The role of the CRM leader – part two: Best practices you need to know 

13th Mar 2017

In 2010, David Cameron’s recently elected coalition government announced the launch of a new operation – the provocatively-named “nudge unit”.

Adopted in adulation of a similar exercise set up by Barrack Obama’s presidential administration in the US, the unit would lean on nudge theory to work out “how to use behavioural economics and market signals to persuade citizens to behave in a more socially integrated way”.  

Whilst the government approach has evolved to become regarded, by some, as pseudo-Orwellian social engineering, the roots of nudge theory – using positive reinforcement to influence groups into compliance with a specific mandate – is something that can be applied to those occupying CRM leadership roles.

“For people in this type of position, the chances are, your CRM project has long taken form and the project team has disbanded to leave staff to get on with using it,” says Ed Thompson, an industry analyst for Gartner. “So your role becomes about competencies, and the political side of how you keep people embroiled in the blueprint associated with your CRM programme.

“At times that may mean advocating, nudging, doing the political behind-the-scenes work to encourage different stakeholders along. It may mean going up to members of, say, the sales team and saying ‘I know you’ve got your sales targets, I know you’re struggling to get everything updated, but I really need your guys to recheck some of these records, or I really need you at the internal CRM programme meeting coming up and you’re going to have to find room for it’. It’s not always easy but it can often be what makes or breaks your success.”

Internal relations

For people charged with overseeing their CRM programme post-implementation – be it in a part-time capacity or full-time in positions such as the increasingly popular head of CRM role – best practice often starts with building the right relationships with different stakeholders across the business.

“Senior management buy-in is critical throughout a CRM initiative because introducing CRM, as an approach and a technology, demands change in the business,” says Jeremy Ward, head of CRM consulting at Touchstone Group, in The Business Guide to CRM.

“In the early stages, the most important tasks are those associated with ensuring that support from managers and team leaders is put in place, that the organisation as a whole is aware and understands the need for change and to ensure that the correct personnel are assigned to the programme.”

Your role becomes about competencies, and the political side of how you keep people embroiled in the blueprint associated with your CRM programme

And as Mike Richardson, managing director of Maximizer Software explains, this often means involving the right blend of technical and non-technical stakeholders.    

“One of the most common challenges is that being driven by the technical side of the business and not by the business users, leading to solutions that are too complex and prescriptive. It is amazing how much money companies will spend on development of CRM processes and automation that end up being too complex or not working on a day to day basis.

“Garner feedback from staff using the solution and if possible create a number of power users with a greater understanding of the solution across the organisation.

“If a number of people fully understand the CRM, training can be done on the spot as and when required and feedback from all the teams on possible improvements is readily forthcoming.”

Hands-on delivery

Alongside juggling internal politics, a CRM leader is often required to provide more hands-on delivery of insight and analysis, especially once a system is implemented fully.  

Matthew Storey, head of CRM at QuidCo says his role consists of five fundamental best practices:

  • Understanding customer lifecycle “While every business shares common lifecycle elements it's important to know the detail that is unique to you. For instance, after joining, how long do you have to convert a member? How many purchases do they need to make before they can be considered engaged with you brand? Or what combination of attributes makes a member likely to lapse or be won back?”
  • Establishing customer preferences “Understand what content, promotion mechanics and product features customers like and use and keep it simple by giving them more of what they want. It's important to try new ideas, but don't persist with those you like and therefore think the customer should like, but don't work. It's very difficult to change consumer behaviour yourself, instead monitor the long term trends and changes and make sure you're the first to take advantage of them. 
  • Ensuringing the data is rich and easily accessible “In an era where data is plentiful, usually the biggest challenge is making it accessible to all the teams in the business. e.g. marketing teams need to be able to segment users, trigger campaigns, test and report, while a support team requires a single view of each customer that outlines all of their recent interactions. As well as being accessible it needs to be moulded and transformed to make it easy to understand and act on.” 
  • Keeping on top of new channels “The growth of mobile has made it increasingly vital to understand which channels customers use and how they use them to interact with you. Do they use mobile for research and convert there, or do they prefer to convert on desktop? At what times of day do they tend to use each device? It's also important to consider your outbound communications and use channels that meet customer expectations.”
  • Making personalisation possible “As customers have become less tolerant of irrelevant messages, personalisation has grown in importance, however it's still a difficult thing to do well. Thinking about how you can use your CRM data to put the right content in front of a customer at the right time has become a key part of the role, as well as understanding how you can achieve it technically without any detrimental impact on the user experience.”

Success is dependent on a number of variables, however, and measurement often depends on the individual organisation. Storey states that, at QuidCo, his CRM team’s KPIs include:

  • Size of the 'active base' (number of members shopping within the last 12 months).
  • Total number of transactions.
  • Number of new members that convert to make a first purchase.
  • Number of members that have been won back.
  • Number of members that have lapsed.

Such measurements can give CRM leaders a broad remit, and so become reliant on an iterative approach.  

“Improved lead generation, improved qualification rates, more deals won and better results from customer service surveys; they’re all realistic goals to measure,” adds Richardson. “Which metrics are chosen should be spelt out at the start of a project or CRM change period and the aims well understood, with repetitive, continuous review and improvement.

“Dashboards and reporting should allow simple measures of improvement. I.e. having improved the volume of leads, how can you improve qualification? Once you’ve improved qualification, how can you improve close rate. Once close rate is good, is customer retention still a challenge, and so on.”

Of course, success is reliant on clean, correct data, and internal adoption of the CRM system. In 2014, a study found that 66% of companies were struggling to raise CRM adoption rates over 50%.

With the reliance on CRM increasing all the time, the need to maintain high adoption rates across the business is vital. Which means maintaining communications with your key stakeholders at all times, and being bold enough to be able to give people the occasional nudge, too.    

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