Magazine article Financial Management (UK)

Internal Affairs: Before You Start Implementing a CRM System, Ask Yourself Whether You Are Handling Customer Relationships Inside Your Organisation Effectively. (People Management)

Magazine article Financial Management (UK)

Internal Affairs: Before You Start Implementing a CRM System, Ask Yourself Whether You Are Handling Customer Relationships Inside Your Organisation Effectively. (People Management)

Article excerpt

It's crucial for businesses to be open to innovations in strategic business thinking if they are to perform to their true potential. The trouble is that most supposedly innovative strategies simply rehash what has been thought before, while others are plain silly. One new way of thinking about business that is sensible and has the potential to make an enormous impact on the bottom line is the idea of applying customer relationship management (CRM) thinking inside an organisation as well as to external customers.

The idea of turning CRM inwards is an intriguing concept. Internal customer relations (ICR) is a philosophy that focuses on the need for individuals and teams to recognise that they have customers within the organisation as well as outside it.

So many firms see themselves as well-run, thoughtful organisations, yet they keep on failing to maximise their profits and they generate unnecessarily high costs while suffering needlessly low morale. Such companies are in a position similar to that of a sick person whose illness is not properly understood by their doctors. The medical team may try all sorts of different remedies, but the patient never gets any better.

So often the real reason for this malaise is that most people in business are far more worried about looking after their own empires than they are about the welfare of the organisation as a whole. All too often, they don't really care much about customers either. They say they do, but when the chips are down most people are more interested in protecting their own territory, rather than in getting to the nub of the problem of collaborating with colleagues to give the customer a deal that delights them and makes them want to come back for more.

Of course, this closing of ranks is understandable--nobody wants to lose their job. But the needs of customers should be paramount at all times. Surely the whole notion of customer service involves making some sort of sacrifice in order to look after customers properly?

At present, few organisations have a culture that encourages staff to empathise with what external customers want, let alone with what internal customers need. Instead, they encourage staff to focus on matters that protect their jobs. But, if people focus only on internal politics, they will be suspicious of approaches by other departments for co-operation and information-sharing. Indeed, they might assume that such approaches are aimed at undermining them. It is hardly surprising that inefficiencies exist between departments, causing the external customers to suffer.

ICR is becoming an important issue for four reasons:

* The gospel of looking after customers and using technology to make this happen has brought the philosophy of customer service into the open. …

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