Turbo-Charge Your Rollout with ERM

Employees are the often-neglected stakeholders in the success or failure of a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) initiative. But employees don't always resist new ways of doing business. If you factor in relationship management practices that engage people in the change process, you can circumvent significant resistance and actually speed up implementation.

Find the Sweet Spot

Embarking on any change initiative, such as a CRM implementation, requires a parallel strategy of ERM - Employee Relationship Management. In helping companies manage change, our experience repeatedly tells us that employees know what the problems to implementation are, usually have strong opinions about them, and honestly want to make their work environment successful. Nobody wants to work in continual chaos. So leaders and managers need to leverage existing employee knowledge and motivation-that sweet spot-to accelerate implementation. Finding the sweet spot will help you develop the strategy to:

Move managers and employees to quickly buy into CRM implementation and;

Productively reflect on what actions or new behaviors need to be adopted (teamwork, better communications, better problem-solving, decision-making, etc.).

Confronting Resistance

The ERM piece of the CRM implementation puzzle can confound and frustrate the most seasoned managers and leaders. That's because you have to deal with the softer side of CRM. The key is to think and act in less linear ways. Here are a few situations where dealing with the softer side of CRM implementation is a must:

Employees are balking at another change. In the drive to implement, there is usually an overwhelming focus on task (getting the job done) vs. process (how the job is being done). This leaves employees feeling partially informed, not part of the "in the know" group, and uncertain of what really is happening. The result: some people dig in their heels and refuse to change, others will humor you by pretending to get on board, and some will just ignore you altogether.

Lots of wasted time on rumors and misinformation. Many organizations are hampered by patterns of communication that run in "silos" instead of smoothly across all departments throughout the organization. Handicapped by these silo communications, functions and departments are in a pattern of cross-talk. The result: people tend to rely on the grapevine and who they know to find out what's going on.

Ask 10 employees (or managers!) what CRM is and you get 10 different answers. There is minimal formal knowledge or understanding of CRM, maybe at all levels in the organization. And what people don't know, they make up. The result: managing expectations becomes a nightmare.

Bad blood exists between critical departments. When history colors the relationships between key people and/or departments, interactions tend to be seen through the lens of the past, not the present or future. The result: unless serious mending of relationships occurs, players have to change.

Anything sound familiar? If you've been through an organizational change, you probably have some war stories. The good news is if you develop an ERM strategy in conjunction with your CRM implementation plans, you can sidestep many of these people problems.

Take a Look at Yourself

Turn the CRM philosophy inward and what you have is ERM. Any brand guru will tell you that to create a great brand, you need to also align your culture and people internally to deliver on your brand promise. Same thing with CRM-ERM. Your ERM policies need to reflect your CRM vision and policies. But that's easier said than done, especially during an implementation. When the heat is on to demonstrate the ROI on your CRM investment, it's tempting to blow by the "high touch" part of successful high-tech implementation.

The one thing you must do, though, is resist the pull of high-tech/low-touch. If you neglect good employee relations practices in the rush to get the job done, your ROI will be significantly decreased by more errors, low productivity, low morale, higher turnover, lost opportunity, and time not spent on managing relationships with your customers.

But simply telling people to get on board won't make it so. If you think that people will easily rise to the occasion and embrace CRM just because you tell them it's now their job to do so, you're in for a rude awakening. Organizational change is not that neat, clean, or linear. There are, however, some ERM practices that can actually speed up implementation and increase your chances for success:

Continuous and consistent information sharing will accelerate understanding and acceptance of change. Why? People generally only retain about 25% of a message after a 48-hour period. To increase the odds that your employees understand the CRM vision, develop an internal "public relations" strategy to manage employee expectations.

Include the people that will be most affected by the new technology and business processes in your change efforts from Day One. Not only will you find out what they need to make life easier as their world changes, you'll also start the buy-in process just in asking for their input.

Focus on knowledge, not on your employees' attitudes. If employees are resisting, look to increase their knowledge about why this whole initiative is happening. Explain how the new technology will impact their job. Clarify what new skills they're expected to have and how they'll acquire them. Articulate explicitly what metrics will be used to gauge new CRM behavior and what business results are to come of all this. In other words, make it real obvious what's in it for them (the "WIIFM" factor). It is 5 times more difficult to change attitudes than it is to change knowledge. To engage employees, focus first on changing their knowledge through learning and communications that allow for a two-way exchange of information, feelings, and ideas.

Manage expectations by gently warning people that it could get worse before it gets better. There is almost always a period of "storming" and messiness before new practices, knowledge, systems, and relationships gel into a new functional way of doing business.

You can never over-communicate. If you're sick of talking about CRM, you've probably only connected with a fraction of your people. Talk it up some more. They'll let you know when they've heard enough.

Make sure you're walking the talk of your CRM strategy by getting "relationship management" right in your own back yard first. If you can't build and manage relationships with your own people, how can you expect to be successful with customers?

The more helpful relationships there are within your organization, the more likely CRM implementation will be successful. Why? Because information will be shared faster, problems will be resolved quicker, and employees are more likely to buy into the CRM vision. You can create these helpful relationships by investing in an ERM strategy.

Copyright 2002 Dailey & O'Brien, Inc.

(c) 2004 TurningPointe Marketing, Inc. All rights reserved.
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