Although Complete Innovations helps track fleets of vehicles and workers around the globe, the key to solving one of its biggest business problems turned out to be right on its own doorstep.
The Markham, Ont.-based company has built up a worldwide base of 6,000 customers since it was founded in 2000. The success of its real-time fleet management software and services has landed Complete Innovation on lists like the Profit Hot 50 and Deloitte Fast 50.
While the firm doubled its subscriber base between 2011 and 2013, each of its major departments was still running its own separate business software and processes. Backlogs and delays cropped up in client care, customer support, inventory management, and loyalty retention.
Chief Operating Officer Dror Nir decided to integrate all those loose ends by deploying Microsoft Corp.’s Dynamics solution for customer relationship management (CRM). Then he looked for outside help to implement it.
“We started with a consultant because that’s what most people do. But after nine months of making little progress, we realized we spent a long time teaching the consultant about our business just so they could implement (CRM),” says Nir.
Nir decided to up-end the entire process: find someone who already knew Complete Innovations from the inside, then teach them CRM. That search ended in the firm’s own backyard at Brad Freeman, its manager of business processes and operations.
“Within three weeks after Brad learned the (Dynamics) system, we were further ahead than we were after nine months with the consultant,” Nir says.
That was in 2012. Within the first year of adopting its Dynamics strategy, Complete Innovations doubled its sales without hiring additional staff. Since then, the company has automated almost 500 workflows, improved overall operational efficiency by nearly 200 per cent and sharply reduced its customer churn rate.
This CRM success story contrasts rather starkly, however, with a new Accenture survey of almost 24,000 customers in 34 countries, including Canada. Only 38 per cent of consumers “strongly agree” that companies are effectively converging digital, mobile, social and traditional channels. And over one-third (41 per cent) of consumers want companies to provide more digital customer service interactions.
With more companies adopting CRM technology, why is customer satisfaction so lacklustre?
“Most companies are still struggling to realize the promise or the value of CRM,” says Berkeley Warburton, sales and customer service strategy lead at Accenture Canada.
One common mistake is to view CRM as a “silver bullet,” she says.
“Many companies purchase CRM technology and feel the technology will solve their problems or realize their visions,” Warburton says. “But in reality, it takes a lot more to take that technology, get the most out of it and use it to bring together your omni-channel vision.”
A 2013 study by Forrester Research suggests technology itself isn’t the main culprit in failed CRM deployments. Technology-related issues like data problems were blamed in 35 per cent of failures. But non-technology issues were cited even more frequently, including faulty business procedures (44 per cent), “people-related” challenges like insufficient training (42 per cent), and weak strategy around CRM goals and objectives (40 per cent).
Technology is one of the last things companies should worry about when adopting CRM, says Rekha Rao-Mayya, national technical director for Dynamics CRM at Microsoft Canada.
“The implementation of the system is the second step. The first step is (defining) what is your critical vision. What is your mission statement when it comes to your customers?” she says.
Complete Innovations took a customer-centric approach to CRM by making it the domain of operations, not IT or sales. That also helped win buy-in for CRM across the company, where 98 per cent of all employees now use it to manage day-to-day operations.
“We started in our own backyard of operations and once the (rest of the) organization saw the benefits of what we were doing, they said ‘We want to do it too’ and we started implementing it throughout the organization,” says Nir.
Buy-in is also easier if companies designate key staff as CRM point people, make training an early and ongoing priority, and celebrate CRM milestones along the way, adds Rekha.
Warburton says a lot of firms still need to get over the idea of finding an elusive one-size-fits-all CRM solution.
“It’s almost naïve to think that a single vendor could meet all your needs across multiple channels, sectors and even geographies,” she says. “You may need to source multiple solutions from multiple vendors and bring that together in an integrated and coordinated way.”
That’s exactly what Complete Innovations did, adding analytics from D&B360 and specialized marketing and survey applications by ClickDimensions to complement its Dynamics system. As Nir puts it, “We’re not just using CRM out of the box. We customized the heck out of it.”
The most important step in adopting CRM at his company wasn’t about changing technology but changing mindsets and behaviour, Nir says: “I made a decision that in order to keep our current growth and sustain that, we needed to change our ways.”
In Warburton’s experience, it’s the key to implementing CRM technology successfully.
“It’s really around business enablement and fundamentally recognizing CRM investment is about changing your culture and changing behaviours,” she says.