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Creating Momentum Along Your Customer Relationship Management Journey

Anissa Benich, Sr. Director, Enterprise Strategy and Marketing, OneAmerica
Anissa Benich, Sr. Director, Enterprise Strategy and Marketing, OneAmerica

Anissa Benich, Sr. Director, Enterprise Strategy and Marketing, OneAmerica

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) is a complex and critical component in today's technologically yet also relationship-driven world. As organizations create the foundation and development for its delivery, those leading the efforts must simplify the complexity. Defining to leadership what CRM strategy, CRM technology stacks and Customer Relationship management tactics are and why they are important requires collaboration. This leads to multiple conversations that require strong leadership and openness to create enterprise-level change.

These changes and conversations happen simultaneously as you’re dealing with deeply rooted cultures and processes, along with antiquated administrative systems that hold core data hostage. The harmonious blend of doing things differently while meeting the needs of ongoing business demand is challenging. However, this is a necessary process for a successful CRM launch. To compete in the marketplace, you must be adaptable, and strong CRM capabilities make this possible. Changing customer expectations and market conditions, new regulations around customer data, and innovative competition makes a solid CRM strategy essential.

CRM is a marathon, not a sprint. The primary goal is understanding the course. The first step in getting there is starting out strong. The key to that foundation is relationship management within your own organization. Internal partnership is imperative in moving CRM forward. Decisions are hard, agendas are can be hard to overcome and slow down collaboration, and broken relationships are hard to rebuild. One unchanging truth is partnership and collaboration lead to success. Marketing, IT, and the business all have different challenges and agendas, but CRM should be a shared goal with an appreciation for the greater gain of the enterprise. Respect for those individual disciplines and their successes will improve departments through more empowered associates and will move everyone forward together.

Strong executive support is imperative from the beginning. At OneAmerica®, our CRM initiatives involved culture change, which needed executive validation. We learned early in our journey that no one else has the political influence and organizational authority to push the required behavioral changes. While our executive leaders made final decisions, the collaborative team was involved in creating transparency for what was needed to make informed decisions.

 Our enterprise view of CRM changed from a “systems of transaction” view to a “systems of engagement” view  

Leadership from not only the executive team but from everyone is important. Although it was up to our executive team to lead decision making, it was up to us to execute. We could demonstrate leadership by sharing best practices on how to communicate. We brought a new perspective by focusing on business capabilities instead of technologies. This helped eliminate territory wars between IT and Marketing owned technologies.

Operating principles were necessary to create clarity and a culture where speaking up was encouraged. IT can often advise marketing on the risks associated with single platform decisions or scoping project resourcing that may lead to a direction change for customer experience tactics. An operating principle can create an environment that provides an agreed upon outcome and focus for the betterment of the enterprise versus the best choice for the shared service. Here is an example of one of the operating principles: People over technology: User experience is our guidepost when optimizing existing or exploring new technologies because we seek competitive advantage, not “shiny objects”.

Our enterprise view of CRM changed from a “systems of transaction” view to a “systems of engagement” view. This was rooted in our focus on customer experience and relationships. Traditionally, we had unintentionally been a transaction-based business with customer relationships happening organically. Understanding the intended customer experience was important. We had to ask ourselves these questions. What do we want our customers to think, feel, and do? How do we help them do that? How do we work on the entire experience versus a single transactional moment? Answering these questions requires collaboration. Marketing can bring voice of customer research and competitive and market information to fuel these conversations. Concurrently, IT can holistically problem-solve from a technical standpoint, while also considering foundational decisions on enterprise compatibility and connectedness. This creates momentum toward a shared vision and helps create a coordinated execution with shared ownership and accountability in delivering enterprise-wide priorities.

Making this shift required us to better understand our customers and manage the entire customer lifecycle in a holistic manner. This required sales, marketing, customer service, and other customer-facing disciplines having the right tools, data access, and teams to be on the same path when engaging the customer experience and relationship. This meant an expansion and change to the technical approach to CRM. We made changes to be more product focused versus project focused. Our funding model is shifting to include practices of voice of customer, user experience, and a deeper analytical practice for metrics. It also means managing the behavioral and cultural change involved with moving from historically transactional business models into a true culture of engagement through CRM.

Along your CRM path, remember that open communication, executive support, and a culture of collaboration will guide you. Keep in mind that this is a journey, and the goal is to bring your organization and peers along with you. All of us who have gone before you are cheering you on as you take those first steps.

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