The questions above suggest big-picture changes that will have to occur. But how do you get from here to there? The eight steps in Chapter 16 will guide you toward an overall strategy, but what actions can you take today to begin the process of switching to CMR?
Start with the creation of a CMR task force led by a senior executive with enough power and influence to sell your program at every level of the enterprise. At your first meeting have the team come to an agreement on your business objectives and the reasons for your CMR project. Spell out clearly what you want to achieve and resolve the important question of what will constitute success. With this understanding you can develop the business case to support your plan. Begin with an impartial assessment of where you are now and what processes must change to enable you to empower customers. With these goals established, dig into your customer database to find out which customers are the most important to keep and which customers have the greatest potential for growth. Remember you can’t empower every one of your customers—and you shouldn’t try.
Before you can define the CMR experience you want to deliver to your customers, you need to evaluate their experience with your firm today. This will require some research. There are some simple things you can do that will teach you a lot without requiring thousands of dollars on third-party studies. For years, retailers have hired mystery shoppers to gauge the shopping experience. Expand on that concept and find out what things are like from the customer’s viewpoint. Contact your call center, as a customer would, to get help or information. Navigate your website to place an order or get the answer to a question. You will find that you are doing some things well, and that some things will have to change. Only after finishing your own tests should you bring aboard researchers such as Brickstream (see Chapter 8) or Message Factors (see Chapter 15) to help gather more information.
Finally, it’s time to talk with your customers to find out which of your business processes matter to them and what you can change to make their lives easier. This will not require formal surveys; you will learn more by asking questions and listening to customers at every point of interaction. This process must include allowing your customers to choose which channel they prefer for reaching you and for your company to reach them. Take a fresh look at your marketing communications strategy from the customer’s perspective. William McEwen, global practice leader at Gallup Brand Loyalty Management, offers some good advice:
If companies seek to engage their customers, and not just sell to them, then they must view the customer relationships not from a marketing perspective, but from the customer’s viewpoint— because that is what truly matters. Increased customer communication doesn’t ensure that the company’s messages will be either welcome or relevant. More entries into a customer database won’t ensure that the company’s employees will have any idea what to do with this information, or what to focus on, when they access that database.
Inundating customers with increased sales opportunities won’t create stronger emotional connections any more than doubling an advertising budget means the campaign will be more compelling or that it will result in a more powerful brand.
With this foundation established, it’s time to turn your task force into a change management team to identify how each department within the company will be affected by these initiatives. Revisit Sandra Gudat’s seven questions in Chapter 16 that have to be answered to assure success.
At the start of this journey you will have set a timeline for the completion of the project. Don’t hesitate to revisit this often to revise as necessary. Seklemian/Newell’s experience suggests that most companies underestimate the time required.
In addition to all of this internal effort, have key members of your task force attend conferences to learn what others are doing. The value of these conferences goes far beyond the case studies presented by the experts. The best conferences provide an opportunity to share one-on-one and learn from others who are looking for the pot of gold at the end of the CMR rainbow. Two of the best sources to start with are Seklemian/Newell’s annual Customer Relationship Management Conference (www.loyalty.vg) and The Peppers and Rogers Group, which holds several conferences throughout the year (www.1to1.com).
The following concepts are at the heart of CMR. Keep them in mind as you strive to meet the challenges. They will help you keep your thinking on the larger goals and set you on the best course for letting customers manage the relationship.
What CMR is:
A philosophy of doing business that will affect the entire enterprise
Creating an experience, developing relationships, and personalizing the interaction with individual customers in ways directed by the customer
Commitment to changing results by changing what you really do and what you really believe
A combination of processes, people, and technology that develops intelligence about the customer
Learning what the customer wants and delivering no more, no less
Investing in the customers that represent the greatest growth for your business, those you can best turn into assets
Letting your customers tell you what they care about
Prioritizing customer investments to grow your business
What CMR will require:
Customer engagement, enablement, and empowerment
Dialog: listening to customers and letting customers connect to each other
Aligning your strategy with your company’s profitable growth objectives, and getting the strategy right before searching for the technology
Driving the vision down to the execution level, making sure the entire workforce believes in your CMR initiative and can effectively use the tools
An open exchange of information, not just with customers but within the enterprise
Customized services and messages that are timely and relevant for your customer
An ROI model with measurable metrics in place
Intense leadership from the top of your organization