Building a customer relationship management (CRM) strategy is a unique process for each organisation that nevertheless should always involve three key steps, according to Gartner.
The three steps needed to create a successful CRM strategy are: setting the destination; auditing the current situation; and mapping the journey to the destination.
"A CRM strategy cannot be developed in isolation. It must be relevant and linked to the overall corporate strategy, and it must build on existing sales or marketing strategies that are already in use," says Ed Thompson, vice-president and distinguished analyst at Gartner. "Following these three steps will provide a solid framework for CRM success."
* Set the destination: The vision of the company and the goals derived from this vision are the intended destination of the CRM strategy. The vision will be heavily dependent on the leadership of the company and on the selected CRM strategy. "Ensure that the CRM vision is to articulate the future environment for the organisation in terms of profitability and customer experience," says Thompson. "During the initial stages of the CRM initiative — while the CRM vision and strategy are being developed — the leadership and governance structure must be agreed upon and roles allocated before it is stressed by the impact of change management upon employees."
* Audit the current situation: Skills, resources, competitors, partners and customers all need to be consulted in assessing the starting point. Before beginning the CRM initiative, organisations need to identify how mature their existing approach to CRM is. Most organisations have some existing or past attempt at CRM. Even if these were deemed failures, there are usually some foundations that can be leveraged rather than ignored by the new team. "Use the audit to evaluate the organisation against equivalent organisations in the same or a similar industry," Thompson says . "A competitive benchmark is an excellent way to gauge how far behind or ahead the organisation is in comparison. Along with these two approaches, there are many other types of audit. Ultimately, companies should use as many of these assessment types as possible to prepare for the development of the CRM strategy."
* Map the journey: The journey may take many years, and the map will change en route. It is important to plan for this before starting. A CRM strategy explains how an organisation will achieve the CRM vision. It is the integrated blueprint for how the organisation will achieve its sales, marketing and customer service goals. Therefore, it must give quantitative answers to questions such as: What is the ideal customer base? What products or services is it going to sell, to whom, at what price and through which channels? However, it must also be able to give much more subjective answers to more holistic, organisation-wide questions such as: What is the best way to build customer loyalty? How will the organisation connect with a customer to create a positive "gut feel"? What will drive customers to recommend the organisation, brand and products to others more often to the point that they are willing to pay a premium price?
"Setting the destination, auditing the current situation and mapping the journey is an iterative process that may require several revisions before a final CRM strategy is developed," says Thompson. "The challenge is to avoid rushing the development process, as the company may be committed to many years of change."