Why CRM is about engagement, not tech, at Austrade

Austrade's CRM project lead discusses how to optimise your CRM rollout program by thinking not just in terms of technology, but also customer engagement and communication

Michael Wong
Michael Wong

It might sound like a motherhood statement, but CRM really isn’t about deploying a platform, it’s about driving new business outcomes through better customer communications and engagement, Austrade’s CRM leader claims.

The Australian trade and export body’s CRM project manager, Michael Wong, told ADMA Techmix attendees last week that too many organisations discuss CRM in terms of platforms and technology. Instead, he positioned CRM as the foundation of engagement, and the ultimate business and customer face-off.

“The most important outcome for a CRM program is the one between your business and the customer,” he said.

While organisations are looking to sell more products or services, for example, customers want a solution and to see value, Wong said.

“You want them to engage more with your platforms, whereas customers just want to engage as a human and on their terms,” he said. “You want data – lots of it – and the customer wants privacy.

“If your customers aren’t satisfied their outcomes being met, they’re just going to go elsewhere. At its most basic, if you don’t get this about CRM, you don’t get them. That’s a failure point of your CRM.”

Wong identified four stakeholders in any ‘CRM’ program, the first being the customer.

“They’re looking for a solution and they need to be satisfied about the relationship they’re forming with your organisation is on their terms,” he said. “It’s also about the organisation you work for. They want to have the outcome of ROI, and they need to be satisfied they’ve made the right investment in the first place.

“Then it’s about the other teams you’re working with – they need to have their own outcomes and be satisfied they’re being addressed. And finally, it’s about you as the project owner, as you need to ensure all these outcomes are met.”

Wong is currently CRM project lead at Austrade, and has experience in digital and marketing operations at Hotfrog, Fairfax Digital and HP. With a focus on four sectors of exports, international business development and marketing teams in 83 offices, and a huge array of business events, webinars, social activities and consulate support programs, he described the job of rolling out a new CRM technology and approach at Australia as incredibly complex.

While unable to talk specifics about Austrade’s CRM environment, Wong said there were three learnings that could assist organisations going through the same process.

  1. You need leadership and support from senior management. Austrade’s key senior management had CRM knowledge and bought into the program of work, Wong said. “Those executive also became the best advocates of the change management piece around CRM, and this also adds discipline and rigour,” he said. “These managers are involved through the whole process. That makes finance reviews and system reviews tough but constructive.”

  2. Source the right technology to fit your need. Austrade engaged in a very thorough selection process before choosing Microsoft Dynamics CRM and Teradata technology. One key aspect of this process was security, Wong said. “This was more than just IT security infrastructure, it’s measures around the human element,” he said. “That’s important - you might want to put security higher on your CRM agenda.”

  3. Collaborate. One of the keys to Austrade’s successful CRM rollout was that there were no “territorial fights” on who owns the CRM system, Wong said. “The fight between IT, sales and marketing is a common theme but this wasn’t the case at Austrade,” he said. “Instead, CRM was seen as a cross-functional capability for direct teams, marketing, IT and operations. This created a culture and attitude of ‘sharing the sugar’. There’s a genuine culture of collaboration and they all learn from each other.”

According to Wong, CRM is about managing a series of touchpoints with the customer to create and maintain a relationship. These include websites, email, social customer service and support, point of sale and events.

“With all of these touchpoints, you should be asking yourself: Are you collecting all available interactions and outcome data?” he asked. “Are you collecting enough profile information on these customers during these opportunities? And do you use the tools you have to create more effective touchpoints? You need to learn from this.”

For Wong, putting data at the core of a CRM program gives organisation the who (customer segments and leads), what (goods or services), when (touchpoint preferences), where (where a customer is in terms of the sales funnel) and why (the business context).

What CRM doesn’t really cover is the ‘how’ in optimising engagement. For that, organisations need a good understanding of content, design and user experience, Wong said.

“If you get the ‘how’ wrong, every single investment you’ve taken [in CRM] will be wasted,” he warned.

At Austrade, reporting functions in Microsoft Dynamics, along with quantifying and qualifying data, best practices in copywriting and email layout, and human decision making, were all employed to optimise email campaigns, Wong said.

As a result of these efforts, he said clickthrough rates increased by 30 per cent, open rates increased by 13 per cent, and conversions lifted by 16 per cent.

“CRM has all been about technology and the platform but you have to start thinking about it as a communications channel,” Wong added.

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