Category Archives: Employee Engagement
The majority of new product launches fail – they simply do not attract enough customers to be commercially viable. Similarly, my experience suggests that the major of CRM systems fail – the people who are expected to use these systems do not do so at the level of scale necessary to generate business benefits. Therefore, one of the most critical challenges in realising value from a new CRM system is that of cultivating-fostering trail and adoption. Such that use of the CRM system becomes a way of life.
One of the most meaningful ways that I have found to think of CRM systems is to think of them as tools. What shows up, as clues to fostering adoption, if we choose to view a new CRM system as a tool? I cannot tell you what to do as failure is common and success is rare in CRM. So allow me to point out the land-mines that blow up CRM dreams.
If I am not aware that a tool exists, what jobs it does, and the promised benefits then it is guaranteed that I will not be try out the tool. Which explains the importance of advertising: generating awareness-interest and encouraging trial.
In my experience, most managers, most organisations, do not give adequate consideration to the challenge that lies in this area. Too many think a dull email or Powerpoint presentation is all that is necessary to facilitate the trial and adoption of a CRM system. Behind this complacency-arrogance lies the ‘master-slave’ stance towards employees. We are the masters, the employees are slaves, and they will use the CRM system because we tell them to and because of the threat of the whip for disobedience.
Imagine turning up to store and finding that the store is out of stock for the tool that you are after. Or imagine that you can see the tool in your workshop : it is locked away and you do not have the keys. The lack of access, of availability, is a big issue for frontline people who are often out of the office. This is the key reason that I stay away from SaaS offerings when I am travelling and have important work to get done. Instead I rely on desktop applications (which do not need to be connected to the cloud) and pen/paper.
Accessibility/Availability continues to be significant issue for CRM systems when it comes to the folks out in the field talking with customers.
If a tool is to be used then it must show up as being usable. What does that mean? It means that I must be able to pick it up and use it without having to read a 30 page document which shows up as gibberish. It means that the tool must not be too heavy or too light. It must not be too high or too low. It must not be too long or too short. It must not be too bright nor too dark. It must not be too fast nor too slow. It must show up as just right rather like the iPad does – even for the two/three year olds.
Just about every CRM system I have come across fails the usability test: CRM systems do not show up as being easy to use. It occurs to me that CRM systems are firmly rooted in the early days of mobile phones whereas the people who are expected to use them are living in the iPad era. I cannot help but feel the busyness-clutteredness-ugliness of user interface in CRM systems. How much commerce would take place if this quality of user interface was exposed to customers?
For a tool to be used it has to be more than accessible and usable. It has to be useful. Which is to say it must either make my life simpler – make it easier/quicker to do an existing job. And/or open up new possibilities, enabling me to do that which I was not able to do, and thus making my life richer.
Many CRM systems do not show up as useful to those who are expected to use them: the sales people, the call centre people, and the marketing people. In theory, the CRM system should be the ‘one stop shop’ for all things customer. The reality is very different: sales folks, marketing folks, customer service folks have to use a multiplicity of systems to get the jobs that need to be done, done. Often, the new CRM system becomes one more system in a bundle of systems: complicating life rather than making it easier/simpler; increasing inefficiency through double keying, having to log into multiple systems etc rather than increasing productivity.
Tools change the balance of power. The introduction of the iPod and iTunes changed the balance of power between Apple and the music labels. The introduction of the iPhone changed the balance of power between Apple, the handset manufacturers, and the mobile networks. The introduction-adoption of the iPad changed the balance of power between Apple and PC makers. You get the idea.
CRM systems change the balance of power: they increase the power of those in management positions and decrease the power of those who have to feed the CRM beast: those interacting with customers.
CRM systems are resisted, in a multiplicity of ways, by those who find themselves managed (Bottoms). Many of the managed often feel vulnerable, to some extent naked, as a result of CRM systems. They are left feeling that the already small space of freedom, of autonomy, of power is being taken away by management. Often it is.
Everything that exists, exists in relationship. What does this have to do with CRM systems? Put simply, ecology matters!
Of what use is a locomotive without the right train track? Of what use are railways without trains? Of what use are trains and railways without train stations? Of what use are trains, railways and train stations without skilled personnel to drive-maintain-operate the railway network? Of what use is the railway network without passengers willing to travel by rail? Hopefully you get the critical importance of the interlocking of the ‘parts’ to co-create the ‘whole’: the system.
Many CRM systems fail to be adopted because they simply do not fit into the existing way of ‘doing things around here’. And the willingness to shift the ‘way we do things around here’ is absent. Please note that the ‘way we do things around here’ is more than process and culture. It includes everything: the leadership style; the management style, organisational structure; the people who constitute the organisation; the relationships between groups of people; practices – what people do; processes; technology infrastructure; performance management framework ……
I once found myself telling a client “CRM is not about data and technology. Yes, it involves data and technology. No, its not a data and technology project. Yes, CRM involves business process. No, it is not about business process. CRM is about shifting the ‘way we do things around here.’”
Please note: all of these ‘pieces of the puzzle’ have to be addressed simply to get enough people in the organisation to use the CRM system. Whether the CRM system generates business benefits or not is a different question. Put differently adoption does not necessarily imply stronger customer relationships nor competitive advantage.
Why Not Replace People With Technology?
In the second half of the 90s I was involved in consulting in the area of shared services. Being a sidekick I got to witness the sales pitch. What was the sales pitch? No human beings. Everything in the back office was subject to business rules. The business rules could be codified, programmed and back office work could be automated. No human necessary. Nirvana: 24/7/365 nirvana of efficiency guaranteed to deliver the same outcome each and every time.
Today, I notice the same love of technology as regards the front office: where the customer meets the enterprise. In this age of technology do people still matter? Do we need sales people given that content marketing will generate the interest, product demos can be put on the web, and the ‘inside sales’ people can take the orders? Do we need to have any people in marketing given that big data will generate the insights, decision engines will contain the heuristics, market resource management systems will hold the marketing assets, and marketing automation will take care of the execution of marketing campaigns? Do we need people in the call-centres taking calls given the extensive self-help that can be enabled through digital channels and every customer would prefer to interact via Twitter? Do we need people in the stores? Why not rebuild the stores so that they resemble a combination of a website and a vending machine?
What Do These Two Women Say On The Matter?
Allow me to share a conversation that I overheard the other day between two women. Before I do that let me set some context. Waitrose is supermarket chain in the UK and it is owned by The John Lewis Partnership. The John Lewis Partnership has been and continues to do well despite tough times for retailers. Tesco used to be the darling of the CRM press and used to be the dominant supermarket chain. It has not been doing so well since austerity hit. Morrisons is the fourth largest chain of supermarkets in the UK.
As promised here is the gist of the conversation (between two women) that I overheard at the weekend:
Mrs A: “Waitrose is known for their great customer service and rightly so. It’s easy to find someone to help you. And when you ask for help in finding something, the Waitrose person walks you across the store and takes you right to the item you are looking for. They are so helpful.”
Mrs B. “I was in Waitrose this week and wasn’t sure what ingredients I needed for eggs Benedict; I haven’t cooked them before. So I asked for help. The Waitrose man didn’t know either but he told me that he would find out. I saw him walk to one of his colleagues. Then he came back and told me what I needed and how to cook eggs Benedict. He was so helpful: he made my problem his own. That’s such good service.”
Mrs B. “The staff in Morrisons don’t walk with you to the item you are looking for. Yet, I always find them warm, friendly and helpful.”
Mrs A. “I don’t like Tesco. It is hard to find people in the store to help you. And when you do find someone to help they tell you where you can find the item, point towards it, and then leave you to it. They don’t walk with you and show you where it is. They don’t care – not at all like the Waitrose people.”
Mrs B. “I used to do all my shopping at Tesco. Then Tesco got greedy – pushing up prices and cutting down on the customer service. Now, I shop for the basics at Morrisons and the rest from Waitrose.”
My Take On The Situation
I’ll leave you decide whether people matter or not in the age of technology. For myself, I am clear that humans are simply more at ease in dealing with other human beings. And there is no substitute for great customer service – the way that the folks in Waitrose (and John Lewis) stores interact with their customers, and amongst themselves.
Before you rush off to revamp your customer service remember that one ingredient does not a dish make. A great dish always consist of the insightful application of a recipe – and the recipe requires a mix of ingredients, in the right measure, and sequence, cooked for just the right amount of time. How does one generate such insight? Through experience: on the battlefield of life. What is the recipe? The business philosophy and organisational design: what matters, who matters, the operating principles, how conflict is handled, how rewards are shared, how people are structured into groups, and how interactions-relationships-differences-conflicts are handled…
Please note: I am not in the business of giving advice (in this blog). So you shouldn’t take anything in this blog as constituting advice. In this blog I find myself involved in sharing my thinking and experience. That is all. Then you make of it what you make of it.
Many aspire to be great, few are great. It occurs to me that this applies at just about every level and all spheres of human life. Why is this the case?
What is missing the presence of which would make a difference in enabling more individuals-groups-organisations-nations to be great?
- Is it information? Do we lack adequate information?
- Is it a lack of frameworks, methods, tips and techniques? Do we need more-better frameworks-methods-tips-techniques?
- Is it perhaps lack of process? Do we need to inject more process into the human world, make it even more mechanistic than it is today.
- Is it a lack of metrics and management on the basis of these metrics? Do we need to come up with and put in place more-different-better metrics?
- Is it the lack of suitable tools? Do we need more-better-different tools?
- Is it strategy? Do we need more-different-better strategic frameworks and tools?
Consider the business world. Why is it that few organisations come up with great products like Apple does? Why is it that few companies get the online user experience and logistics right like Amazon does? Why is that few organisations call forth the best from their employees and deliver great customer service like John Lewis does? Why is it that few airlines excel in the ways that Virgin Atlantic and SouthWest do?
Or consider how it is that there has been so much talk and spend on Customer since 1999 when Siebel touted itself as the ‘fastest growing software company in history’, yet so few companies have got anywhere in cultivating meaningful relationships with their customer and/or really making much of an impact on the effectiveness of marketing, sales and service operations.
What answer did you come up with? Whatever it is that you came up with I ask you to put that aside for a moment and listen to the insight of Eliezer Sobel:
I finally figured out why I’m not enlightened. Over 30 years ago, when I had just made the proverbial first step on a “journey of a thousand miles” I heard the following well-known tale:
A man approaches a Zen Master and asks to be shown the path to enlightenment. The Master replies, “Okay, follow me,” stands up, and walks the man to a nearby river and into the water. Without warning, the Master forces the man’s head under the water and holds it there as he struggles violently for his life, until he is nearly dead. At last the Master pulls the man up, gasping for air, and says, “When you want to be enlightened as badly as you wanted to take your next breath just now, come back and see me.”
Again and again in the spiritual literature, and particularly in the fierce world of Zen, we come across stories that are similar………the message seems to be that enlightenment, or the realization of Truth, is not a casual affair for mere spiritual tourists, but only for the very rare individual willing to sacrifice any and everything, including his or her very life, in its pursuit.
It would mean putting enlightenment at the top of our To-Do list and priorities, ahead of career, family, comfort and security……..
Ram Dass, the well-known teacher and author of the canonic Be Here Now, once spoke of a picture he saw in the newspaper of an abused and battered infant wailing as it was taken out of the arms of its mother, reaching back desperately for its abuser. The message was clear: we are wired to choose the familiar and the comfortable at any cost.
What advice does Eliezer Sobel have for those of us – individuals and organisations – with the ambition or pretensions of greatness say in leadership, product design, customer experience, customer loyalty etc? Let’s listen once more:
Yet now, looking back, I’m wondering if I could have saved myself a lot of trouble had I simply answered the question implied by that story honestly: No. No I do not want to get enlightened more than life itself, more than I would crave my next breath in that situation.
If you have aspirations for greatness – for yourself, your team, your organisation, or your nation – then it occurs to me that it is well worth pondering Eliezer Sobel’s insight over this Christmas period.