Can You Identify Your CRM Champion?

Recently I have been involved with multiple organizations that are having challenges with CRM and some of these companies have already deployed a system and the others think they need to but are having a hard time with the cost/benefit argument.  After looking at the DNA of the challenges facing these two scenarios I decided to write about a topic that I think gets left behind in most companies.  CRM has people and process and technology so tightly woven together it is nearly impossible to either deploy a system initially or maintain one without having some type of logical "chain of command".

When you look across some of America's best firms today you will see that many of them have some key people in their organizations that are either tagged as customer advocates or in some way responsible for the customer experience and the systems that support their sales and service organizations.  The problem for small and medium size firms is that many of these companies run very lean and everyone still has their "day job" that they were hired to perform.  The problem is that a CRM implementation is never complete.  I have said in many speaking engagements that until you close the doors or sell the company the job is never done.  Markets constantly evolve, the way we do business changes, and customers and their expectations are always changing.

So, who is the CRM champion in your organization?  If you just had a long pause or realized that the person you think it is may not be the right fit how do you go about assessing this or how do you go about finding the right person?  I will get to that but first I think we need to profile who most people would identify as the likely candidates and run through the pros and cons

President/CEO - This is the person that sits atop the firm and guides the vision of executing the strategic plan.  This individual knows the expected results but in many cases this person is not intimate enough with the day to day transactions or inter-departmental operations that would lend itself to being the CRM champion.

VP of Sales - Since most initial CRM deployments are done with a focus on Sales Force Automation this person usually has a very good grasp on interactions through customer acquisition.  Unfortunately, CRM is also about a customer life cycle and a strong focus on the sales organization may lend itself to challenges in the marketing and service areas.  Plus, the need to deliver revenue could make the CRM champion a back burner type of role.

VP of Marketing - The importance of accurate and complete customer data starts with the marketing team and I have seen where the nature of the marketing role has led to many "owners" of CRM being in the marketing department.  The challenge is that when the system deals with so many non-marketing transactions that are people related there really needs to be someone involved that has the depth in understanding of the rest of the sales and service process.

VP of Customer Service - In the day to day of a full implementation of CRM the service and inside sales teams tend to push the applications the most and the head of customer service usually has strong knowledge of both the internal interactions as well as the service aspects of the CRM implementation.  One of the common pitfalls, however, is that many times the "ideal" world for service may have severe challenges to the sales or marketing teams.

CFO - More and more of the CRM systems being deployed in recent years are heavily dependent on the ERP system chosen and many of the transactions from CRM are impacted by how the integration works with the ERP system.  The upside is that a financial person can understand what customer information is relevant to sales, service and marketing but there is usually a shallow knowledge of the marketing and customer acquisition process.

VP of Operations - Of all the people we have discussed so far the key person in operations will usually have the greatest depth of knowledge into each of the critical areas that a CRM system is supposed to support.  More importantly, this person usually knows the greatest customer facing and internal challenges.  The problem in the mid market is that many organizations do not have this role positioned as a full time role or the role is heavily intensive on resolving day to day problems in running the business.

Now that we have run through the typical executive roles in most companies you can probably see why some firms have a hard time trying to deploy a system for the first time much less maintain the system after the initial launch.  If a company has chosen to deploy a CRM solution many times the department that is responsible for the first phase of the project inherits ownership after the fact.  I have seen hundreds of systems go out the door and part of the reason that I started this blog was to impart prior experiences in order to make it easer to do business.

When it comes to identifying a CRM champion there is no right or wrong answer but tagging someone internally with that role is very important.  I don't think that it matters so much what department that person reports into (ideally operations) but more important that the person has access to leadership and some type of feedback mechanism to draw from through the people that use the system every day.  I would also argue that if you have 20 or more people using a CRM system that crosses many departments you would likely find that a full time role is probably justified.  A well functioning system can provide significant efficiency gains and make any company much more competitive.

So, if you find yourself in a kind of CRM purgatory with your existing system or are finding it challenging to roll out a new system, you may want to seek out the right CRM champion and go from there.



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