Ability to Create Multi-Channel Ecosystem: Overlooked Challenges

The struggle to create the much-needed Multi channel ecosystem to reach out to targeted customers continues, and organizations are grappling to unravel the mystery. As per Gartner’s survey one of the top business priorities for CIO’s is to “attract and retain new customers”, but strikingly when this translates to Technology Priorities, Multi-Channel enablement does not even figure in the top ten. There is a clear contradiction. Is this because, organizations have given up on creating this eco system or are they so naïve not to understand the repercussions of not enabling this? I think it’s more of the former that the latter.

There has not been one business discussion where business leaders do not stress on the merits of a having a holistic multi channel strategy and enablement and they generally get good response; this makes me believe that the benefits are recognized. The issue  starts when organizations sit at the drawing board and start sketching their future business architecture. The challenges this exercise poses are three-pronged, viz. People, Process and Technology Challenges. Organizations generally make the mistake of overlooking the people and process challenges and all efforts are spent in identifying and resolving the technical challenges viz. Platform, vendor, Products etc.

Recently I was fortunate to work with William Band, Vice President & Principal Analyst at Forrester Research, so I bounced this thought with him for his opinion. Bill says “I agree with your premise that the core issues that stand in the way of effective multi-channel management are people and process issues. Most companies are not organized to manage across channel silos, and functional silos (as you know)”.

The easiest challenge to overcome is technology and organizations need to think and strategize more on overcoming the people and process challenges. As a discovery exercise, organizations need to first answer the following questions and gauge the exact nature and extent of challenge that they will face.

  1. What is the business objective (enhance reach, provide seamless experience to customers, etc) behind enabling a multi-channel environment?
  2. Is my structure (organization) ready to support this initiative? What changes do I need to bring to my organizational structure?
  3. Do I have process defined with proper entry and exit points?
  4. How would channels interact to each other and what is the overall business architecture?
  5. How would I engage each channel, maintain a uniform message and use them on their merits?
  6. Have I identified the different stakeholders and mapped them in terms of resistance offered and change needed?

The above questions are not the complete set, but surely the reference point to start. These questions are hard-hitting and require organizations to put on the self-evaluation hat to answer and create logical and realistic next steps.

Skipping this first step will result in creating a multi channel ecosystem that either does not function or functions in absolute silos. Over the last few years organizations have managed to deploy multiple channels but have failed to create a Multi-Channel ecosystem.

Its time organizations start this discovery exercise and rethink on their multi-channel strategy.

Special Thanks to William Band for taking out time to review this post and provide his comments.

Some Suggestive Reading on this topic

http://www.forrester.com/rb/Research/solutions_converge_to_support_multichannel_customer_interactions/q/id/60914/t/2

Can Organizations have a Global CRM?

Having a global CRM strategy is  one of the most important steps towards operating as a global organization. The next question that comes to mind is “Why do organizations have to operate as a global organization?” There are various reasons, but one of the primary reasons is the saturation of US and European markets clubbed with the rise in the disposable income in newer markets. Organizations have realized: To achieve growth and to provide return to the shareholders they need to explore opportunities beyond the conventional markets. These markets are different and so are the customer preferences and needs.

There's no such thing as a global customer

Just extending the CRM strategy “AS IS” to these markets many a times will not be the most intelligent idea. But contrary to this; Organizations in the past have done this and have burnt their fingers. An example:

 British coffee chain Costa Coffee has reworked its India strategy to turn profitable and expand its footprint. The new strategy involves closing unprofitable locations, Customer segmentation strategy for different locations, changing the look and feel of outlets and customizing the menu to better suit the Indian palate.

 According to Santhosh Unni, who took charge as the CEO of Costa Coffee last year, the company went through its share of mistakes before setting the model right.

“The biggest mistake was to try and replicate the same UK model in India, when it was launched in 2005. We found that the UK model is not working in India where people look at coffee shops as a meeting place. So we had to alter the format and the ambience of the chain,” Unni said.

The chain had also made the mistake of opening stores at wrong locations. Read the full article here  http://www.mydigitalfc.com/news/costa-coffee-rejigs-india-strategy-659

So does this mean that one cannot have a global CRM strategy? I think there is nothing like a “Global Customer” and a customer is  “stranger” and his/her behavior changes over time, age, sex, demography, etc., but  having said that, organizations should create  the CRM strategy to know this “stranger” better and predict his behavior. This can be the global guiding light. The operational level changes to this strategy are keys to achieving a true and successful CRM in each new market that the organization expands its operations to.

At operational level also organizations invariably face the challenge of maintaining the balance between the core philosophy and local market needs. Organizations need to appreciate the fact that there are very few possibilities to effectively develop global customer segmentation profiles and global sales and marketing processes. But if organizations do try to create a global CRM at operational level, one of the following is bound to happen:

  • Each market ends up with its own customized version running locally. This is a politically acceptable compromise, which if properly managed, usually works satisfactorily
  • There is a single version running centrally, with all the attendant difficulties of managing a one-size-fits-all solution with various flavors for various countries, with serious technical/operational issues resulting in a costly, complex and rigid/inflexible solution.

Global organizations should try and define in concrete terms — rather than in vague and all-embracing concepts — just what business objectives they’re trying to achieve and whether standardization of CRM is the best way to go about it.

What do you think? Is there a global CRM?

Four Steps to Social Nirvana

Last night I was on Twitter and read this fantastic blog from Social Media Today http://goo.gl/fb/VbAtm  A very good step by step guide to create a successful social media strategy and put that into action. I have my own three steps towards social Nirvana.

Step 1: It’s important to be present on this Media: Is there a choice? Forrester considers “Social CRM” as one of the Top 10 trends for 2011. Organizations need to plan, evaluate and implement these channels as a part of the overall CRM strategy. Organizations need to be serious about this initiative and be responsive to the typical demands of these new channels. There are three types of Organizations in the Social Space:

  1. Organizations actively involved and using Social Media to support multiple customer engagement objectives (Listening, Talking, Energizing, Supporting and Embracing).
  2. Organizations just using the medium for a subset of the above objectives
  3. Organizations have joined the bandwagon without much thought and are now either Dormant or Dead

Organizations need to aim to support multiple customer engagement objectives after doing a due diligence of their typical Business ecosystem.

Step 2: Get used to the chaos of the social media: The space is Messy. There is no Order. At present there is lot of churning and eventually there will be Order as an output. Organizations need to be aware of this fact and plan their move accordingly. There cannot be a strategy cutting across multiple years, without any mechanism to evaluate and provide input based on the changes in the environment. What organizations can do is to create a strategy that is evolving with tollgate criteria to evaluate the strategy on a regular basis.

Step 3: Imbibe the culture across your Organization: The concept should be all pervasive. Organizations need to adopt this as a habit and should make this as a DNA. Do not expect to climb the maturity curve without internal adoption of the concept. This will also help organizations gather internal feedback where by refining the strategy further.  

Step 4: Look for an Elastic Platform: Expect the unexpected is somewhat normal in the social space. Organizations should therefore look for a platform that can scale up and down based on the need. The idea is to implement the strategy on such a platform that can provide the length and breadth of services across various social channels and help to collaborate effectively.

Add to this list and let me know what you think it takes to get this right.

Four Important trends in Mobile CRM Space

Last week one of my colleagues bought an iPad. He is currently gripped by something that people call the iPad syndrome. Ipad has helped people understand and appreciate the concept of mobility…in fact it has taken a giant leap in the mobility space. I have been receiving requests for mobility CRM much more in the last 2-3 months as compared to last year. Is it because of Ipad? Not sure, but the requests do translate into providing Mobile solutions that can run on mobile device; 1 out of 3 requests specifically for Ipad. One of our friends has put his thoughts around this revolution  http://social.eyeforpharma.com/story/will-ipad-kickstart-pharma-sales-and-marketing-revolution (read here).

I have been thinking off late on how should we go about designing the overall Mobile CRM solution? What should it contain? How should it be deployed? How will it provide enhanced value to organizations?  

Four Important Trends in Mobile CRM:

  1. Mobile CRM has moved beyond SFA on PDA: It is just not “Contact Management”, “Call Planning” etc. There are Features like Inventory/stock management, order reconciliation & tracking, Service Request Management, Real time analytics and “on demand” collaboration between field sales reps, service reps and customers. The new Mobile CRM needs to support much more functions and not just be a trimmed down version of the enterprise CRM system.
  2. Mobile CRM needs to be componentized: As organizations move away from the typical “arms race” in the sales function, where the sales volumes do not have linearity with the size of the sales force, and small groups of specialized sales force evolve; the need for CRM to accommodate the specific needs for these groups will increase exponentially. One solution fits all is not valid. What will work here is to have a bouquet of functionalities that can be made available depending on the end user need. End users pick and choose what he needs to be part of his Mobile CRM solution.
  3. Mobile CRM solution needs to be “On Demand”: The new age Mobile CRM solution needs to be available to the end user “On Demand”. Nearest parallel that one can draw is the “Blackberry Apps world” or” Ipad apps”. Organizations will maintain (can be a service provider) an application store and users can download needed application or components, use them and get rid of them from the mobile device after use.
  4. Mobile CRM solutions will drive the functionality: There was a time when the Mobile solution was a replica of the CRM solution with lot of restrictions w.r.t functionality and usability. Those days are gone. On Premise or Cloud Based CRM solutions will just provide robust backend and will not limit the Mobile CRM solution scope. The Mobile CRM solutions will have its own identity (the way functionality is achieved and enhanced usability features) and will integrate with the available CRM solution.

What do you think? Do you think that the Mobile CRM space is slowly transforming? Let me know your thoughts and comments.

Multi-Channel Marketing an Example: ETIOS by Toyota

So how many of you are not aware that Toyota has launched a Vehicle named “ETIOS”? I have not met many. I am a person who can endlessly browse the web to find news related to new cars and their reviews. I followed the complete Toyota ETIOS story very closely. I personally feel that this is one of the best examples for Multi-Channel Marketing. I am no expert at this but with my limited knowledge this is what I felt…

Given the importance of this vehicle for Toyota globally, Toyota created a campaign that engaged and informed the customers over the last 10 months.

Jan 2010…Toyota showcased the vehicle at the Delhi Auto Expo. The same day a TVC was launched to communicate about ETIOS. They came up with a very innovative Logo…The “I” in ETIOS has been written as the Indian TEEKA( a symbol of good luck and blessings of victory). The tag line also was chosen to aptly describe the essence of the vehicle “India First World First”. The whole positioning of the vehicle was very Indian. High time Toyota realized that India will play a major role in their Global Position as a Market leader. At the same time the Facebook and Twitter accounts were created. The initial buzz was created. Challenge at hand was… how to maintain this till the launch that was scheduled for the year end.

Again a very innovative TVC and Media campaign…”Q Promise” a campaign focused at demonstrating and placing Toyota as a Quality driven organizations. This was followed by an all India Tour “Q World Caravan” with the ETIOS concept. The choice of cities was very unique here…Chandigarh, Lucknow, Mumbai, Ahmedabad, Pune, Cochin, Chennai, Bangalore, Calicut, Goa, Hyderabad, Vijaywada, Coimbatore, Bangalore, Bhubaneshwar, Kolkata, Siliguri, Guwahati, Varanasi, Ludhiana, Jalandhar, Indore, Surat. At first glance one can make out that this is just not a random selection of cities, these are cities that hold lot of potential and are slowly turning out to be biggest markets after the metros. This event ended at Surat on the 15th August 2010…symbolic gesture to project that the ETIOS is for India.

In the mean time the social channels were very effectively used to drive the concept and the research that went behind creating this car. Social channel is the only channel that has the strength and merit of creating a 2 way communication. Toyota rightly used this to create a community that can discuss the Car and provide feedback and reactions to the ongoing campaigns. Exemplary use of social channel to inform, listen, and respond. I am not sure but I believe; these channels also enjoyed some exclusivity in terms of information. The exact launch date was first communicated here followed by a press release.

End of September the New ETIOS website was launched. Facebook and Twitter users were the first to know. The website provided information on the ETIOS concept and had games, quizzes (all focused towards INDIA First concept). Winners were awarded with some ETIOS branded stuff… (I was not lucky to get one). Website used as a teaser and to further strengthen the India First message. The launch of the vehicle was live on this website. One will be surprised to note that the content of the website changed the minute the vehicle was officially launched @Bangalore. Such meticulous planning and exemplary execution.

In the history of car launches in India, I cannot think of any other example that can either match or come a near second to this.  Analyze this information and one will find some best practices for Multi Channel Marketing:

  1. Use the channel as per its Merit
  2. Each Channel needs to have its unique message but with a single objective
  3. Distribute the three key functions of Marketing( Inform, Engage and Listen) across channels
  4. Create an ecosystem to provide seamless experience to the customers
  5. Continuously monitor and study the channel effectiveness
  6. See if channels can be provided some exclusivity

I am not sure of the sales figures that ETIOS will have in future, but for the time being the marketing team has exactly delivered what they would have envisioned 10 Months back. Great work … This campaign is also INDIA’s FIRST …

Hybrid CRM: Is it Just a Deployment Model?

I was having a call today with one of our clients around the Hybrid CRM that they envision to build. The definition of Hybrid CRM is not uniform. It is an open subject and people have the liberty to define. For some of the organizations…Hybrid CRM is having Cloud based solution and Traditional on Premise solution in the same landscape, this means some functionality/capability on Cloud and some on traditional platforms. For some … Hybrid CRM is having the database reside on premise, but still pay for the consumption of the licenses through subscriber access licenses. Another flavor is…If you have your licenses, but do not want to deploy the solution in house, then hosting it on some cloud (CRM Hosting Companies) by just paying the hosting fees.

So is Hybrid CRM Model just a deployment model and nothing beyond that? In my opinion it is much beyond that…some definitions do not really mean Hybrid CRM, they actually mean Freedom/Choice of deploying your CRM solution.  

So let me define what I think is Hybrid CRM: Hybrid CRM is a vision to create a CRM ecosystem whereby one can synergize the power of on premise with the flexibility of on demand solutions. So actually it means that one should perform an “In Out” analysis of capability to create a structured, scalable, flexible and functional Hybrid CRM Model.

What stays IN (Premise) and what goes OUT (on the cloud) will decide the way this model eventually shapes up? Can there be a single roadmap for this? That is to say…A particular capability can be completely achieved using a cloud solution… should we decide to move it to cloud. Another scenario may be… A capability cannot be achieved in its current state in a cloud solution… so does this mandate that it needs to be on premise? The point that I want to drive here is… Just by creating a matrix of what can be achieved on cloud and on premise one should not decide the hybrid model. Organizations need to perform evaluation on these dimensions:

  1. How dynamic is the Functionality/Capability: Some functionalities/capabilities are very dynamic in nature. They need to constantly change in order to meet the changing needs of the business. E.g Contracts Management in managed care. With change in regulations the capability needs to undergo changes. These changes can be small or big. Such functionality need to adopt quickly and cannot wait for the long change cycle that is typical trade mark of an on premise solution.
  2. How Complex is the Functionality/Capability: Organizations have complex functionalities… some are genuine others are complex just because no one ever thought for a simple solution. Organizations should look back and categorize the functionalities under “genuinely complex” and “Can be simplified”. Then the decision to move them on cloud/on premise becomes straight forward.
  3. Logical grouping of functionality/Capability: This is the most critical part. Organizations need to evaluate capability in a logical group and not stand alone. For E.g Contact Management functionality is achievable in cloud, but activity management needs to be on premise. Does this even sound logical? The end result will be horrifying for the users. Data governance and management will go for a toss. So it is very important to look at capabilities as logical groups so that the objective of creating a structured, flexible, scalable and functional model can be achieved.    

What has been your experience around this? Will you like to add to this list. Just as a closing note… IDC states that 3 quarters of European business plans hybrid CRM.. hope they get it right….

Case study: ‘Wipro ClickLoyalty’ Now Available on Salesforce.com

I have always maintained that the future will be to create simple and effective solutions for complex business problems. This is one example of creating a solution on these lines of thought… is this the beginning of the whole new role of the System Integrators as Solution providers (not products) and assemblers. Is this an example of SIs getting into this new role and trying to generate non linear revenue…

‘Wipro ClickLoyalty’ Now Available on Salesforce.com, the World’s Most Popular Marketplace for Business Apps – MarketWatch.

What are your thoughts on this?

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