Imagine our world without CRM. Life as we know it would be very different, and perhaps a little less exciting than the mainstream business spotlight in which we find ourselves today. Yet that was the world in which most of us lived just a few years ago – a world in which we had functional and divisional responsibilities for various aspects of the customer's experience, or what we term CRM today. We now share this wonderful goal of pulling together and coordinating all aspects of the customer experience.

The idea of improving customer experiences and contacts isn't necessarily new; sales, service and marketing have all been trying to doing this for quite some time. What is new is the realization that effectively pulling this off requires all areas of the organization to be working together. It is what makes CRM such a big deal. It's what transforms CRM from a nice idea into a movement.

The primary challenge, however, remains unchanged. The organizational realities of and roadblocks to implementing CRM remain. The functional decentralization of CRM responsibilities within many organizations is what challenges many of these initiatives.

There are five key aspects your organization will have to change in order to truly support and foster CRM initiatives. The stages of transformation are shown from left to right – from product to customer. It is important to note that movement from one stage to the next does not equate to abandoning the previous stage. Rather, it is a matter of an organization shifting its emphasis over time.

Figure 1: CRM Business Transformation Map

Transforming the business focus of an organization essentially means getting the organization to buy into the customer-focused paradigm. The business focus may shift from "How can we increase the sales of our products" to "What do our customers need, and how can we meet those needs?"

Changing the organizational structure of a company goes hand in hand with the change in business focus. The transformation to a customer-focused organization should lead to literally organizing around your customers – assigning customer segment managers responsibility for the acquisition, retention and growth of different segments of customers.

Transforming the business metrics should be a byproduct of the changes previously noted. In this case, the shift is from a single focus on product performance, and/or promotion performance, or decentralized views of these metrics to a focus on customer lifetime value and loyalty.

Changing the marketing focus or customer interactions within your organization from mass to interactive dialogue is also essential. If you change your business focus and organize around your customers, you have to be able to implement – to provide differential customer experiences through marketing, sales and service.

Finally, there is an essential technology transformation. CRM technology must support and enable meaningful customer dialogue at all points of contact.

It is important to keep in mind that all five of these areas need to change in order to effectively support CRM. Four out of five or some other fractional level of participation will not work, as in this case you are only as strong as your weakest link.

CRM is, therefore, a business concept that has broad- reaching impact across your organization. In order to move forward, we recommend that you first identify where your organization stands in each of these five areas and then develop a phased plan for change.

As has been the case even before the advent of CRM, success is based on organizational readiness: the ability and willingness to change.

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