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Stubborn & Persistent

I spent Christmas Eve Day on the Island of St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands snorkeling with my family. We rented a Jeep and drove to a remote part of the island to commune with nesting leatherbacks and search out the illusive featherduster coral. While on the idyllic crescent shaped beach in between dives we encountered an interesting pack of wild sea donkeys. As it was our first trip there, we were not familiar with this institution, and while they were not troublesome, they were persistent. They wanted the food in our back packs. They would not go away, which meant that we had to stay on guard lest a mobile phone be mistaken for a sandwich.

Wild Sea Donkeys

Returning to civilization after the holidays, one of the first calls I received was from a colleague asking me to prepare him for a visit with a prospective customer who was hoping for help with a CRM program gone astray. My advice to him was that there was a 95% chance, not knowing any details of the situation, that the problem could be traced to one of three factors, or a combination of the three. He needed to be prepared to talk about weak strategy, crappy usability and technology sub-optimization. Later, during a debriefing, I learned it was a combination. There was no solace in being right.

This all reminds me of those wild sea donkeys that just wouldn’t go away. The same problems keep coming back looking to steal our lunch. The CRM industry is about 15 years old, depending on how you define things. It is amazing to me that after that much time, the same things keep going wrong.

Companies still fund CRM programs thinking they can relegate the process to a bunch of good intentioned IT folks who never get the license to bring together the execs to set expectations about what the program should deliver. CRM software gets designed and implemented to satisfy a whole boatload of different stakeholders, except not the users who have difficulty making it work efficiently and get back no individual benefit. And, on top of that, CRM has become so much a central concept in contemporary organizational thinking that everybody has it including your dry cleaner – but the problem is that there is not enough talent to go around to get it all installed correctly now – so too many software systems are put together like a cheap condo complex.

So why raise this? Two reasons: first, if you are planning a CRM program, please make sure you have a solid strategy and buy-in across management; make sure you design the system to satisfy the performance needs of the user; and make sure you have competent folks helping you build and implement the technology. Second, if you find yourself dissatisfied with your CRM program, use this as a diagnostic tool – examine each of these three factors to find what you need to repair. It will get you most of the way back on track. Then go eat your picnic lunch before the wild sea donkeys come back.

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