In the previous blogs in this series, we discussed how the future of CRM will include a unification of Sales/Marketing and Operations/Support that will put the customer at the center of all business processes. While this will be an essential transformation for any organization to remain competitive and relevant in the evolving business landscape, it will also be a complex shift for most companies that have been operating in a siloed manner for a long time.
In my last post, we examined the implementation of text and mobile messaging across the customer journey, from acquisition to support. Below I lay out some essential steps any company needs to take toward becoming a customer-centric organization, using messaging technology implementations from my friends at Teckst as real-life examples of what to do (and not do) to ensure success.
1) High-Level Management Support for Future CRM Vision
As with any major organizational change, top-level management needs to lead the charge by communicating the vision for the future, establishing concrete goals, and setting the strategic initiatives needed to reach them. Changing current business processes to be more customer-centric will require collaboration and excellent communication from teams across the organization. Strong leadership is needed to keep those changes on course, ensure employee buy-in and keep communication lines open across departments.
Investing early will pay off in the long-run. Setting realistic timelines and spending time early in the process focusing on organizational alignment will head off resistance, instill confidence, and reduce the amount of time required on the back end to ensure changes happen correctly.
Teachings from Teckst: A professional sports team partnered with us to implement text and mobile messaging to facilitate ticket sales and renewals. Because Sales was the department that enlisted our help, we structured the program to accommodate their process and requirements.
We soon realized that Marketing and Sales were not operating under a unified vision for the customer journey. The team’s Marketing department was driving customers to buy tickets in ways and locations that the Sales team was unaware of, which meant many site visitors would never see the text prompts.
Luckily, we recognized the issues early on and began including Marketing in plans to change the program. They hadn’t even known using Teckst was an option because it had not been shared with them. As a vendor partner, we facilitated interdepartmental communication to truly make this program customer-centric. Not all vendors will have the insight or ability to point out these types of organizational issues, so it’s important for high-level managers to connect the dots between departments.
2) Dedicated Positions for Project Management and or Organizational Change Management
Selecting or hiring the right people to aid in the transition will make the difference between success and failure. I recommend hiring not only for the role(s) at hand, but also considering the future role(s) a candidate might fill as well during the hiring process. Ensuring you’re building a team composed of diverse thought and complementary skills will help set your organization up for long-term success. For example- if you need to fill multiple positions for the same general role, it’s a good idea to hire people with different strengths who can learn and teach other. Pairing a person who’s more technical with one who’s more client-facing can make all the difference.
These employees will need to ask the following questions: What do these changes entail when it comes to the org chart as well as existing processes and systems? What are the cultural impacts? Are we prepared for change? In addition, they’ll need to solicit and gather user feedback, update the case for change, assess the readiness of the organization, provide methods and tools to make the changes happen, and drive the transformation activities and overall progress.
Teachings from Teckst: While implementing text and mobile messaging is not typically a large scale change that requires hiring for new positions, we have seen the importance of selecting employees with diverse skill sets to manage implementation and the associated changes. For example, recent launch preparations for a large women’s specialty apparel retailer have gone particularly well because they have selected a point person in each relevant department. We touch base each week with a stakeholder in charge of Legal, Technology (for the integration), Call Center, the Website, etc. Sometimes the calls are five minutes and sometimes they’re 30, but it’s incredibly helpful to have everyone on the phone together to make sure that we are covering all the bases and getting our to-do list checked off.
3) Super Users
Beyond project and change management resources, there needs to be a super user or users inside the organization who’ll lead the charge from a day-to-day activity standpoint. These users need to have detailed knowledge about how CRM activities happen today across channels, as well how they need to work in the future state. Most likely you’ll need a super user from both Sales/Marketing, as well as Operations/Support. They will need to be good at trying new things, seizing opportunities, learning from mistakes, and sharing lessons with colleagues.
Teachings from Teckst: We have found that every great implementation needs a talented employee who embraces change and provides candid feedback to improve the program going forward. For us, this means agents who are already skilled at channels like email and live chat or salespeople who were already texting with clients on their own time but understand the value of doing so via a CRM integration.
4) Big Launches
Breaking down silos and operating in a customer-centric manner is a big change and should be treated as such. While it might require several phased launches along the way, these small successes should be celebrated. If there is a pilot phase, the new system will be deployed on a broad scale, fundamentally changing how customer communications occur from both the Sales/Marketing & Operations/Support perspectives. A key element of this launch will be a detailed communication plan, engaging multiple stakeholder groups along the way and building momentum within the organization.
As the saying goes, you have to fly the plane while you’re rebuilding it. More than likely, you’ll need to continue delivering results while you transition from the current state to the future state. This is easier said than done. However, if you address parts of the process instead of trying to overhaul the entire process all at once, you’re much more likely to keep the plane in the air.
Teachings from Teckst: We were contacted to implement text and mobile messaging by a supplier of window treatments that sells their products via large home improvement retailers. They wanted to offer texting in-store for customers looking to set up appointments or receive more information. The retail location for the pilot put up signage to promote the program and ensured the messaging technology was in place, but never communicated about the program to call center employees who would be managing message traffic. As a result, these employees were hostile towards the program and there was no buy-in.
After the first month of the program, when we saw how few leads had been generated, Teckst employees visited the pilot store. They learned that store employees didn’t want to promote the program either because they earned commission based on setting appointments. So the window treatment supplier may have understood the customer journey, but had neglected to learn about the employee journey! It’s important to get buy-in and feedback from the employees who are actually executing the program to ensure a successful launch.
5) Training, training, and more training.
In order to fully transition to the new state, training will be critical. The last thing an organization wants to have happen is for key day-to-day executors to fight against the change in processes and revert back to the “old” ways of doing things, not fully adopting the new method of customer communications. This training investment up front will pay dividends on the back end.
Teachings from Teckst: Many larger companies want to do “Train the Trainers” programs. In some cases (e.g., very large, geographically distributed teams) this is the only option, but when possible, we’d rather train the end users directly. They usually have specific questions, use cases, special considerations, etc. which can be addressed in the moment. A trainer who’s quickly learned the basics of the program may struggle to answer those questions. It’s also preferable to do training on-site whenever possible, as it can improve adoption and buy-in and help surface some of the organizational and employee incentive issues mentioned above.
6) Measuring value
With most CRM activities, a good test and learn plan is ideal. With CRM organizational changes, the same type of measurement plan is recommended, so the success or failure of the transitions can be assessed. Measurement timing will vary for each organization, but impacts should be analyzed at least after the first six months and optimized moving forward. Remember that changing to a customer-centric mindset may totally transform your old KPIs. For example- if you add both text and mobile messaging channels for customer service teams, a metric like “Time to Resolution” becomes irrelevant because the customer controls the messaging cadence. Instead the focus will need to move to “time per conversation,” with an even greater emphasis on CSAT.
Teachings from Teckst: We’ve learned it’s important to measure value, but in the proper context. A lingerie company we’ve worked with has scaled back their texting program because their CSAT was low. However, they’ve not followed our best practices in setting up the program, which has resulted in a somewhat frustrating user experience.
In the meantime, we implemented a very similar program for ESPN, with a text-enabled toll-free number, and we’ve had drastically different results. ESPN followed our best practices, took the time to understand their customers, and, advertised the program in the right places. Their CSAT has improved and volume to the text channel has exceeded both live chat and phone. (It’s interesting to note that the VP who launched the program for the retailer removed himself from the day-to-day after implementation, while our senior ESPN contact is very much involved. See point 1 on senior management support.)
7) Ongoing Optimization
Like anything within CRM, ongoing optimization is a key element for success. Likely your business will continue to change and evolve, as will the business landscape. The same will be true with the organizational changes around bringing together Sales/Marketing and Operations/Support areas, as well as communication channels and customer preferences. Keep an eye out for market disruption that could totally change the industry landscape and catch your organization off guard.
No matter the challenges that come your way, be prepared for the unexpected. You may have to make changes caused by poor service levels from a vendor or a change of direction may arrive from the senior management team. For example, your implementation timeline may be accelerated or your ability to hire full-time employees may be replaced with a directive to hire contractors. Embracing these changes instead of fighting them will keep you and your team in in a positive frame of mind.
Teachings from Teckst: We’ve found that if you have success with a program implementation (especially early on), it means you’re making progress but also means you can be doing even better! Look for opportunities to optimize. Where else might this program work? How can we expand it across the organization? Don’t become complacent, no matter how well things are going.
Missed the first three posts in the series? Check them out:
About Ryan McGuire
Ryan McGuire is a CRM/Analytics thought leader and expert who helps companies be more relevant to their customers by driving customer retention and loyalty. Ryan has held increasingly senior CRM and Analytics roles within global brands such as Carter’s | OshKosh, and Lenscrafters/Sunglass Hut, as well as with agencies such as 84.51 (formerly dunnhumbyUSA). During his tenure at these organizations he developed and drove customer engagement strategies, enabled topline sales growth, optimized CRM spend across channels, and maximized ROI on significant customer investments.