s not just an IT effort. For CRM to be successful as a strategy, there may need to be a cultural change. Every person in the company must see the customer experience as their first priority—and therefore commit to using the same tools and processes in order to accurately gauge outcomes.

That means you need to include input and buy-in from all teams to ensure that your entire organization embraces the idea that this is all about your relationship with the customer. If your employees don’t buy into this idea, they will never support the tactical things required to accomplish it. They have to be willing to do the legwork—especially in areas that will require new technology and processes.

Communicate well and often, and make sure you can bring it all back to the end goal of not just satisfying, but delighting your customers. Only then will your CRM system hold the master view of the customer where you will be able to see every interaction—from initial digital touchpoints to opportunities, sales, ongoing services and support.

Now’s the Time

Now is the time for New Year’s resolutions, so think about adding this one to your list. Make CRM a conscious strategy, and see what exciting things the New Year will hold for you!

You May Also Be Interested in:

CRM Trends: Are You Playing It Too Safe?

Enterprise Manufacturing Systems Architecture and ERP in a Cloudy Future

What’s Ahead in 2016 for Manufacturing?

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