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CRM, XRM, Deploy Your Magic!

July 15th 2011

CRM, XRM, deploy your magic!

CRM (Customer Relationship Management) tools and solutions and, more recently, XRM (Extended Relationship Management) constitute essential levers in customer relationship management.

We seek to optimize contact and communication with our client or a strategic third party for our organization through these tools. The central objective: maximize the positive experience of the customer or the third party in his dealings with our team.

Obviously, the quality of communications with your clients is one of the cornerstones of the sustainability of your business. Who could contradict this evidence?

However, it is vital to consider the possible limitations of CRM-type tools to prevent them from being seen as a panacea for your client issues and disappointing you.

First of all, we often approach the CRM tool as part of a project targeting external communications only when the quality of the client relationship is also dependent on the quality of your internal communications.

Suppose expertise and knowledge do not circulate freely in your organization. In that case, this directly results in a decrease in the quality of the client relationship, whether it is deficient information or an unreasonable response time when the client interacts with your team.

In fact, your client's perception of the quality of his relations with your company is closely linked to the quality of your internal communications.

This axiom placed, what can we identify as potential vectors of management, gestures, and decisions that can allow you to optimize the efficient flow of information within your company?

There are two possible lines of intervention:

  • The human axis, a multidimensional, unpredictable axis but with a strong relational lever.

  • The mechanical axis, that is the axis of processes and tools for better ways of doing things—the productivity lever.

Based on my previous comments, it is clear that your HR department is likely to represent, in certain situations, your best strategic lever for improving the "customer experience" from a marketing perspective.

Simply put, you must be aware that the CRM tool, however hyperforming it may be, will be limited by the degree of communication transparency within your team. Precisely: if an employee with the expertise cannot see and tolerate an employee in your customer service department well, sorry, the internal communication channel is cut, and the client waiting for a smart and quick response to the customer. The other end of the line is very likely to be disappointed with your organization.

So that's the key premise before you jump head-to-head in choosing and implementing a CRM platform.

Now, in terms of technological tools as such, we must also distinguish two approaches to managing internal and external communications:

  • The management of structured communications involving tools such as task and process managers.
  • The management of informal communications involving, for example, chat tools.

A simple example of structured management can be found in planning periodic and predetermined follow-ups with a client. This approach usually calls for the use of structured information in the sense that standardization of information (codification, format, etc.) becomes a key element of management effectiveness and efficiency.

As for the "informal" type of communications, we find ad hoc exchanges such as email communications. Understand here that this information is usually generated as part of a one-off and unplanned management situation. This type of communication is based on what is customarily called unstructured information. However, I agree with purists; some basic structure is in the typical "Message-Reply" format of an email.

Without wanting to start a controversy on the subject, we note a significant polarization of schools of thought to the effect that the future of communication tools and optimal use of information is to be found either totally on the side of structured information or unstructured information.

As far as I'm concerned, structured information should always offer you greater leverage when searching for information and analyzing in terms of speed and accuracy. But this lever will have, in return, a significant upstream cost concerning the standardization efforts that must be deployed.

In addition, Google has demonstrated and continues to do so with its search engine that it is possible to extract exact answers from information that was initially unstructured and with impressive speed. Obviously, not all CRM solution providers have the financial power and development capacity of Google.

When choosing your CRM tool, know that you should be able to find functional characteristics that allow you to work and use information under the two possible approaches, structured and unstructured.

In conclusion, make sure you have healthy communications and the efficient exchange of information on a human level between your company's various divisions and employees before introducing these extremely powerful marketing tools, CRM and XRM software.

Without dwelling on the people and process aspects first, the use of high-performance IT often amplifies organizational problems rather than solving them.

Good management!

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