You've read all the customer relationship management horror stories. You've heard the grim statistics from Gartner, which estimates that more than two-thirds of all CRM initiatives fail. So you might wonder why our company, Boise Office Solutions, recently spent $US25 million implementing a CRM system - and be surprised to learn that we are seeing increased customer retention as a result.
Our initiative has been an overwhelming success for one reason: we didn't simply set out to strengthen our internal processes with CRM. Instead, we started with a clear business objective: to provide our customers with a greater economic value. Only then did we invest in technology to help us meet that goal. Much of the technology turned out to be CRM tools.
The steps we took with our CRM initiative are the same ones we try to follow with all technology projects. Boise Office Solutions has refined this process over the years with several technology projects, including establishing a true B2B e-commerce platform integrated into our supply chain management and implementing a proof-of-delivery system. I'd like to share our process with you and explain why it works.
Know Your Customers, All of Them
I'm surprised at how often companies don't consider their customers' needs when making decisions about technology. When we launch a new technology initiative, our first step is to ensure that everyone within our organisation, especially the IT department, has a comprehensive understanding of our business strategies and customers' needs. We accomplish that by pulling together a cross-functional team of business and IT managers.
The first step is to properly define the customer. We sell office products to businesses, and in a B2B industry such as ours, there is a tendency to consider the purchasing manager of the company with whom you have a contract as the customer. But within every customer organisation there are a number of people, in many cases thousands, who order from us every day.
When you add up all contacts with these individual buyers, some of our customers interact with us 400,000 times per year.
All of our customers have specific needs. For example, we found that customers sometimes need specialised help when ordering products such as technology accessories and furniture, so we have product experts and call queues dedicated to taking those calls. Before we invest in technologies to serve different kinds of customers, it's imperative that we have a clear understanding of their individual needs.