So we are in full swing in 2010 and it is already a great year and only going to get better. It’s not like money is falling from the skies but close (very close). Customers are active and asking for a lot of advice. Some are actually asking for too much advice. How can that be possible? Well, it goes back to that saying that everything is good in moderation. I can certainly say that is true of certain things in CRM as well.
Each and every year I probably sit in somewhere from 250-500 “CRM” type of discussions that are with customers and prospects or just internal discussions with team members as we talk about our craft and trying to get better. The one thing that amazes me is that when I think about the last year I reflected on how few times there were actual discussions related to the customer or their customer experience. Granted that there is no need for much of that in a Sales Force Automation (SFA) focused implementation but we don’t nearly as much of that anymore anyways. Most companies implementing CRM need and understand the concept of CRM being much more than a sales management tool.
The frustrating part of this blog article is that in most of my seminars and talks I give in New York City and around the country I preach the value of the customer and the fact that how they perceive and work with your firm will ultimately decide the long term fate of your organization. Yet, for as many times as I have evangelized the topic, I would guess that in less than 5 percent of organizations actively discuss “opportunities” and customer frustrations when they either update a system or deploy a new one. This simply amazes me.
It is funny because in each of our companies we are always wondering what the other competitors are doing and how receptive the clients are to the approach. And, since most companies work in a highly competitive environment, chances are that our customers have worked at some level with some of our competitors. The truth is that many will gladly share what that do and do like about the way you do business and the people that you sell against. These customers will also give you some treasures of the things that they would value that no vendor provides.
I titled this article based on the popular Staples campaign of the last couple of years because the visual is hard to get past. I think that whenever you are working on any customer facing system or if your customers are internal departments and you are designing or implementing system you should ask the following questions before a single piece of software is installed, upgraded or configured:
1. If my employees walked in with amnesia today could they run our company just using the systems that are provided for them at their desktop?
2. If I hired my best customer to work for me and asked them for their honest opinion after using my system for a few days after training would it be a short discussion or an all day affair?
3. If your company espouses service as one of its main competitive advantages do you show your CRM to prospects during the sales cycle and explain how it works?
4. If you have lost any quality people in the past two years did you ask them their opinion of the tools that were provided in order to meet their job requirements and what they would change if they stayed?
5. If you have more than one department on the CRM has everyone been given equitable say on what the system does and how it works or is it “owned by one particular team and used by the others?
6. And finally, if you surveyed 100 customers would they say that you are easy to do business with?
Look, no firm is perfect, and I see areas of opportunity for my own organization every day of the week. When you look back at 2010 and things are on the upswing will you have done everything possible to improve your ability to acquire market share and make a difference in the bottom line or will you continue to run the way you always have. Those decisions are ultimately what differentiate the good companies from the great ones.