Jamie Anderson, CMO, SAP Hybris: Tips for CRM buyers
In the latest in our series of articles where IT leaders provide their take on the purchasing process, Jamie Anderson, senior vice president and chief marketing officer of SAP Hybris, shares his tips for those looking to buy CRM solutions.
MyC. What do practitioners need to consider before they start looking for CRM tools, to determine their requirements?
The first obvious factor for me is the business itself. Does management truly understand what the CRM application or CRM tools are going to give them? One of the historical issues with CRM has been the expectations that it's sold under – somebody will make wild claims about what a CRM application will do for a business, and then conflict arises within the company about whether the software has met those promises. Realistic expectations, and a solid alignment – from the top of the organisation all the way through in terms of what the business is trying to achieve – are crucial to figuring out what you want.
It's also worth considering whether you actually need a CRM application, or whether you need to go beyond traditional CRM approaches. Every customer-facing process, everything that has a material impact on the customer, philosophically falls under the category of CRM – BUT, in many cases, these customer interactions are so much bigger than the scope of a traditional CRM application suite. You've got to look at the whole universe that surrounds the customer and ensure that whatever you do, you do it consistently, in a joined up way that benefits the customer and delivers a holistic omnichannel experience. Just prescribing ‘CRM’ for one specific topic is a bit like prescribing penicillin for every case of the common cold.
MyC. What kinds of questions should they ask themselves?
Organisations should consider: “Why do we think we need CRM? What are we doing right now that we could be doing better? And what are our customers telling us that we need to do?" Some of those customer issues will be explicit, such as phoning the contact centre, engaging on digital channels, while some will be implicit.
It’s also important for companies to think about what they're trying to solve. What's the big thing that's driving their challenge? These discussions usually anchor around a need for change, so practitioners need to ask themselves these types of big picture of questions. It's a bit introspective and it's a bit outside-in, but it’s important to re-examine the customer-facing processes and ask the hard questions. Are they built for the modern age? Is this how customers really want to talk to us? I'm a firm believer that we no longer live in a world of CRM, but the world of the customer-managed relationship. The fundamental shift is that the customer is in control. So it's how you facilitate that customer-managed relationship.
As consumers ourselves, we choose who we want to do business with based on several criteria, and one of the most important factors is convenience. That's about being always-on, readily available, and consistent in your communications. It's also about providing accurate information. With this in mind, it’s key to place convenience at the heart of customer interactions, recognise that the customer is in charge of the relationship they want to have with you, and also provide consistency across channels. Ultimately, companies should ask: “Does a CRM application or suite of tools provide you everything you need to get to where you're going?”
MyC. How can buyers convince the CFO that investment in this kind of technology is a wise decision?
That's a bit of a leading question! It's leading to the conclusion that you need to have solid return on investment (ROI). But that's a very limited metric when you consider making such a large decision.
Firstly, if you improve engagement with customers, what are some of the other benefits of that? They don't always necessarily end up in terms of growth, they can be around customer retention, satisfaction, greater share of wallet, etc. So it’s important to construct a robust set of key performance indicators (KPIs) mapped to a range of key business objectives that support the wider corporate objectives.
It’s important to construct a robust set of KPIs mapped to a range of key business objectives that support the wider corporate objectives.
Let’s also consider something a little more abstract: return on engagement (ROE). In today's economy, how a customer feels about your company and brand is so important. How they engage with you through social media and all the other channels. How they help amplify your brand through those channels as well, that's really important. So if you place engagement at the heart of it, and you know that you create more goodwill, then obviously that leads to repeat business. Forrester’s Customer Experience Index highlights the importance of getting the customer experience right and measuring the impact over time. Studies have shown that the brands that rank positively in terms of customer experience greatly outperform those ranked poorest in stock market value.
And finally, the other third of the holy trinity of getting the CFO on board is the cost of doing nothing. There's something that's forced you to arrive at this point, a reason why you're looking at new technology. What is that? So I think one of the first things you should say is “if we do nothing, here's what's going to happen.” Because if the “do-nothing” argument isn't really there, if the situation is that if you do nothing then nothing really changes, then the obvious conclusion is to do nothing.
However, it's also worth noting that the CFO should have been involved in any discussion entertaining a capital investment or an investment in operational expenditure from the very beginning. As a marketer, I get a marketing budget, but for things that we need to do beyond that, I need to be engaging not just the CFO but the whole team at the very start of the process.
MyC. Are there any particular challenges in the CRM solution market that buyers need to be aware of?
I'd say that there have never been more solutions on the market than there are today. CRM itself is a combination of solutions to manage sales and sales people, solutions to manage customer-facing sales process, solutions for customer service, and solutions for marketing and commerce. That's traditional CRM. But, in the marketing technology landscape alone, there are nearly 4,000 different solutions and solution providers out there. 4,000 - that's insane. I think one major challenge is that the market is overpopulated with solutions that in many cases do a lot of the same things.
I'd say that there have never been more solutions on the market than there are today.
To add on to that, there have also been a lot of acquisitions that have happened in the market over the past few years. This has actually led to a quite challenging IT infrastructure required to support this environment – whether that's a cloud-based infrastructure or on premise. When it comes to cloud, there are multiple options out there that serve specific functions of CRM applications and yet are sold as integrated suites when they're not. And you have a lot of replication of customer information across these "cloud suites," because there's nothing standard about the different data models or the application business logic.
This is a big buyer-beware signal – if you're going for a suite, you have to be sure it's properly integrated and has a common central data model and a process layer that supports all of the functions of CRM across marketing, sales, service, and commerce. I think that it is dangerous when you're being asked to buy a suite from one brand and the applications that make up that suite live in several different cloud environments and infrastructures with uncommon data models – and with different business process architectures that are driving the applications. The cost of that is felt later on down the line, when you then try to integrate both systems with the back office and other discrete functions like Finance or HR.
MyC. Once practitioners are at the solution selection stage, what advice can you share to help buyers find the most appropriate vendor for their needs?
Before purchasing, you have to go back to every one of the things I said before and remember that the customer experience is an aggregation of many things that happen along the whole customer value chain. When you sell something to a customer, you've made a promise to them. Whether they buy something online, or whether they buy it in a store, you have to be sure you can fulfil the needs that that customer has. This requires insight and real-time integration into every part of the customer journey.
I think that it is dangerous when you're being asked to buy a suite from one brand and the applications that make up that suite live in several different cloud environments with uncommon data models.
The customer journey doesn't end when shoppers walk out the store, hang up the phone, or click 'check out' online. The customer experience is only beginning then. The customer may have a service request, or a problem. So it’s important to ask if your returns process integrated with your CRM application. Additionally, do you have the ability to fulfil an order – being able to see real-time inventory and locate the thing that the customer wants? Can you fulfil the request within the customer's expected time deliverable?
Many can’t - if you don't have the systems connected end-to-end, and you can't give the customer, even in a B2B context, an accurate lead time of when these materials will be shipped to them, when they will arrive on-site, whatever it happens to be... if you don't connect all parts of your business to the customer value chain, then you're making false promises and you cannot build relationships on broken promises.
I think it’s critical to look at vendors that understand the full nature of the customer, not just the happy, shiny veneer - the white teeth, the perfect hair, the suit and tie. You've got to go beyond that. You've got to get into the different aspects of the business, and say 'Why are we selecting a system - to improve sales? Or are we genuinely trying to make a difference to the customer experience because we believe that that's the thing that's going to drive our brand equity, and the repeat business for our company that will sustain us for the next 10, 15, 20 years?' That's probably what I'd think about.
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Neil Davey is the managing editor of MyCustomer. An experienced business journalist and editor, Neil has worked on a variety of newspapers, magazines and websites over the past 15 years, including Internet Works, CXO magazine and Business Management. He joined Sift Media in 2007.