Many companies recognize they need to make improvements in how they understand and engage customers in a rapidly evolving, multi-channel world, but they frequently struggle with how to move forward. Should they engage in incremental improvements using currently available resources and budget? Or should they undertake a major organizational transformation that spans both CRM capabilities and internal operating models?
While there is not one answer that fits all situations, we recommend that company executives ask themselves several fundamental questions:
- Materiality: What’s the size of the prize? If you have confidence that moving to a more customer-centric approach will produce a significant business impact over time, a major investment in capabilities and/or operating model changes probably makes sense. If not, then logically incremental improvements are more appropriate, but recognize that CRM is not a database, an application, a campaign or some other tactic.
- Sponsorship: Is your core leadership team solidly behind the effort? Are they true sponsors? Sponsorship is active, engaged, supportive, and enthusiastic. Sponsorship is not permission (which is passive, unengaged and sometimes even dismissive). Sponsoring executives are ready to take accountability for both successes and failures. They remain genuinely interested in progress and communicate a sense of urgency. They work aggressively to set priorities and clear away distractions. They are visible and vocal advocates. If members of your core leadership team (including C-Level executives) are not sponsors, you are not ready for transformative change.
- Alignment: To what extent do your other key executives understand and buy in to the proposed changes? If there is clear alignment around both need and scale of change required, a major transformation is far more likely to be successful. Note that it can take time and effort to get to alignment! If you lack clear alignment, you will likely face major headwinds that could mean trouble for any major transformation.
- Customer Vision: Have you articulated how customer engagement will change post-transformation? A picture can be worth a thousand words, as the old saying goes, especially when seeking to convince a broader group within the organization of what you are trying to achieve. It is vital to showcase how interactions with customers need to change and why it’s valuable. Take an outside-in view — from the customers’ point of view.
- Roadmap: Have you developed a multiyear plan for implementing CRM-related changes? Do you know where you need to invest, and what you need to change in terms of processes and organization? Taking the time to develop a multiyear view is critical, including investments, milestones, and dependencies. Find the right cadence of change that works for your organization, and reflect that in your plan. If you don’t have a long-term plan, proceed incrementally (but also recognize that you may not end up where you wanted to end up!).
Merkle’s Management Consulting Group specializes in helping our clients manage change, including defining the “Case for Change” (showcasing the need for CRM); defining the “Plan for Change” (what will be different from a people, process and technology perspective); and helping to “Realize Value” (implementing prioritized improvement initiatives and helping to ensure benefits are attained).