April 14, 2010 – Gartner outlined three required steps for a successful customer relationship management strategy today.

While the sources and parameters are shifting with the introduction of social media analytics, CRM remains a priority for CIOs this year. And, Ed Thompson, vice president and distinguished analyst for Gartner, says that isolated strategies are likely to fail.

Know Where You Are Going

Thompson describes the first step to a successful CRM strategy as “setting the destination.” This requires decision-makers to be aware of the company vision; and the goals derived from the vision should be the intended destination of the strategy.

Pay particular attention to the leadership and governance structures, Thompson says. “Ensure that the CRM vision is to articulate the future environment for the organization in terms of profitability and customer experience. During the initial stages of the CRM initiative – while the CRM vision and strategy are being developed – the leadership and governance structure must be agreed upon and roles allocated before it is stressed by the impact of change management upon employees.”

Audit Your Current Status

Gaining an understanding of the company’s current approach to CRM is critical, and is the second step, according to Gartner analysts. Before entering into a CRM process, everything should be assessed, particularly skills, resources, competitors, partners and customers.

This step should be used to evaluate the organization against equivalent organizations in the same or a similar industry, Thompson was quoted to say. “A competitive benchmark is an excellent way to gauge how far behind or ahead the organization is in comparison,” he said. “Ultimately, companies should use as many of these assessment types as possible to prepare for the development of the CRM strategy.”

Map Your Way

Any journey is likely to take a deliver a few unexpected turns. And, a CRM strategy by definition is a description of how a company will reach certain goals or destinations. As a result, Gartner analysts emphasize the importance expecting these shifts and maintaining a consistent vision.

Companies must link plans to the overall company strategy already in use, said Thompson. “The challenge is to avoid rushing the development process, as the company may be committed to many years of change.”

Click here to listen to last week’s episode of DM Radio “Customer Analytics and the Promise of New CRM.” CRM experts describe the current state of the art, and lament areas where many companies are still sorely lacking in the critical process of improving customer relations

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