Out with the Old and In with the New – Choose Your Technology (2of 4)

old_techThis is the second posting in our series to help you assess the resources, methods, and timing to move from a legacy system to enablement using a new system.

In our first post, we stressed the importance of clearly defining what processes the new system should enable and what steps should be automated.  Once you have a very well defined idea of what the new system should accomplish and the level of automation that is needed, you can start to make the next critical decision – the technology to be used!  Even though it seems that the world is moving to cloud computing, you still have the choice to build it yourself, use on premise commercial software, use hosted commercial software, or migrate to a cloud solution.

If you decide, based on the goals for your system and the resources you have available to build the system from scratch, you have a solid start on gathering the information you need to design, build, test, and deploy your homegrown system.

However, it is probably a safe bet that most of you are not thinking about developing a custom system, or even installing an on premise solution, but rather you are contemplating a move to a cloud based solution.  Now that you are armed with a clear definition of the processes you should be enabling with the system and the level of automation you are trying to achieve, this will be a much easier process.  Without the system limits from the first phase of the assessment, the tendency for most companies is to license more functionality than they will initially, and possibly, ever need.  This can add up to a great deal of additional annual investment in the licenses, increase the cost of implementation, and add to the complexity of the system. Increased complexity will increase your training time and costs and decrease the overall adoption of the system.  In short, licensing more functionality than you need is the fastest way to reduce your return on investment in any system.

The next logical step in creating a road map or glide path from your current system to the new system should not be to show how the new system will be a one for one replacement of your current system.  Instead, your assessment should now focus on how your selected technology should be licensed and configured.  In other words, what are the gaps between the base functionality of the system that will have to be filled with additional licenses and/or configuration.  If you find that there are many gaps requiring many additional licenses and configuration, you should take a step back and ask 2 questions:

  1. Have we carefully determined the processes and automation?  Most off-the-shelf and cloud solutions have a great deal of built in knowledge, if your needs don’t match the off-the-shelf or cloud solution closely, this may have been caused by expressing some needs during discovery that would not truly add benefit to your company if implemented.
  2. Have you selected the correct technology? If you are sure that you have correctly discovered your needs, it may be that you have selected the wrong technology.  Be honest with yourself at this point, it is unlikely that you will be happy with your new system if it is a poor match and you have to extend the functionality with a number of additional licenses, or if you have to use non-standard configuration to approximate the functionality you need.

Generally, you will find that you have included functions and/or automation that you don’t need rather than having selected an incorrect technology.  We know it is difficult to cull that list of requirements and pare it down.  In fact you may need every bit of that functionality!  That’s why every assessment should include timing and phasing, and that’s the subject of our next posting.

Jim Lindenfeld, Principal Consultant

Jim Lindenfeld, Principal Consultant

This blog was written by Jim Lindenfeld, who has been actively involved in customer relationship management during his entire professional career.  He is a certified sales and sales management trainer.  He has been involved in the implementation of CRM systems since 1987 and is currently a principal consultant in our CRM practice.

 

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Out with the Old and In with the New (1 of 4)

The 2013 Meriam Webster dictionary notes, “In computing, a legacy system is an old method, technology, computer system, or application program, of, relating to, or being a previous or outdated computer system.”  Based on the number of assessments being done by our various technology practices, there is no question that there is a growing trend to replace legacy systems.  It is a continuation of the evolution of enterprise computing; from ledgers, to mainframes, to distributed systems, to hosted web, to the cloud.  In many ways, moving to a new system can be even more challenging than moving from paper to the legacy system that is being replaced.  That is why any assessment of the effort and any map purported to show the path from the legacy system to a new system should be very carefully crafted and contain some critical elements that make it possible to accurately assess the effort to not only replace the legacy system, but also create enough benefit from the new system so that the investment being contemplated can be justified.  We hope that this and the next few posts in this series help you with your assessments.

Spend the first few days of any assessment asking and answering one question, “What should the new system do?”  This is, and should be, different from “What does the current system do?”  You will have plenty of time to ask that question later.  It is also very different from “What reports or metrics should I get out of the new system?”  Again, assessing the health of the processes and the effectiveness of the users is important, but you will have plenty of time to get those answers later in the assessment.  It seems obvious to even the casual reader that an assessment and the development of a glide path from a legacy system to a new system can only be performed if you have a clear target for what the new system must accomplish, but many customers struggle with that concept.  There are some tools that can be very helpful when answering the question, “What should the new system do?”

  • First, survey 5 distinct groups in the organization:  legacy system users who are individual contributors, legacy system users who are managers and executives, members of your legal team, members of your finance team, and members of your IT team that support the legacy system.  This ensures that you have a 360 degree view of the system from within your organization.  You have wide latitude in the questions to include on the survey, but be sure to include:
  • What will be the most important process(es) the system enables?
  • What routine processes should be automated?

Be sure to include your “far out” fringe users in the survey process.  The most innovative ideas in every organization are found in the fringe.

This first critical step in the process is vital to the success of the transition project.  If your current system is successfully enabling and automating all of the processes that it does or should touch, you will find that the answers to the survey confirm that.  The responders will simply parrot back to you what they like about the current system and little in the way of new functionality or automation will be included.  If on the other hand, the system being replaced does not meet user needs and expectations; you will receive a mixture of what they currently like and what they would like to see in the new system in terms of functionality and automation.  NOTE:  Be sure that the goals of your initial survey are clear (process enablement and efficiency) and that you are NOT asking the responders to describe the current system, but instead ensure that they are focused on and describing a future system.

  • Second, schedule over the shoulder sessions with individual contributors and managers who are using the current system. The assessor should be someone who is not familiar with your current system, but is familiar with your business and markets.  Your goal is to document what processes are being enabled and how efficiently they are being enabled.  Don’t focus on “how”, focus instead on “what.”
    1. What is the goal of the process?
    2. What input does the system need?
    3. What processing does the system do?
    4. What is the output of the process?
    5. What indicates that the process was successful?

Don’t be tempted by the trap to begin gathering additional minute, non-functional details such as user interface preferences, timing, problems with the current process enablement, etc.  You will have plenty of time in the next phase of the assessment.  Remember, our goal here is to define a target – what system configuration will meet the goals for process enablement and efficiency.

Assessments that start well usually end well.  There are detours to avoid to ensure they don’t stray from the path, and we will cover these in future installments.

Jim Lindenfeld, Principal Consultant

Jim Lindenfeld, Principal Consultant

This blog was written by Jim Lindenfeld, who has been actively involved in customer relationship management during his entire professional career.  He is a certified sales and sales management trainer.  He has been involved in the implementation of CRM systems since 1987 and is currently a principal consultant in our CRM practice.

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CRM – The Customer Voice #2 – When Should You Listen and Respond?

faces2

In our blog CRM -The Customer Voice #1 we quoted an excellent article on why it is important to gather customer feedback, and many suggestions on how you can gather that feedback.  In this short blog we are expanding on the article to explore who should be listening and when should they take action.

Many of you may have been taught that the customer is always right and nothing we are about to say contradicts that, however,we are suggesting that, although you should always listen, sometimes when the customer provides you feedback, it is better for your organization to ignore it! What?!?  In the past, it was much more difficult and costly to gather customer feedback (customers spoke to your sales channel, called your support group, or wrote to a corporate officer (yes, using the U.S. Post Office!).  Today’s technology has significantly lowered the barrier, which has in turn lowered the value of any one bit of customer feedback.  So how do you know what is valuable and what isn’t, when to act and when to stand pat?

It starts with who actually will review and evaluate the feedback.  In the olden days it was probably the sales rep, the support rep, or the corporate officer.  In all three cases, those individuals could be counted on to act in their own self-interest (e.g. make more sales, close the support case) and move on the feedback appropriately.  Today, feedback comes to virtually everyone in your organization from Web Designer to Shipping Clerk.  That means that there could be too many people in the loop to make coherent decisions and take decisive action unless you devise a strategy to evaluate and prioritize the feedback.  Here is what we suggest.

  1. Make certain that everyone in your company has an iron-clad understanding of your corporate vision and goals, especially your product and support organizations.  This is vital in understanding and prioritizing customer feedback.
  2. Establish a central repository for customer feedback and have your support organization review all of it
  3. Establish ‘hot stove’ criteria and recommended action. That is, anytime you receive customer feedback that is preventing them from doing business with you (e.g. crashed web site, non-operating toll-free number, incorrect operating instructions) have a plan and act on it.  There is no substitute for fixing the issue and performing service recovery.
  4. Empower your well informed support team to evaluate the rest of the feedback. We believe that your focus on the customer, your clearly communicated vision and goals, and your trust in your employees will lead them to making the appropriate decision on how to respond to the feedback.  We believe that they will:
    1. Share valuable information with the appropriate internal teams (such as product development)
    2. Evaluate all feedback against your vision and goals and whether or not the feedback is
      1. From a customer that supports the vision and goals
      2. Contains information valuable to reaching those goals
    3. Keep emotions in check – remember that unless this is a hot stove issue, they are free to determine its importance and urgency and not become panicked or flustered
    4. Understand the sentiment behind the feedback and look for trends not just a quick fix
    5. Keep close to the internal teams, even when the root cause is proving difficult to identify or fix

Customer feedback, even when it is highly negative, is valuable.  However, if you attempt to categorize it and deal with each bit as though you are in a fire drill each time, it will quickly become viewed as drudgery and not as treasure.   Celebrate positive feedback, even when it is minor, and aggregate negative feedback into achievable goals.

Jim Lindenfeld, Principal Consultant

Jim Lindenfeld, Principal Consultant

This blog was written by Jim Lindenfeld, who has been actively involved in customer relationship management during his entire professional career.  He is a certified sales and sales management trainer.  He has been involved in the implementation of CRM systems since 1987 and is currently a principal consultant in our CRM practice.

 

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CRM – The Voice of the Customer #1

faces2To deliver a great customer experience that builds loyal, repeat customers, you must gather, evaluate, and act on customer feedback. Your customers can provide a wealth of information about your company and your competitors. They can help you develop a better product, help you provide a better service, and help you offer more value.

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Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.” – Bill Gates

 

An excellent article from Client Heartbeat outlines some very good reasons to gather customer feedback.

  • Actionable feedback guides better business decisions. Whether it is decisions about your product or the way you deliver a service, your customers will give you the best advice. They’ll tell you if what you’re doing sucks, and praise you if you’re doing it right.
  • Identify ‘at risk’ customers. By gathering customer feedback you can identify your customers that are not 100% happy. These customers will tell you how they really feel about your company. It is this feedback that is so valuable.
  • Stop re-occurring problems. Customers will tell you like it is. You can use their feedback to quickly and proactively solve the problems that are causing an unhappy customer. Use this feedback to implement systems to stop the problems occurring again and potentially affecting other customers.
  • Increase customer satisfaction and reduce churn. Listening to your customers is one of nine customer retention strategies that are proven to increase customer satisfaction. It shows that you care, and goes a long way to building a healthy business relationship. People do business with people they like, know and trust – by keeping the two-way conversation open, your business can create strong, long-term relationships that provide lifetime revenue.
  • Discover potential advocates. Customer satisfaction is a key indicator as to how happy a customer is with your company. By gathering customer feedback, you can identify who you’re happiest customers are, and look to nurture them into raving advocates. Customer advocates are people who will rave about your product or service and recommend it to friends and colleagues. Imagine a world where all your new customers came from business referrals? That world is a reality, providing you know who your advocates are.

The article goes on to suggest 19 successful ways to gather customer feedback which are excerpted below:

  1. Customer Surveys

Customer Surveys are a great way to start the customer feedback process. They offer a medium that your customer is familiar with, and they give you the chance to ask specific questions that you want answers to.

  1. Behavioral Insight Surveys

Behavioral insight surveys offer businesses the ability to conduct customer feedback on a personal, behavior-driven basis.

  1. Telephone Surveys

Surveys conducted via the phone tend to give you higher survey response rates because they are more personalized and give you better reach to your customers. The challenge with telephone surveys is they are expensive. Conducting a telephone survey to gather customer feedback tends to cost a lot more than if you used an online survey tool.

  1. Mobile Surveys

With 47% of your customers now opening emails via their mobile device (24% change from last year), combined with studies that have showed people look at their phones an average of 150 times a day, mobile surveys need to be a part of your customer feedback process.

  1. Feedback Forms

Hard copy customer feedback forms that can sit around the office or be used during business meetings, offer a great means to gather feedback from customers. This is one of my favorite ways to get actionable feedback because it brings back the human element. Too many times we are expected to fill out surveys online.

  1. Focus Groups

A focus group is a form of qualitative research in which a group of people are asked about their perceptions, opinions, beliefs, and attitudes towards a product, service or company. These are an important tool when it comes to collecting customer feedback. They are commonly used in marketing during the early stages of product or concept development, when a company is trying to determine who their target market is, and where the product-market fit is good.

  1. Usability Testing

Usability testing is a customer feedback strategy that is used by a lot of web-based businesses. Software companies and e-Commerce sites can benefit a lot from doing usability testing. Think about it, imagine if you could watch your customers use your online product or browse through your website? You’re able to see exactly what your customers are doing and see trends in what pages they spend the most time on and the least time.

  1. Monitor Social Media

Social media is the ultimate medium to listen to your customers. Customer feedback is a plenty when it comes to sites like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. The challenge is how to monitor it effectively and use it meaningfully.

  1. Quarterly Business Reviews

Quarterly business reviews give you an opportunity to sit down with your clients, discuss what’s happened in the previous three months and discover ways you can deliver an even better service to them.

  1. Website Activity

Do your customers actually use your website or are they getting stuck somewhere?

  1. Community Groups and Discussion Boards

Customers love being a part of a community. Online community groups and discussion boards provide a great platform to engage customers for feedback.

  1. Customer Feedback Portals

Customer feedback portals are 24/7 feedback machines that make gathering feedback from customers super easy.

  1. Personal Emails

Taking a personalized approach to customer feedback by sending emails can help you get more responses. This is a strategy I recommend if you are looking for more detailed feedback from customers, that goes beyond the basic survey questions or feedback forms.

  1. Suggestion Boxes

Suggestion boxes are used more when it comes to getting customer feedback in offline environments like restaurants, B2C services, and B2B services in the financial and insurance sectors. This form of customer feedback gathering has been around for decades and still provides a great medium to engage and listen to customers.

  1. Customer Feedback Widgets

Tools like UserVoice and Get Satisfaction give you embeddable widgets that you can place on all your pages, so customers can easily provide you feedback.

  1. Customer Reviews

A 2014 study by BrightLocal found that 88% of consumers trust online reviews just as much as personal recommendations. Customer reviews are a form of customer feedback and provide you with great insight into what your customers really think about your business.

  1. Live Chat

Forrester Research completed a study called, “Making Proactive Chat Work”, which found that man online consumers want help from a live person while there are shopping online.

  1. In-app feedback

In-app customer feedback gives you insight into how your customers actually use your product. Intercom.io offers a great solution to help you reach out to the right users for feedback. It works by letting you identify certain segments of users, like “users last visit more than seven days”, and then enables you to push messages and engage in conversation with them.

  1. Email and Ticket Closing Surveys

The 19th customer feedback strategy is the use of email ticket closing surveys.  They have a low response rate but they are still recommended for gathering customer feedback in certain situations.

In the full article author Ross Beard describes the tools that are used to technologically enable most of the above strategies for gathering customer feedback.  Regular readers of our blogs know that we are passionate about putting the customer in the center of your business and ensuring that all of your decisions are guided by a focus on your customers.  Companies that are focused on their customer are implementing the above strategies and integrating them into their customer experience systems.  But BEWARE – not all customer feedback can help your business!  In our next blog, we will discuss how to evaluate the feedback and determine which is the most valuable and how to act on it.

Jim Lindenfeld, Principal Consultant

Jim Lindenfeld, Principal Consultant

This blog was written by Jim Lindenfeld, who has been actively involved in customer relationship management during his entire professional career.  He is a certified sales and sales management trainer.  He has been involved in the implementation of CRM systems since 1987 and is currently a principal consultant in our CRM practice.

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CRM Hacks – Profiles with a Purpose

CRM_hacks_graphicYou’ve developed a new product, something quite different from your standard offering.  You are convinced that your current customers are potential targets but you need some additional information to qualify the opportunity at each customer.  Many of our clients immediately turn to their installed CRM application and develop a way to capture the needed information – a customer profile.

Unfortunately, this is the way that many of the CRM applications we encounter have been made overly complicated and difficult to use.  So instead of being a productive step toward the new product launch, just the opposite effect is experienced.  The profile isn’t completed for many customers and the seeds have been planted that will eventually make the CRM application so difficult to use and upgrade that it will have to be abandoned.

Most of this heartache can be avoided with some planning and discipline.  Before you add any new section or tab to your CRM application ask yourself some very important questions.

  1. Should all customer types be profiled?
  2. What is the purpose of this field?
    1. Is that important enough to add it to my CRM application?
    2. Is it directly related to my overall goal of selling the new product?
    3. Is there a better way to achieve the purpose?
    4. Is the field required or conditionally required?
  3. What type of data will be in this field?
  4. How will the data be entered into the field?
    1. Is there an easy way to get it
  5. How will the accuracy of the data be verified?
  6. For pick lists – can the list expand or contract and how will that be controlled?
  7. For calculated fields will the results be stored? Will the calculations ever change?

Next, ask key questions about access.

  1. Who will be adding data?
  2. Who will be viewing the data?
    1. Who should NOT be able to view the data?
  3. Can anyone remove the data?
    1. Is the ability to remove the data tied to any other event – such as time
    2. What kind of reports and analytics will be needed that include the data?

Finally, ask key questions about persistence.

  1. How long will this data be valid?
    1. Will it need to be refreshed, revalidated?
    2. Who will determine the half-life of the profile if there is one?

Having asked and received the answers to these questions will ensure that the final development is a small and easy to use as possible.

Jim Lindenfeld, Principal Consultant

Jim Lindenfeld, Principal Consultant

This blog was written by Jim Lindenfeld, who has been actively involved in customer relationship management during his entire professional career.  He is a certified sales and sales management trainer.  He has been involved in the implementation of CRM systems since 1987 and is currently a principal consultant in our CRM practice.

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CRM Hacks: Your CRM System Should Be Doing the Work!

CRM_hacks_graphicYou have just licensed and implemented an enterprise CRM Service Cloud.  Congratulations!  The decision to implement the system was a good one, modern service clouds can be a tremendous tool to improve the customer experience for the people that deal with your company.  How much that experience improves could very well depend on how much you have configured the system to do the work required to enhance the experience!

If you have configured your system to merely record interactions with your customers, then your employees will not only be solving the customer issue, but also entering the interaction into the CRM system.  Both are valuable activities, however, they are not being done efficiently.   It’s time to reverse the equation and let your CRM system do the work and improve the efficiency of your organization.

Here are some examples of how you enable the system to do the work:

  1. Identify the customer automatically.  Whether you implement Interactive Voice Response (IVR), Computer Telephony Interface (CTI), email address recognition, social media tracking, or use a customer ID, automatically identifying the customer to the system saves that step for your agents and can be used as the basis for customer self-service.
  2. Identify the potential issue that the customer is experiencing. Configure your system so that all of the previous interactions and purchases by your customers are available.  Display open cases, known product defects, and current system issues so that your team members (or self-serving customers) have ready access to them.
  3. Identify resolutions to the potential issues automatically. Configure your system so that you have a very robust, living, and growing knowledge base that can be cross-referenced by the system to display the actions that can be taken to resolve the potential and identified issues.  Your agents and customers can choose the correct resolution to automatically avoid or close a case.
  4. Automate communications with your team and customers. Load your system with pre-approved templates and workflow triggers to automate escalations and notifications as key milestones in the processes are met
  5. Automatically record interactions. Configure the system to record the initial interaction and subsequent important activities taken to resolve the issue and verify that it has been resolved
  6. Automate your reporting and analysis. Don’t make your agents and managers dig for the reports and analysis they need to continuously improve your processes and boost your customer’s experience.  Set up the reports and dashboards that your agents and managers will use for this purpose and schedule them to be displayed/delivered to them routinely.

These are just some of the examples of relatively simple configurations that can be made to your system to maximize its efficiency and enable your agents to provide a world class experience for your customers.

Jim Lindenfeld, Principal Consultant

Jim Lindenfeld, Principal Consultant

This blog was written by Jim Lindenfeld, who has been actively involved in customer relationship management during his entire professional career.  He is a certified sales and sales management trainer.  He has been involved in the implementation of CRM systems since 1987 and is currently a principal consultant in our CRM practice.

Illustration created and provided by Jonathan Pike, eVerge Group IT Specialist

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Hack Your CRM – Learning to Love User Problems

CRM_hacks_graphicYou’re the Business Analyst for a large distributor and you work closely with the Vice President of Sales and her sales team.  You’ve just learned that your company is going to invest in a CRM system, in fact, the very system that you recommended and with which you are very comfortable.  Can you avoid one of the most common pitfalls that await you on this project?

A Business System Analyst (BSA) or Business Analyst (BA) is a key member of any CRM Project Team.  It is important that you don’t let your familiarity with the system that has been chosen keep you from doing what you should be doing on the project.  Rather than listing functional and non-functional requirements, what you should be doing is cataloging the business processes and goals, and then working with the system architect to determine the best way to configure the system to achieve the goal for each process.  However, when you talk to the potential users of the system, you discover what all BA’s have discovered before you.  Users have at least 2 problems when it comes to expressing their functional and non-functional requirements: 1.) The “needs” expressed are too specific or 2.)  The “needs” are too general.  For example, a user might say, “All of the required fields should be highlighted in red.”  That sure sounds like a requirement, but it is really too specific to be valuable at this point, it is really a design element.  Possibly you’ve heard a user say, “It has to be really easy to use.”  Again, that may sound like a requirement, but it is too general to be valuable at this point as well since it deals with usability and not what the system will do.

You may have also discovered that users almost always have no hesitancy at all in talking about their problems.  You should be delighted whenever you find a user who can clearly express the problem he or she is having.  Those ‘problems’ will lead you to the real ‘needs’ of the user community.  Your job is to help them see that each resolution to a problem is really an achievable goal for the project.  Users are almost always focused on their problems.   Ask yourself, why is it a problem for them?  Better yet, ask them!  For example, Joe User states, “I never know whether or not one of my sales will be accepted”  Now that certainly sounds like a problem, but why is it a problem, and what is the cause?  Your questions should clarify the issue.  “Why is that a problem for you?”   “What do you think is causing it?”  In our hypothetical case, Joe User answers both:  “I am wasting my time if the sale isn’t accepted.”   “The customer is turned down for bad credit.”  In our simple example, you as the BA can now turn this into an achievable goal.  “So, the system should have a quick way to qualify the credit of a potential customer before you take the time to create and submit an order?”    Notice, this is a question back to Joe User.  Wait for the confirmation, you don’t want to insert your assumptions and your familiarity with the system and miss the real need.  In this case, Joe User says “Yeah, if we could do that, it would be a big help!”

Don’t stop there, are there other problems you can uncover and convert to achievable goals.  In fact, you may even want to do away with the traditional listing of ‘requirements’ and replace it with system goals and the design elements to meet them.  Remember, just because you know what a system can do, don’t assume that this is what the system should do.  That is the pitfall that you must avoid on this project.  Instead, listen to the users, find their problems, and convert them to achievable goals.  Sometimes the best hack is not taking a shortcut.

Jim Lindenfeld, Principal Consultant

Jim Lindenfeld, Principal Consultant

This blog was written by Jim Lindenfeld, who has been actively involved in customer relationship management during his entire professional career.  He is a certified sales and sales management trainer.  He has been involved in the implementation of CRM systems since 1987 and is currently a principal consultant in our CRM practice.

Illustration created and provided by Jonathan Pike, eVerge Group IT Specialist

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CRM Hacks: Entering U.S. addresses into a CRM system

CRM_hacks_graphic“Hack” is one of the most over used words in the English language.  It can mean to chop, it can mean a carriage, it might mean a cough, or an untalented golfer.   More recently hack has come to mean to illegally accessing a computer system or just the opposite – provide a quick fix to a broken system.  If you are a ‘gamer’, a hack is a ‘secret’ way to do better on a game level.

So when a new show hit the airwaves on TruTV – Hack My Life – it was difficult to tell if they were going to talk about an axe murderer, a chain cougher, a poor golfer, a carriage driver, a computer hacker, or an addicted gamer.  It turns out that the show does none of these.  It instead refers to ‘hack’ as a ported version of the gamer definition to a non-gaming situation.  That is, a ‘life hack’ is a quick tip that will help you do better in certain life situations (Oven broken?  Cook that lasagna in the dishwasher!).  CRM hacks are intended to be quick ‘secret’ tips that help even casual users use CRM systems to their fullest potential.

This CRM hack reveals a couple of low cost ways to speed up the data entry of U. S. addresses and improve the data quality.   US Zip Codes in both the 5 and 9 digit configurations are very helpful if used properly.  Many CRM on premise and cloud systems can be easily configured to take the provided Zip code and fill in the City, State, County, Country, and Geo Location of an address.   This leaves the user the much reduced task of filling in only the street address.   As an added benefit, users can no longer enter an incorrect City/Zip combination or a misspelled City/ County/Country name, so your overall address data quality improves.  With a little more effort, your CRM system can be connected to a search engine map that can fill in the street address correctly based on the correct business name and zip code.     The investment in reducing keystrokes for your users (internal and external) will be rewarded many times over in more and better data.

If you need help avoiding this or any other pitfall in your CRM project, contact eVerge Group.

Jim Lindenfeld, Principal Consultant

Jim Lindenfeld, Principal Consultant

This blog was written by Jim Lindenfeld, who has been actively involved in customer relationship management during his entire professional career.  He is a certified sales and sales management trainer.  He has been involved in the implementation of CRM systems since 1987 and is currently a principal consultant in our CRM practice.

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From Suspect to Customer, the Pipeline Funnel Explained

Suspects

purchase funnel

Whether vertical, horizontal, or some other fanciful design, everyone who works in or manages a sales and marketing organization recognizes the above images of the Pipeline Funnel.  The funnel graph is clearly intended to indicate that some effort is taking place to move people and businesses that don’t currently purchase goods and services into customers that do.  Many people see these graphs and misinterpret the funnel shape.  This is because the typical physical funnel that many are familiar with is a delivery mechanism in which every particle or droplet that enters into the top of the funnel, comes out of the bottom into the receiving container.  Often, as in the above examples, the funnel graph is shown in a 3D rendering.  Therefore, the casual observer is led to believe that the sales and marketing effort will convert all who enter the funnel into customers.

The reality of the ‘funnel’ chart is actually just the opposite!  It is intended to indicate that only a small fraction of the people and businesses that enter into the process eventually become customers.   Implied in the funnel graph is the idea that there are mechanisms in place to not only get people into the funnel, but also to get them out!  It is vital to your organization to recognize that getting people and businesses out of the pipeline efficiently, at the lowest cost possible, is just as vital to the success of your business as getting people and businesses into the funnel in the first place.

“Marketing” is getting people into the funnel from the entire universe.  Many times these entrants are called Suspects.  This blog doesn’t deal with getting businesses and people into the funnel, but deals instead with getting them through it.  Here is a set of ‘agreements’  that can be incorporated into your sales methodologies that quickly determine if a person or business should continue on in the selling process.

Agreement One:  The Suspect agrees to enter into some form of discussion with you.  This is often called interest.  Examples of this:

  • They take a phone call
  • They agree to an appointment
  • They click on an offer in an email or on your website
  • The respond to SEO or SEM
  • They meet with a sales representative on a cold call

This is the first agreement that you should strive to achieve – the sales process doesn’t continue with those Suspects who don’t reach this agreement with you, they drop out of the ‘funnel’ and it narrows to Prospects.

Agreement Two:  You and the Prospect mutually agree that you can help solve a problem or take advantage of an opportunity the prospect is facing.  You have gathered information from the initial discussion, usually centered on BANT (Budget, Authority, Needs and Situation, Timing).  You have established guidelines for BANT assessments to indicate quickly whether or not you are interested in continuing with the selling process.  Your Prospects have their own criteria which you have researched in general and understood.  If you can’t reach mutual agreement here, the Prospect drops out of the ‘funnel’ and only Leads remain.

Agreement Three:  The Lead agrees that by taking your proposed action, his or her problem will be solved or s/he will be able to take advantage of a new opportunity.  This is the very subtle agreement that many methodologies miss.  The Lead isn’t agreeing to take the action (e.g. Buy the service at the quoted price) only agreeing that the correct proposal has been made.  If you can’t reach this agreement, the Lead falls out of the ‘funnel’ and only Hot Leads remain.

Agreement Four:  The Hot Lead agrees to take your proposed action (i.e. commit resources to acquire a product or service).  This is, of course, where most of the focus falls in the ‘funnel’ because it is the commitment of that one-time Suspect’s resources that makes the process appear to be successful.  If you have obtained all of the other agreements in the correct order, agreement four should be much simpler to obtain.  All of the Hot Leads that reach this agreement with you become Customers (of course, you have to do the appropriate customer service follow-up to keep them, but that’s the subject of another blog!).

So I advocate for 2D or 3D ‘pipes’ that are horizontal (or even slightly uphill, indicating real effort), that clearly show the agreements that must be reached as the best graphic for that purpose…

Pipelines

Let us know if this is successful for you, or if you have some additional refinements that you believe to be even more effective.

Jim Lindenfeld, Principal Consultant

Jim Lindenfeld, Principal Consultant

This blog was written by Jim Lindenfeld, who has been actively involved in customer relationship management during his entire professional career.  He is a certified sales and sales management trainer.  He has been involved in the implementation of CRM systems since 1987 and is currently a principal consultant in our CRM practice.

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Project Killers: The Resourceful PM (with apologies to Dr. Seuss)

projectManger_lorax

 

 

 

 

 

 

At the end of the building, where the CIO goes

And the air smells of ozone when the AC vent blows

And no music is playing, except the Black Crows

Is the cube of the gifted PM.

 

And way down the hallway, some people say

If you look far and hard you can still see today

Where the PM once stood, just as long as he could

Before somebody carried the PM away

 

Who was the PM, and what did he do?

And why was he carried to some place so new?

Far from the building and the projects long ago

The old BA still lives here.  Ask him.  He’ll know!

 

You won’t see the BA, don’t darken his hall

He stares at his laptop and waits for the call

He lurks in his cubicle, cool, calm and aloof

Where he makes up reports out of miff-muffered moof

And on special release days in April he peeks

Out past the window blinds and sometimes he speaks

And tells how the PM was carried away

He’ll tell you, perhaps…if you’re willing to pay.

 

He leans back in his chair, his shoulders a-hunch

And taps on his watch and says it’s time for lunch.

You have to be clever and take up the clue

And invite the BA to come dine with you.

 

As you settle to eat, he looks anxiously ‘bout,

and begs you be certain that you never shout.

He orders the priciest dish he can find,

and follows that up with a bottle of wine.

 

Then he grunts, “I’ll call you tonight, I’ll use secure phone,

For the secrets I’ll tell you are for your ears alone.”

BUZZ!

He’s good as his word; you move the phone to your ear

And the old BA’s words come through, though not very clear

Since he’s speaking to you through a cloth by choice

In the hopes that it will somehow help disguise his voice

“Now I’ll tell you,” he says, with his teeth sounding gray,

“How the PM came to be carried away…

 

Way back in the days when the science was new

And the people were eager, but knew not what to do

And the business thought all projects were as easy as pie

I was hired by this place to give it a try.

Then I first saw the list, the Requirements List!

The long standing reckoning of what had been missed

Sorted ‘what would be nice’ and ‘what would be bliss’

 

And promoting the list were requestors galore

Dancing and happy to see what was in store

Certain their system would soon do much more

 

But that list! That list! That Requirements List!

All of my life I’d been searching for a project like this.

A litany of needs more urgent than eating

And requestors with funding all plaintively bleating

I felt a great leaping of joy in my heart

And set up my laptop galumphing to start

 

In no time at all, I had devised a new plan

To knock off each listing as fast as I can

So with great skillful skill and with great speedy speed

I took the first entry.  And I sized up the need.

 

The instant I’d finished, I heard a ga-Roar!

I looked.  I turned to see something framed in the door

of the office.  My eyes said it was sort of a man.

Describe him?…That’s hard.  I don’t know if I can.

 

He was tallish, and youngish, but sharp dressed and preppy

And he spoke with a voice that was controlled but peppy.

“Mister!” he said in a sibilant hiss

“I am the PM.  I speak for the list.

I speak for the list, to give the words meaning

And I don’t like the way that this project is leaning”

He was upset now; I could see his hands tremble

“Isn’t the right starting your team to assemble?”

 

“Look PM,” I said.  “There’s no cause for alarm.

I took the first entry.  I am doing no harm.

In fact it’s quite useful to jump in the lead

And convert the entry to a Fine-Something-That-All-People-Need.

 

The PM said, “Sir! Your actions are hasteful.

If no one can work with you, you’ll find they are wasteful!”

But the very next minute I proved he was wrong,

For just at that minute a user came along

And she thought that the entry on line one of the list

Was understood well, I had gotten the gist.

 

I laughed at the PM, “You poor stupid man!

You have to get to it as fast as you can!

“I repeat,” cried the PM, “I speak for the list!”

“I’m busy,” I told him.  I showed him my fist.

 

Then I looked back at the screen and in no time at all

Had blown the doc up to hang on the wall

And I reached out to requestors with meetings galore

And promised them results betterer than before

 

Soon I found I was working full tilt.  I was sizing up needs.

IT and the business were as busy as bees

tackling list entries and gathering more.

Soon the requirements list rolled clear to the floor.

Then…  Oh! Baby! Oh! How that requirements list continued to grow.

Now taking one entry at a time, or even tackling two

I found that the task was more than I could do.

 

So I quickly invented a new requirements tracker,

which allowed me to whack out four lines with one whacker.

I was writing down needs four times as fast as before!

And that PM? … He didn’t show up any more.

But the next week he again darkened the door.

 

He stated, “I’m the PM who speaks for the list and the listers

It seems you’ve forgotten those missuses and misters

They’ve asked me to speak in hopes that you’d heed.

You don’t have a plan to solve the first need

And my poor users are all feeling fright-full

that you will not produce something delightful.

They loved making the list.  But they didn’t realize

that with everyone asking it would grow so in size.

So they’ve taken a vote and they found with dismay

that they don’t have a need worth the price they must pay.”

 

I, the BA, felt sad as I deleted their asks.

BUT… business is business!  There were still lots of tasks.

And the project continued despite their sad masks.

 

I meant no harm, I most truly did not.

But I had to get going, so going I got

I biggered my tracker, I biggered the poster,

I biggered a chart to resemble a coaster

with buckets of needs that I got from the list

and circulated to all so that no one was missed.

I went right on working, finding more needs

And I biggered my bonus, which everyone needs!

 

Then the PM came back, I was just starting to type

when that old-nuisance PM came back with a gripe.

“I am the PM,” he paused for effect,

“and I speak for the list which now is a wreck.”

“BA!” he cried with a cruffulous croak.

“BA! You’re making this project a joke!

“My poor IT team, how they all like to wail

they can’t seem to make out the head or the tail.

“And so,” said the PM, while pushing a sigh

“They’re all lining up and saying goodbye.

“What’s more,” snapped the PM his patience had failed

“Let me say a few words about your E-mail!

“You churn out new memos day and night without stop

Most filled with Glupp and Schloppity-Schlopp

“And who reads the letters that they get from you?

“I’ve asked everybody and I’ve found that it’s few!

 

And then I got mad, I turned terribly blue!

I yelled at the PM, “Now listen here, you!

All you do is yap-yap and say what you would do.

Well, I have my rights, sir, and I’m telling you

I intend to go on doing just what I do.

And for your information, I’m just about through!

 

And at that very moment, out in the hall

We heard the soft rustle as the poster did fall

on the floor ‘neath the feet of the oncoming CIO

accompanied by shouts that the project must go.

He held out his arm and opened his fist

He flatly demanded, “Hand me the list.”

 

No more list.  No more needs.  No more work to be done.

All my hopes had been smashed and dashed, every one.

Now all that was left to be seen with my eye

Was a big empty office, the PM, and I

The PM said nothing just gave me a look

When the walls of my cubicle suddenly shook

with the pounding of feet from the people outside.

They picked up the PM.  They gave him a ride.

And I’ll never forget the look on his face

As they carried him off to a much better place

That was long, long ago

But each day since that day

I’ve sat here and relived what the PM had to say

Get the resources first, get the team to assemble.

He’d told me that with his hands all a-tremble.

Once the resources are certain I have now realized

Lists are much more easily prioritized.

And the users and listers, once they know the cost,

can easily understand the gain and the loss.

Once the plan is created, and each knows his task

Reading an e-mail about the project is the least we can ask

 

Each project has potential just like some seeds

Give them clean water, clean air, and meet all their needs

And each of them will become a healthy plant.

But if you rush them or starve them you’ll find that they can’t.

Jim Lindenfeld, Principal Consultant

Jim Lindenfeld, Principal Consultant

This blog was written by Jim Lindenfeld, who has been actively involved in customer relationship management during his entire professional career.  He is a certified sales and sales management trainer.  He has been involved in the implementation of CRM systems since 1987 and is currently a principal consultant in our CRM practice.

Illustration created and provided by Jonathan Pike, eVerge Group IT Specialist.

 

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