CRM Starts With “C”

By Heather Baldwin

“How many times have you been to a meeting about CRM and the customer is never mentioned?” asks Wendy Hewson, head of research and development at Hewson Consulting Group in the United Kingdom. Unbelievably, she says she has attended “many” such meetings. Hewson, formerly an accountant, has since focused on the business of customer relationship management. Her message: for a successful CRM implementation, focus on the customer. You’ve heard it again and again, but surprisingly few companies take it to heart.

“We’re always asked, ‘Where do we start with CRM?'” says Hewson. “Start with your customers. Find out what’s important to them and start with that.” If determining customer priorities still seems like a tall order, she breaks it down even further. “The most successful projects focus on a small group of customers at the beginning. Which ones? Go after the 20 percent of your customers that provide 80 percent of your revenues,” she says. “Look at what they want and what they can afford, and design your project around them.” Her motto, she tells companies, is “think big, start small.” Start with a small, select group of customers, and then build on the successes of that initial implementation. You’re bound to see solid ROI and happy customers.

Keep in mind, however, that CRM technology can’t create strengths where your company is weak. If your top-tier customers tell you they want a response from salespeople within 24 hours of their calls, no CRM program can create that kind of genuine customer focus. “CRM works when you build on something you’re already good at,” she cautions. “For instance, Land’s End has a very strong customer focus and CRM simply leverages that strength. You can’t say, ‘Let’s use CRM to build a strength.'” So find out what your customers want, build on your strengths and you’ll likely join the thin ranks of companies getting enormous paybacks from CRM.