How Did I Get Here? Jason Nash, Microsoft Dynamicsby
Jason Nash, Microsoft Business Solutions
What is your current job title/position? What other positions have you held throughout your career and how did you get started in the Customer Management industry?
I am currently the product solutions marketing manager for Microsoft CRM in the UK. I have held a number of product management roles in the past, working for a number of companies including Barclays Bank, Sony as well as working in the USA for a company called Powerway.
The most similar role to my current post were my three years as UK product manager for Janna Systems, which was acquired by Siebel in the late 90s.
What do you most enjoy about your current position?
I enjoy meeting with customers, prospects and presenting to large groups. I don't hold a sales role per se, although I do love talking about the benefits of technology and CRM in particular.
I like passing on my experience of what customers can do to get a successful solution in place and analysing exactly how technology can benefit their business.
I like being in a position to guide people through the process, and ensuring they have a realistic timeline, have considered success metrics and – more importantly – have found an executive sponsor internally. It's also important that decision makers have weighed up the 'return on customer' – i.e. the lifetime value of a customer, and the cost of each new sale compared to the cost of retaining existing customers.
In fact sometimes my role can be almost anti-sales! I need to ensure customers aren't trying to do too much too soon and aren't tempted to rely on a new system to cure all evils; CRM is as much about modifying processes as it is about the system to help those processes.
Is there anyone in the industry you particularly admire or who has had a big influence on your career?
I remember talking to a number of analysts whilst working for Janna Systems; several of them had a shaping influence on my ideas and views. Ed Thomas sticks out in my mind particularly, as well as the Peppers and Rogers Group, which first talked about 'return on customer' – I've rarely faulted the logic in what they have to say. Indeed, I've found their ideas have really helped many prospects build their business case for CRM investment.
Have there been any significant events you can tell us about which have had an impact on your career - training and qualifications etc?
I am dyslexic and so have always been impressed by technology and how the advent of spell checkers and word processors has helped me to get around my difficulty. It often amuses me how often Microsoft is referred to as an 'evil empire' whereas – as a result of my dyslexia – I've come to view it as a liberating organisation, ensuring the mass market has access to enabling technology, and not just IT gurus.
What has been your greatest achievement to date?
Considering that dyslexia could have limited the career options open to me, I'm proud to have worked for some of the biggest names in the business.
Do you have any advice for aspiring customer management professionals?
Make sure you speak to customers and prospects, and don’t believe everything you read in the press. Ensure you always keep an open mind and look for new ways of doing things. It’s how you do things differently that's important, whether referring to the features and functionality in a new product or communications to the market. Differentiation more often leads to success than by doing the same as everyone else.
What do you think are the key issues facing customer management professionals at present?
As the world becomes more interconnected through systems and networks, the walls that isolated workers from information, organizational objectives, and each other will continue to fall. The unfortunate by-product of this, however, is "information overload," where the sheer volume of data and the complexity of the applications necessary to work with it threaten to overwhelm the powers of human cognition.
Research has shown that on average, the amount of business-related email has increased by a factor of ten since 1997. The number of business-related electronic communications – email, instant messages, meeting requests – is projected to increase five-fold between 2004 and 2008, according to IDC.
IDC has also estimated that workers frequently spend 2.5 hours a day, or 30% of their work time, looking for information. In a customer-oriented environment, this is all time away from providing high-quality customer service.
Organisations will benefit substantially when their skilled, experienced workers can devote more time to ensuring top-notch customer service, and less time and energy tracking down the right version of a document or travelling or managing logistics to convene group meetings.
What's your overall view of the current CRM/customer management market place?
I think we are entering a very exciting period in the market today. There are a lot of vendors in the market place and this can lead to complexity, high costs of licences and training and lower levels of adoption.
Conversely, I think Microsoft’s presence in the market will push vendors to be more focused on ease of use, ease of integration, web service development and ease of deployment. This should in turn increase the value customers get from CRM products, either through reduced costs or enhanced levels of functionality, which should drive a healthy market.
From a partner perspective it's also very exciting to see analysts such as Gartner saying that vertical solutions make the value-add for CRM greater. As an example, a product for managing support calls could be called a CRM product. After all, one person’s customer is another person’s supplier is another person’s partner.
I think the total cost of ownership figures for the CRM segment will be very different due to the changes we’re bringing to the market, and love or hate Microsoft, you can’t deny some of the good things we have brought to other markets.
In your experience, which companies do you think are good at CRM, customer service etc, and which have a long way to go before they make the grade?
I don't think it would be fair for me to pick on individual organisations, but we've all had experiences where the technology or policies in place just did not make sense.
One example I experienced a fortnight ago was a major bank, where I was asked to key in numerous PINs, my date of birth etc as part of the ID verification process – only to be asked to give the same information to the customer service rep I ended up being transferred to, because "those two systems don’t work together."
Similarly, I've often come across scenarios where, were I a new customer, I'd be eligible for a great offer, but as an existing customer, I don't qualify. I've heard of people who have left to join a new company in this situation, even if they were happy with the original provider.
The funny thing is most of these things can be fixed by empowering employees to do the right thing, and that's what technology should do: empower people. That's the whole thing with CRM, it's not about technology, it's about people and process. Are you going to be a people-focused business or not? You don't have to be, because there are other ways to differentiate your business, price, innovation and products. It comes down to organisational choice.
Finally, what are your goals and ambitions for the future?
I am pretty ambitions, and think I've been lucky enough to join Microsoft to work with one of the most exciting products in the business right now. With a new product release around the corner, a massive market opportunity is there for the taking. I'm extremely excited about what the future holds at the moment.