Perfecting Service Management

Issue #10 Tuesday, January 21, 2003

Welcome!

topical index

Welcome to this edition of the Customer Centricity newsletter, where we explore ways you can improve the performance of your service organization.

In this issue we provide the final article in the series on avoiding the common pitfalls of Customer Relationship Management (CRM) implementations with Lauren Weiss, one of our associates, providing keen insight on the need for organizational readiness. Additionally, Bill Tobin and Paul Wilkis two of our associates, each contributed to this edition to help you take the stress out of selecting a call management system and get more value from your vendor relationships.
 

In this issue:

NorthBridge Partners Align with Customer Centricity, Inc.

The new offerings made possible through this alignment will focus on more in-depth analysis and remediation of customer support models to better align these factors with the product strategy and customer need.

The complete press release is available at: www.customercentricity.biz/pr011303.htm

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Customer Centricity Delivering A Customer Service Workshop

Customer Centricity is again scheduled to present "A Customer Service Workshop" at Rivier College, in Nashua, NH. This event will take place on Thursday, March 20, from 5:45-7:45pm. This program is sponsored by the New Hampshire Small Business Development Center.

We will discuss how customer service can positively impact the bottom line for any size organization. We will also address what companies can do now, in these tough economic times, to improve customer satisfaction and loyalty.

This program is designed for any business that has significant customer contact, whether it is business-to-business or business-to-consumer. The program is a hands-on workshop designed to help companies improve the performance of their service organization.

The program will be held in Rivier College’s Education Center, Room 313, located at 420 Main Street in Nashua, NH. Admission is $25 and registration is required. A reduced admission of $15 is available for additional attendees from the same company. To register contact Rosemary Macmillan at Rivier College at 603-897-8587 or via email at rmcmillan@rivier.edu.

Rivier College, Calendar of Events:
www.rivier.edu/administration/college_relations/calendar_of_events.asp#3-17

 

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Avoiding CRM's Common Pitfalls - Part 5

(parts 1-4* of this series can be found in previous issues linked below)

Our series on avoiding the common pitfalls of CRM implementations covers 7 key areas:

  1. Viewed as a technical, not a business, problem

  2. Driven from the top down

  3. Lack of senior management involvement

  4. Not targeting the areas of highest adoption

  5. Driven by the IT organization vs. business leaders accountable for the numbers

  6. Trying to do too much at once

  7. Lack of organizational readiness

This article will review the final 2 pitfalls of CRM implementations:

  • Trying to do too much at once

  • Lack of Organizational Readiness

Trying to do too much at once - Make no mistake implementing CRM is a big initiative. And, a key element underlying all CRM initiatives is the need to integrate access to all customer information. Many implementations have failed simply because the project was too aggressive.

STRATEGY: Identify the 3-5 highest priority areas to target and implement them. Once implemented, let them “burn-in” to the environment. In parallel with the burn-in period, begin work on the next 3-5 highest priority areas. Continue this cycle.

Lack of Organizational Readiness - Business change requires the proper balance of people, process, and technology. CRM initiatives are often technology driven, with plenty of focus on the systems and even the processes to support them. However, one of the most important aspects of successful CRM implementation is Organizational Readiness.

By its nature, CRM is usually a cross-functional, company-wide initiative aimed at creating a single face to the customer. To present this single face, the multiple groups within a company must agree on what that face should look like.

Creating a truly integrated CRM system not only requires defining consistent technologies and processes across multiple organizations; it also requires consistency of data elements and terminology. Sometimes this means compromise. When individual groups within an organization are unable or unwilling to compromise to achieve this kind of consistency, CRM will fail.

Whenever multiple groups are brought together to achieve a single purpose, there must be rules in place in order to keep people aligned to the same goals. For instance, is there an organizational hierarchy? Are there certain areas where one group has absolute veto power? Overall, though, CRM should be viewed as bettering the entire company, not necessarily an individual group. Thus, it should be acceptable for a particular group to be worse off with a specific change, as long as the organization, as a whole, is improved. Of course, the particular group that is worse off may not like this approach. It is an important responsibility of senior management to set realistic expectations as to what sort of compromise might be necessary to successfully implement CRM.

STRATEGY: CRM should be considered a company-wide initiative, and no one group should have the ability to derail such a broad endeavor. For CRM to be successful, the organization must be prepared to compromise, and must always remember that the whole organization is more important than any one group.

Previous Issues in this series:

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Reduce the Stress in Selecting Your Call Management System – Part 2

By Bill Tobin

Create a Requirements Document and identify twelve vendors

The first article in this series discussed organizing your search for a call management solution by identifying a project manager, creating a project plan and holding a kick-off meeting. Now it’s time to define your functional needs and identify potential vendors to open discussions with. Both these tasks can and should be done in parallel.

Let’s start by gathering your company’s operational and user requirements. Schedule time with any cross-functional team’s manager or vendor who will be inputting, accessing or expecting data output from your call management system. These managers should have already attended your kick-off meeting, so they are aware of what information you will need from them. Sort their requirements into “must have” and “nice to have” buckets. A vendor who cannot meet all your “must haves” should be eliminated from the pack. Don’t forget to setup meetings with the managers that own and support your operational infrastructure. Your new application will require a server (or two), a system administrator to perform backups and regular maintenance along with possible integration to system monitoring tools and the Internet. Will this application be implemented in an Oracle environment? Will you require notification to subject matter experts via Lotus Notes or MS Outlook? Will you be auto-paging these subject matter experts through a specific cell phone or pager provider? Will you have any remote users, or will all people entering calls be in the same building? Gathering answers to questions like these will greatly help you pare down the vendor list to a short list of qualified candidates.

The only thing missing now is your list of vendors. It‘s time to utilize your investigative skills that you may not even have known you possessed. You need to build a list of ten to twelve call management system providers from the 100+ that are out there. Tap into your customer support and technical staff to find out what products they have used in prior companies, and find out if they were satisfied with them. If they were extremely satisfied, get a contact name from their former company and give them a call.

Tip: Prior to making this information-gathering phone call, it would greatly help to have a questionnaire at hand to ensure you gather all the information you need in one phone call. Questions should solicit information on the company’s experiences with the implementation, training, documentation and technical support, as well as the number of actual users versus licenses purchased. This questionnaire will also be used later during the formal reference checking of your short list of vendors.

In addition to tapping your employee base, send your professional network (you know you should have one) an email telling them what you are doing and asking if they have used any superstar vendors they would recommend.

Don’t stop there! Jump on the Internet and search through some of the support industry organizations and magazines for vendor rankings and articles. Check out the vendor’s websites and cruise through any online demos that may be available. If your organization has an online membership to The Gartner Group, or other such organization, you will be blessed with a wealth of information and vendor evaluations.

Once you have the Requirements Document and your short list of vendors, it’s time to give them a call. An important question to ask them is their average cost of an implementation of your size. Also ask where they see themselves fitting in the call management space regarding price. Are they low-end, medium, or high-end? Functionality will follow price, so the high-end vendors will usually carry more bells and whistles, along with unlimited customizations. Be careful with customizations as this can sometimes mean professional services fees for any future changes to those customizations that seemed so important in the beginning. If you are satisfied with their professionalism and responses, email them your Requirements Document. Instruct them to respond to each of your 10-15 requirements, including providing you with the number of live customer sites they have utilizing each particular requirement. For example, if operating in an Oracle environment is mandatory, you do not want to hear that their first Oracle implementation will be in 4-6 months. If that’s the case, you have just shaved the competition by one vendor.

At the conclusion of this research and evaluation, you should be able to confidently reduce your list of vendors to no more than five, three would be ideal.

In Part 3 of this series, I will review the Request for Proposal (RFP) process, including the creation of the document and the invitation of your short list of vendors to participate.

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Let's Talk About Purchasing Relationships

By Paul Wilkis

This is an installment about purchasing relationships with an emphasis on the term relationship. To borrow a line from SAP, "Your customers expect your entire enterprise to revolve around them." Customer Centricity also believes that a business is successful when the type of focus that you place on the customer is just as sharp as the focus that you use throughout your enterprise. While a large part of our work focuses on improvements that can be made in the areas of your business that touch the customer, your bottom line is also affected by other areas of the company. The area that I will address is in the area of Purchasing.

Where is the money going:

Hopefully you are looking at your expenses on a daily basis. In today's economy we need to know where every penny goes and why it goes to a particular vendor. We not only need to know where the money is going, we also need to know why it is going there and not somewhere else. The fundamental questions to ask are:

  • How were the decisions made to use a particular vendor?
  • Was it primarily price, delivery time, first vendor in the door because you needed the product in a hurry and this vendor was available?
  • Did this relationship begin because their salesperson gave a perk to a decision maker in your company?

We all know that these are lousy reasons for making a decision, and they may not even be in your corporate best interests, but you’d be surprised how many are made this way.

Customer Centricity's focus in this area is on reexamining your corporate relationship with every vendor that receives more than a small percentage of your budget. I am using the term relationship in its true meaning. When two companies form a contract to buy and sell a product or service, both sides should see it as a two-way street. Do you see your contractual vendor relationships as a two-way street? Can you rely on them to see your enterprise as the most important customer that they have, even though, most likely, you are not? You need to know why you originally decided to buy from this vendor and why you still do. What, besides the contracted product or service, are you getting from your relationship with this particular vendor that you cannot get elsewhere? Was the last contract renewal a perfunctory signing ceremony or did you derive a real benefit from the renewal that you did not get at the last renewal? Is it time to change, just for the sake of changing? Do you feel like your vendors take you for granted? Do you have relationships with multiple vendors for similar products? Do they know that they have to work hard to compete for your business?

Central to these questions is how the particular vendors are chosen. In most cases where large sums of money are involved, the RFI/RFP process should be used. While it is cumbersome and, at times, slow, it is an effective means of product and vendor selection. I am not going to go into the mechanics of the process here, but to be most effective, it should be managed by a procurement or contract specialist who reports progress regularly to senior management and includes team members from all disciplines that have expertise in the area. It makes no difference whether the product is for a router, a laser or a steam shovel; the people who require the product, the people who will use it, the people who pay for it and the people who will have to maintain or support it all need to be involved in the decision process. The RFI/RFP process is an open process. It takes the arbitrariness out of the decision making and results in "buy-in" from everyone. However, deciding on a particular product from a particular vendor should not mean that you are tied in forever. It is important for all vendors to know that they have to keep working at maintaining their edge in the marketplace.

Vendor relationships with companies who provide less expensive or commodity products also need to be reviewed on a regular basis. When was the last time you compared “the big guys” to the local stationery store down the street. There are times when the guy down the street will work harder for your money than the large discount store will. How much is that worth to you? You may pay a point more but it might be worth it. Only you can decide.

Customer-focused companies must strive to maximize the value of their customer relationships. Likewise, they should expect the same of their vendors, and endeavor to get the most out of their vendor relationships.

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More About Customer Centricity, Inc.

Customer Centricity is a business consulting firm that partners with companies to improve the performance of their service organizations. We leverage our real-world experience to help our clients manage their customer relationships in more effective and satisfying ways.

Customer Centricity delivers on this promise by optimizing the interaction between people, process and technology to achieve higher levels of customer satisfaction and increased operational efficiencies. We provide:

  1. Comprehensive assessments to identify the actions that will yield the greatest return;
  2. Skills Training to enable customer-facing personnel to deliver exceptional levels of customer service;
  3. Design and Implementation of business process techniques to serve the customer in efficient, effective and consistent manners; and
  4. Identification of the appropriate business processes to automate, enabling companies to get the most from their investments in technology.

In addition to our core practices, we also maintain a network of strategic partnerships to provide end-to-end consulting across your organization with a commitment to seamless execution.

Click on the following link to see what our customers have to say.

To learn more about Customer Centricity:

call: 603.491.7948

send e-mail to: info@customercentricity.biz 

or visit our web-site: www.customercentricity.biz

In Closing

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Copyright (c) 2003 by Customer Centricity, Inc. All rights reserved.