What Exactly is CRM Anyway?

    April 21, 2004

For years we’ve been enamored with technology. Do you even remember how you worked without email? Or the internet? We’ve gotten so accustomed to using technology as part of our daily business practice, that we seem to focus on it as a solution rather than a business tool.

When CRM came along several years ago companies jumped on the bandwagon, believing it would help them improve lagging sales. That’s the equivalent of having a new fork make your cooking taste better.

Technology became the focus: how to choose it, who to use it, how to customize it, how to get users to use it, and how to manage it so companies would get the biggest bang for the buck.

Then came the implementation problems: why was it costing companies $5 in fixes for every $1 spent on the technology? Why were there so many difficulties in getting users to use the system? Why were techies and users and managers having such a tough time communicating through the implementation – each wanting something different, and not having the skills to easily work through the execution. Some companies got smart and did upfront simulated systems for users to play with. Sometimes there were beta tests. And sometimes the system was brought in with great fanfare, with users and managers having to manage their own interpersonal issues with use and customization.

As a result of all of the above, CRM has gotten a bad rap. Of course, if they had known then what they know now about people issues, and implementation issues, and technology issues, they might not be having any difficulty now. But it’s all conjecture. At this point, companies aren’t even saying they are using CRM. They are calling it by other names – customer care initiatives, or customer loyalty technology.

But the original problem remains: what, exactly is CRM, and how can it be best used to a company’s advantage?

What is CRM?

CRM is not a technology – it is a solution to a business problem.

Because it has been trapped in the technology’ field, we’ve thought of CRM systems as technology’. Just as we’ve confused the activity of selling’ products with the true aim of sales which is to support buyers in solving business problems, we’ve put CRM systems in the wrong sector.

By designating CRM a technical support tool, we’ve overlooked the true strength of the solution:
CRM solves a business problem and, by virtue of its features, can offer high quality customer service. The technology serves the solution, not the other way round.

If we understand that the use of CRM systems is only to solve our business problems, we must then go about discovering what our problems really are before we look to any technology to support us. Once we focus on our business problems and understand all of the elements that must be managed, we’ll then know:

what success needs to look like;

what a solution must entail;

who/what must be addressed to maintain an orderly flow that addresses all parts of the problem;

how to maintain the integrity of the business operation.

Let’s look at the elements that need to be addressed, managed, and before we know if a CRM system is part of our solution.

Facilitating the Decision: CRM or Not

Here are some facilitative questions that will help teams discover the elements to their unsolved problem – before they consider the efficacy of a CRM solution. [Obviously these questions are static since this article is a one-way communication, but readers can go to www.newsalesparadigm.com for a more detailed view of the process.]

What is causing us to be working less effectively than we need to be working?

What outcomes do we seek that we are not currently achieving? What is stopping us?

What do we need to do differently in order to achieve our goals? What is stopping us from being able to do these things?

How can we solve the problem with our current resources? What has stopped us from using these until now?

What would we need to do differently to fix any problems we’re now facing? What would need to happen for us to have the flexibility to make the changes we’d need to make?

What resources do we have that we can use differently to solve our problem? What resources would we have to bring in in order to be successful?

How would we need to (re)organize in order to bring in new resources (including technology, consultants, etc.

Once we bring in the new resources, how will we know when there is a problem? How will we know how to align all of the business groups that touch the problem so they can become a part of the solution and not be disenfranchised?

How do we know the timing on all of the above?

I use these types of questions to help business define, examine, and recognize their problems and solutions. Until or unless they understand their business case, see/know how a CRM system would fit in, be managed with existing resources, be adopted and accepted through current channels, CRM will not be a viable solution.

It will only be when we recognize all of the natural elements that must be included within a business solution can we consider implementing a CRM system. Then – and only then – can we customize a CRM system to fit with the solution we have defined.

As in sales, the solution and the buying patterns must be named before the product gets introduced. Otherwise, you’ve got a solution looking for a problem rather than the other way round.

Hopefully, by using this system, the decision to have a CRM system be a part of the business solution will not create any change management problems, but will include an appropriate route to go from problem to solution to implementation in the smoothest way possible.

Should you wish to learn more about this, go to www.buyingfacilitation.com and purchase my ebook Buying Facilitation: the new way to sell that expands and influences decisions