BPR for CRM?

Whose Business Processes Are You Redesigning? Make Sure It’s the Ones that Customers Care About!

September 19, 2002

Best practices in CRM are an alluring goal, but make sure you start with processes that the customers care about. Avoid the temptation to improve your messy processes if they don’t impact the customers.


There's a new buzz around Business Process Redesign in CRM circles. That's because several of the major suppliers of software and system integration services in the field of Customer Relationship Management are currently unveiling pre-packaged CRM business processes. We're excited too. It's always easier to start implementing systems when they come with a set of best-practices business processes that have been honed and refined over the years by other companies with businesses that are very similar to yours.

The Allure of "Best-Practices" Business Processes

We've watched a number of very experienced sales and marketing executives practically beg for copies of the best-practices processes that Siebel has recently codified and packaged up in a book that its salespeople and executives now carry around. It's fascinating that so many executives are hungry to see how their own formal (or informal) sales and marketing processes compare to those that have been documented by Siebel and its business partners.

These customizable business processes are very seductive. It seems much easier to design your own business processes when you can start by examining all the steps that others have developed and then decide which of those are germane for your business. And, indeed, it may be.

We caution you, however, to be selective about where you start in prioritizing which business processes to adopt and to customize first. It may seem to you as if you should streamline your sales opportunity management process and your marketing campaign management process first, and then move on to customer service, fulfillment, and operations. But, if you want to gain traction with your prospects and customers, that's exactly the wrong way to proceed!

What's Wrong with This Picture?

While we love the idea of starting with best-practices business processes--who wouldn't?--here's why we think you should be selective in deciding which ones make the most sense for you. Most of these best-practices business processes were designed from the inside out, not from the customer in. So you run the risk of adopting practices and processes that will streamline your operations but may not actually help you retain customers or acquire new, profitable customers.


Sales force automation is just that. It's a way to streamline your internal sales process, primarily for the purpose of optimizing a scarce and expensive resource--your sales force. Sales force automation or opportunity management efforts are often driven by the business's need to do a better job of forecasting sales and revenues. It's certainly tempting to begin your CRM efforts by focusing on the needs of your sales managers and the salespeople involved. However, this is a costly and time-consuming way to get benefits. Organizational issues will take their toll, no matter how well you implement.

We're not suggesting that it's not important to have a streamlined sales process and a well-documented one. What we are suggesting is that optimizing your sales processes should come after you've optimized your other customer-impacting operations. If you redesign your business processes based on customers' needs first, by the time you implement a streamlined sales process, you'll have a much better customer database with much more complete information with which to equip your direct sales organization.

We also believe that marketing automation and/or campaign management is not the best place to focus at the outset. It's certainly true that customers will be very annoyed if they receive competing and inconsistent marketing offers from your firm. No doubt, you'll save money in your marketing efforts if you can redesign your marketing efforts to be more consistent and more effective. But the best way to redesign your marketing campaign process is by starting with customers' key scenarios--what is it that customers are trying to accomplish vis a vis your firm and its products?

The best practices you need to adopt in marketing automation will be highly driven by the key customer scenarios that are specific to your customers, to your customers' contexts, and to how your products and services fit into customers' scenarios and contexts. Note that successful marketing programs need to intersect with your customers' business processes, not your business processes. So beware of adopting best-practices business processes for marketing automation that aren't derived from customer scenarios, where the customers' issues and contexts are similar to those your customers face.


Here are some suggestions on how to prioritize your adoption and customization of this next generation of best-practices CRM business processes.

What you want is both customer delight and lower costs-to-serve! You want to adopt the best-practices business processes that make it easier for your customers to do business with you and to streamline you customer-impacting business processes at the same time.

Select the Processes that Impact Your Customers the Most!

So, instead of starting with sales force automation, opportunity management, marketing automation, and campaign management, we suggest you start where the proverbial rubber meets the road from the customer standpoint. Here are some candidate areas in which most of us could benefit from rapid adoption and implementation of best practices:

1. Customer Support and Field Service. The first place to improve your customer-impacting operations is in your customer support and your field service operations.

Focus on both pre-sales and post-sales support processes. Make sure that you apply the best practices across interaction touchpoints (contact center, Web site, e-mail, fax, snail mail, face-to-face).

Select the best practices that will solve customers' issues and answer their questions pro-actively, not reactively. That's where the cost-savings mount up!

Then streamline your field service operations. How well do you handle dispatch and problem resolution? Do field service and delivery personnel have all the information they need to do their jobs quickly and efficiently? If you streamline the business processes that impact customers the most, ensuring that, every time your representatives touch the customer in any way, the customer has a great experience, you'll be building a strong CRM foundation.

If you begin by tackling what's broken in these two areas, you'll quickly uncover all the operational problems that also need to be addressed in order to make it easier for prospects and customers to do business with you.

2. Customer-Impacting Operations. The next set of business processes to select and refine are those in which your company's operations impact the customer experience. For example, inventory availability, provisioning, shipping, logistics, billing, return merchandise authorization, and credit approval are all the kinds of business processes that impact customers the most dramatically and expensively. You'll know which operational business processes to focus on based on the work you've done in streamlining customer support and field service.

You many not find these customer-impacting operations well-represented among CRM business processes. But they should be. These are the core business processes that really need to be redesigned from the customers' point of view. This customer-centric streamlining will yield dramatic benefits, both in terms of cost- and time-savings to your customers, and in terms of cost- and time-savings to your business.

These are also the business processes that will require the most application integration and cross-functional coordination.

3. Cross-Touchpoint Coordination. One of the top customer dis-satisfiers in their dealings with businesses are the inconsistencies that customers encounter when dealing with our firms through different interaction touchpoints. Whether the customer is trying to find out what's on offer, to solve a problem, or to accomplish a particular scenario--buy a house, get an office moved, attend a conference--she expects and demands that the information and business policies she encounters will be identical whether she chooses to interact by phone, e-mail, or face-to-face.

It may be that the best place to start in streamlining your cross-touchpoint coordination is with marketing campaigns. That would give you the benefit of coordinating marketing campaigns across product lines as well as across interaction touchpoints and distribution channels (retail, agent, direct).

Unfortunately, most of our companies don't have the underlying and supporting processes in place in order to deliver a consistent cross-touchpoint and cross-channel experience. We would need to streamline content management processes, business rules, pricing policies, inventory allocation, and a myriad of other business processes that tend to be handled differently within different parts of our organizations.


By now, you're probably thinking that streamlining customer-impacting business processes is a pretty daunting effort and one that goes well beyond the scope of many CRM implementations. Instead of simplifying CRM implementations, what we're proposing--redesign your business processes from the customer back--could prolong and exacerbate the CRM implementation process.

Yet, there is certainly a lot to be gained by walking in the shoes of customers that have implemented and refined a number of thorny CRM business processes. We simply recommend that you start by selecting those business processes that are most likely to impact and to improve your customers' experience of doing business with you, rather than focusing on your internal business processes. Redesigning your customer-impacting business processes will yield the fastest benefits and the greatest returns.

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