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Susan DeMatei
July 9, 2012 | Analytics, Email Marketing, Print Design, Social Media Marketing, Website Design | Susan DeMatei


When someone says CRM what do you think of?

If you’re in IT or operations you might think of the software that holds your company’s sales data.  If you’re in marketing you might think of the reports you can (or can’t) pull from an interface.  If you’re in hospitality, you probably think of the annoying cash register or computer screen that forces you to input data before you can end a transaction.

The CRM process is always evolving.

CMR is all of those things, and more.  Customer Relationship Management is an approach to understanding your customer by habitually and methodically capturing preferences and details about them at various touch points with the goal of improving service and sales.  But too often we focus on the technology for capturing customer data and creating the marketing exports of the tools that we forget that the ultimate goal is unparalleled service.

For the past decade in the wine industry we’ve been working hard at capturing data…and now we’re not quite sure what to do with it.  Here are some considerations to making sure you have the Relationship component front and center in your CRM strategy:

1)    It is never too late to revisit your strategy – and never consider yourself “done”.  You’re lucky if you have a clean slate, or ok from management to build new system.  It is always easier to build a car before you drive it versus halfway down the road.  But, having a legacy system is no excuse for not periodically evaluating your system vis a vis your annual sales goals, allocation needs, current staff organization or new developing technology.   Every year our goals change, people change and technology changes, so allowing your system and processes to be fluid and evolving will help stave off a lot of employee and senior management disconnects.

2)    Enjoy your requirements phase.  (Or re-evaluation phase).  Spend time on it.  Ask everyone in your organization what he or she’d like to know about your customers.  Dream. Move beyond simple contact information.  What would help your tasting room?  How about a space to note Wine Club Member XYZ’s wife loves your garden but doesn’t drink wine.  That would certainly help you entertain her while he tastes the latest vintages during the next visit and create a better experience for everyone.  Perhaps accounting or sales or management would like to know when key retail accounts visit the winery and what they tasted?  Maybe the Wine Club manager needs a spot for food allergies if you have frequent events.  And set up some flexibility, as no sooner will you build something when an employee will have great idea for another program you hadn’t thought of.  While you can’t think of everything, major programs like anniversary mailings and birthdays are no-brainers that can be planned out ahead of time.

3)    Don’t ignore bad customers – you can learn from them, too. Too often we only focus on the “big buyers” and how to collect data about them, but wouldn’t you like to know the sources and details about those who drain your resources as well?  You can’t adjust an unprofitable partnership, or change your traffic message if you don’t track what is not working in addition to what is bringing in the case buyers and wine clubs.  So, don’t forget to set up metrics for them.  Also, you don’t know who is influential anymore.  In the book Flip the Funnel, Joseph Jaffe suggests companies now have to recognize and reward the influence, of existing customers.  So look at your data capture fields.  Why are we not asking our customers what their Twitter IDs are and why are we not asking them if they have blogs? And why aren’t we flagging the ones that are, perhaps more vocal than others?

4)    Get buy-in from everyone. Tools and workflows can be complex, especially for large wineries.  Successful development, implementation, use and support of customer relationship management systems can provide a significant advantage to both employee and customer, but there are huge challenges to using a system to its full potential.  Thus, CRM, when done right, is highly disruptive as it touches everything from the CEO’s contacts at a charity dinner to how the mailroom might handle a package. While everyone doesn’t need to be collecting business cards and running reports, the fundamental understanding that customer serviced is enhanced if we understand our customer better needs to permeate the organization from the top down. Stakeholders must be identified early in the process and a full commitment is needed from all executives from the beginning of the conversation.  Without this umbrella of understanding and support, it is simply too hard to implement.   Hand-in-hand with the requirements discussions, make sure everyone has input, and training in how to use the system as much as feasible.

5)    Be patient. Don’t feel bad if your winery isn’t there, you’re not alone. In a 2007 survey from the UK, four-fifths of senior executives reported that their biggest challenge is getting their staff to use the systems they had installed. Furthermore, 43 percent of respondents said they use less than half the functionality of their existing system; 72 percent indicated they would trade functionality for ease of use; 51 percent cited data synchronization as a major issue; and 67 percent said that finding time to evaluate systems was a major problem.

The most common challenge is lack of employee adoption, or fragmented adoption. A CRM interface that is difficult to navigate or understand can cause employees to pick and choose which areas of the system to be used, collapsing the entire model.  Sometimes this occurs because the employee has not had full training or a manual doesn’t exist (possibly the easiest issue to identify and solve). But, oftentimes, employees are focusing on the immediate task at hand (building a website, service at the tasting bar, taking a reservation on the phone) and the complexity of the system is hindering, rather than helping.  (A more difficult solution, but solvable taking a step back to the requirements stage and understanding user requirements of the system and adjusting).  But sometimes, organizations just take on too much, and the growth of capabilities of a CRM system frustrates employees and decrease usage. An overly complex computer system can result in an equally complex and non-friendly interface, thus not allowing the system to work as fully intended. This bloated software can appear sluggish and/or overwhelming to the user, keeping the system from full use and potential.  (This is obviously the hardest to adjust.)

The important thing is to take a deep breath and realize it is a journey, not a destination. And don’t forget the Relationship part of the equation while Social CRM and technology adoption in our daily lives (ipads in tasting rooms) are putting the two ends in the spotlight.  Prioritizing objectives and phasing out functionality help, as well as involving the entire staff/company in the design.  With a little planning and coordination, you’ll be on your way to developing a secure and trusted system that allows employees to easily access information and delight your customers.



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