Why Information Visualization is Key to CRM ROI

Why Information Visualization is Key to CRM ROI

Determine what you want to track before you roll out your CRM.

Asking executives to visualize what they want to see is often a missed step when companies are scrambling to set up CRM (to please the very executives they should be interviewing). If you really want to please executives, build a system that creates the outputs which can make decisions and insight easier. BUT you need to engage them. If they don’t want to participate, you may be in trouble before you even start as corporate adoption is critical. Once you know what executives want to see build that in a way that allows user to collect the information the most efficient way possible while still allowing them to use the tool in way that benefits them. (user adoption is even more important!)

Picture managing your business from a command center – what do you want to see? CRM can get you there.

Picture managing your business from a command center – what do you want to see? CRM can get you there.

Picture managing your business from a command center – what do you want to see? CRM can get you there.
Companies need to plan for what they want to be able to see in the way of reports and trends that allow them to use CRM data in a way that can drive business decisions & strategy. If the goal for deploying a CRM was to gain insight into your business and after a year of effort the information being generated is not useful to managers and other decision makers, then something has certainly gone wrong. The likely cause is in the initial setup. You have to start with the result you want and then work your way backwards to properly configure a CRM for success.

The best way to accomplish this is through identification of what information you would like to easily see but can’t see today (at least not without a lot of wasted time collecting information – also known as “InfoPanic” – see definition). An example may be that you want to routinely review how much merchandising space your company “owns” on your retail customer’s show floors. Knowing this, you would build the fields or (possibly a custom object related to accounts) to track this. Maybe you want to track which customers have attended your companies training events and how often they have attended. Build the functionality to track this up front. The idea is for executives & managers to visualize a “control station” with multiple dashboards that give insight to run the business. What do you want to see on those dashboards? What does the VP of Marketing or Sales or Finance or Customer Service want to see? What do sales managers NEED to see that should help them run their sales teams, manage customers, and accomplish initiatives? 100’s of systems can simply manage accounts & contacts. CRM is meant to manage your business.

Even though most CRM’s are mainly promoted as driving sales excellence and increased revenue, do not underestimate the ROI that can come from internal process improvement, competitive trends, customer insights, and better cost control. CRM can generate ROI in many ways most company never think of. Sometimes the ROI is soft but critical. What a point of differentiation it can be when you can document all of the hard work and support your company has provided to clients over time (most companies just say it, winning companies show it!). So think outside the sales box when you picture the reports you may want to see in your control station. Think holistically & identify everyday processes long taken for granted. Your biggest returns may come from where you least expect – if you build it right.

Here are some examples of non-sales based elements that may warrant tracking at your company (if applicable):

  • Product Warranty Claims
  • Project Registrations & Results
  • Marketing Item usage such as samples & literature
  • External Training Events
  • Internal Training
  • Marketing Funds
  • Voice of Customer Feedback
  • Vendor Return Claims
  • Collections Call Tracking for A/R
  • Sales team Marketing Expenses
  • Customer Display & Sample Updates
  • Customer Certification Programs
  • Keep thinking about all your company does both internally & externally

Of course what needs to be tracked can evolve over time. The things needed to create a trend are time and data points. You can’t anticipate everything you may want to track upfront and you can’t anticipate all the information a customer, partner, or supplier may want at some point in the future. When faced with a situation where you need to collect information that was not anticipated; always ask yourself: will this information be needed again in the future? If the answer is yes then build the changes needed into your CRM to track going forward. Next time its needed it will be a query away. Don’t just solve the information problem for the moment, solve it for the future.

One of the best things about getting started with CRM, is if done right, you will be forced to look at your business, your customers, your departments, and your processes and truly review them. By sinking yourself and the right groups of associates into the exercise you may reveal amazing opportunities for positive change. CRM will just be the vehicle to get you there. – S.T.

Definition of “InfoPanic”: the mad scramble to collect information last minute when reacting to a market situation or business concern that was identified too late

Scott Thomas