Case Study:The Case of the Midway Island
I love being able to tell stories about some of the work we do.
One day, one of our consultants was meeting with a client. They asked if there was anything they could do to make their lead tracking less cumbersome. The consultant started asking questions...
It turns out that as leads came in from this company's website as emails, the Office Manager would copy-paste them into a lead tracking spreadsheet. This spreadsheet would then be emailed to department managers, who would assign the lead, and update the spreadsheet with the person assigned. They would then email this back to the office manager, who would combine all of these spreadsheets back into a master spreadsheet, that would be emailed daily to everyone, so that management could track lead progress.
Managers would be required to check in with their employees daily to get status updates on the leads, and send these updates as separate spreadsheets that would need to be re-combined back into the master spreadsheet.
At the end of the month, the tracking spreadsheet had all closed deals removed, and copied into another spreadsheet, used for allocating commissions and bonuses.
All this was bad enough, but things got even worse when executives started asking for analysis, including which employees and managers were best at closing leads, and why other leads were lost. Two employees would spend days putting this together manually.
What a nightmare.
It turns out that this whole process not only cost one and a half full-time employees, but that the leads were being cherry-picked by both the Office Manager AND the department managers, leading to high employee turnover.
How did we fix this?
This was an interesting one. While it is pretty clear that this is a perfect example of a case where it makes sense to implement a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system [http://searchcrm.techtarget.com/definition/CRM], it was very clear from the start that our client just wasn't ready for the change.
CRM systems require EVERYONE to track all interactions with every customer or lead, and require a commitment to designing workflows, business processes, and policies around the system. This was in the middle of the 2008-2010 financial crisis: There were other business priorities, and the client's internal politics just weren't right for that to happen. Without the commitment to that level of change, a CRM is worse than useless.
So, what did we do?
Our consultant sat with each of the people involved with the process, and helped them design a simple Web-based database to track leads using a Web-based database tool. The system has worked for years, mostly automating the lead-handling process and providing both management and commission reports. It also freed up two full-time employees for more important tasks.
Now, that client IS ready for a CRM system, and we're in the early stages of implementation. They'll soon be able to automate much more of the sales process, likely leading to better lead conversion. They'll also be able to bring more of the sales process under the control of Executive management, reducing the power of sometimes troublesome sales superstars.
What does this all teach us?
Technology is NEVER a one-size-fits all proposition. When we're working with a client, we need to be well aware of the business reality of what is possible and what makes sense. Sometimes it is better to use technology that is less expensive, or is only 'partially ideal', in order to fix a business problem.
In this case, we implemented a system that fixed a number of important problems inexpensively and with little disruption. Now that our client is ready to tackle some remaining business issues, we'll be there to help them on the next step of their journey.