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Business Process Management Drives CRM Success 

Business Process Management Drives CRM Success

Business Process Management Drives CRM Success

6/5/2003
By Donna Fluss
ICCM Weekly

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Does your CRM Project set to fail?

I’m tired of hearing about CRM failures. Yes, CRM projects fail frequently and will continue to do so until enterprises invest as much time and energy into managing people and process as they do technology. How many times have we heard about a Sales Force Automation (SFA) initiative where the staff revolts and refuses to use the new system because it adds complexity to their already complicated jobs? Or a data warehouse project that doesn’t succeed because it pairs new technology with inefficient pre-existing practices that were the primary source of the problem to begin with? Or about a new customer tracking system that doesn’t use its “real estate” effectively, forcing call center agents to look to multiple screens to get the same information formerly available on one screen, adding 5 to 10 seconds to each call? What these failed projects have in common is that management, too focused on their own objectives, simply neglected to ask the system users – the folks who will make or break an implementation – what they needed. All too often it isn’t a new system that’s required, but new processes.

It’s not companies’ CRM strategy that’s usually at fault, but rather CRM implementations that are being mishandled. The reality is that companies acquired a lot of adequate technology during the CRM craze, but too much of it was poorly installed and staff not properly trained. Organizations shouldn’t toss out troubled projects but instead should reassess them to determine if there are ways to turn failures into successes through project redesign, process improvements and training. For CRM initiatives to achieve their goals, enterprises need to effectively leverage people, process and technology.

Business Process Management is the Key

The core issue is that the vast majority of CRM systems do not address business process management. CRM is about improving relationships with customers to maximize enterprise profitability and technology is only a small part of that goal. As automation isn’t the end-plan but an enabler, enterprises should pay as much if not more attention to improving their processes as they do to technology. Yes, it’s critical for a CRM system to integrate with an enterprise’s existing applications, but it’s more important to be able to take advantage of the information newly available from the integration. The integration is simply a method of getting to the data. How the data is used will determine if the project adds value to an enterprise and the overall success of the initiative. If the staff isn’t given processes and trained to use the new information, isn’t motivated to use it or, even worse, is penalized for taking the time to use the new system, it will be wasted and its value not realized to the organization.

Changing people and process is much more difficult than changing technology. Think about Microsoft XP. It took years, but Microsoft finally accepted that many of its customers do not like change. So, Microsoft introduced its new XP operating systems with user-defined controls that allowed customers to make XP act and look like “classic” Windows 2000. Sure, this means that many customers will not take advantage of the added capabilities in XP, but at least it gets them onto the new operating system. Put another way, even Bill Gates has given in to the relevance of business process management. It may not be what companies want, but it’s a reality.

Put your Call Centre operations into perspective

Call/contact centers can generally benefit from business process improvement. Keeping in mind that 70% to 80% of the overall cost of the call/contact center is people-related, there are lots of ways to improve agent performance. Let’s take a typical productivity-oriented call/contact center where the average talk time is 130 seconds, average after-call work time is 15 seconds, and an agent gets only a lunch break and two 15-minute breaks each day. The rest of the time, agents are literally tethered to the automatic call distributor (ACD) or e-mail response management system (ERMs). Training and quality assurance, activities that are viewed positively by agents, if only as a break from the phones, are performed periodically. Unfortunately, however, from the management point of view, these quality-enhancing functions are considered disruptive in too many call/contact centers. Likewise, although training and quality assurance coaching are increasingly performed in many centers, managers are asked annually to reduce this component of their budgets.

Beginning in 1998, many call/contact center managers purchased CRM applications to better automate call handling. Too often, system selection was driven by either sales or marketing departments without regard to the needs of the service organization and many of these implementations failed. In other environments, call center managers bought into the promise of CRM hoping that a new system would improve their productivity and quality. As long as senior management was supportive, this was a great way to introduce potentially beneficial new software to centers that were still dependent upon costly, high maintenance mainframe-based servicing applications. The call centers that achieved their goals were those that involved their agents and supervisors in the needs definition, selection, design and rollout efforts.

The harsh reality is that while there were and still are many reasons to migrate off of a mainframe-based servicing system, productivity and quality are not the primary benefits. Reduced cost, ease of maintenance and support, speed of change and the increasing need for systems integration are four very good reasons for migrating to an n-tiered tracking system. An organization looking only for productivity improvements can realize its goals, in most cases, without purchasing a new system. By identifying and fixing the flaws in existing processes and procedures, significant economies and quality enhancements can be realized.

Huge rooms for Improvements

I’ve visited hundreds of call/contact centers and spoken to even more managers in the field. And I’ve never been in a call/contact center, regardless of size, where I didn’t immediately identify process opportunities that would improve operations and performance by 10% to 40%. If you want to improve productivity in a service environment, talk to your agents and find out from them what does and doesn’t work. Unfortunately, agents have often been motivated to keep their opinions to themselves and in too many companies agents fear that they will be penalized or even lose their jobs if they suggest ideas for process improvements. You can gain benefits from technology in call/contact centers only if a system is used effectively, so an implementation essentially hinges on business process management. This is why agent performance management is such an exciting new concept for call/contact centers.

The most successful and quality-oriented service environments are those that “institutionalize” business process management, making it a part of their corporate culture. If you’ve already installed a new CRM system or are planning to do so, take the opportunity to review all of your business processes. Customers, expectations and realities change daily, if not hourly in a call/contact center, which means that process, procedures, training, quality coaching, key performance measures and systems all need to keep up. If you want your service organization to represent your company positively by anticipating the needs and wants of your customers, improving their satisfaction and loyalty and increasing enterprise profitability, create a culture that supports change. New technology is a good thing but doesn’t take the place of effective business process management.

This article is also available in Chinese on the Publisher’s web site.

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