Linking Organizational Change with Customer Relationship Management

“Your success in life isn’t based on your ability to simply change. It is based on your ability to change faster than your competition, customers and business”– Mark Sanborn

Organizational change is a given and in fact is essential for a company to move ahead and progress. However, since companies are changing their business strategy from being internally driven to being customer-focused, none of the changes would be relevant or fruitful without taking customer relationship management into account. What this means is that companies must ensure that the organizational change is happening to better their relationship with and service to its customers – both existing and potential. Revolving change and decisions around customers is a sure shot way to success and long-term gains for any company.

Customer relationship management is not easy by any standards and companies need to consistently invest resources to ensure that they not only attract but also retain customers long enough to become loyal fans. Any kind of organizational change is never easy – it is a hard and cumbersome process – and with customer relationship management being added, this task has become even harder. Every company has its values, a unique culture, rules and guidelines, and a set of employees that are expected to live by these aspects. The fact that employees come from different backgrounds, skill sets, and experience levels makes it tougher to keep a culture intact – imagine the difficulty that would be experienced to implement any kind of organizational change keeping in mind customer relationship management. In order to succeed, a company must find ways to ensure that every employee contributes to the change and is happy to contribute in whatever manner required.

Companies have had to ‘change’ their business strategy owing to the drastically changing market situations – economic downturn, increasing competition, rise of self-help options for customers, increase in similar products and services – are all the factors that have led companies to think about business differently. The power equation has shifted to the customers owing to these factors and therefore without a focus on customer relationship management, a company may find it hard to sustain itself long-term. It is necessary now for companies to invest in technology and software that would make customer relationship management a lot easier and speedier, and would help the company to align this strategy with the overall business strategy or make organizational changes in order to do so. Without the inclination and alignment to a focus on customers, it would be tough to gain maximum advantage of Customer Relationship Management software, technologies, and principles in the market now.

Before implementing any changes in the organization, a company must first identity the existing processes and their alignment with customer focused policies. The decision to make changes should be made post evaluating whether these changes would have a positive impact on customer relationship management or whether they would jeopardise the company’s efforts in that direction. Customers are not likely to be happy with any changes that affect them adversely and they would rather move their business to a company that seeks to satisfy their needs and concurring with them before making any relationship altering changes.

We know that the top management of any company is mostly responsible for affecting changes in any organization and therefore they must make informed decisions before going ahead with any changes. When top leaders are convinced of the positive impact of an organizational change on customer relationship management, they would be able to inspire confidence and credibility not only with employees but with the customer base too. It is they can drive ‘the tide’ in the favour of the company and get customers to see that the changes proposed would be beneficial for them too. Employees too, remain enthused when they observe their leaders promoting an initiative.

While the initiative must come from the top leaders, we also know that realistically they cannot be directly involved with every project and organizational change initiative. However, to ensure that the change has a positive effect on customer relationship management, the company must put in place a team dedicated to the ‘project’ and the team must be headed by a senior person from the organization. This senior person would be the guiding force and the most important person in the successful implementation of the change and for it to have the desired effect. This person and the team must be completely aware of the steps required and the ultimate goal of the project, in order to ensure its success. Passion, enthusiasm, eye for details, and dedication towards the objectives would be quintessential qualities for all those involved in affecting an organizational change that would have a direct bearing on customer relationship management.

The other crucial part of making such an initiative a success would be technology. A person with knowledge and experience in managing current and new systems would be essential to the success of the project. Given that customer relationship management cannot be managed without technology and systems, it is essential that this person be well equipped to be the ‘go to’ person for any problems and system support that others may require. This person would also have control over the vendors and would need to have first-hand information on any changes / updates on the systems / software. This person could either be part of the ‘project’ team or not – but would definitely need to work closely with the core team.

Post putting all the necessary procedures in place, speaking with some select customers, and checking the validity of the change within a test environment, the next step would be to launch the program if all is in favour. It is important that the launch of the organizational change be conveyed with enthusiasm and on a large scale. The launch must not only include company-wide employees, but also top customer groups, vendors and other stakeholders, such that everyone understands the importance of the change and its effect on the company, its employees, the policies, and most importantly the benefits for customer relationship management.

An organizational change management program requires deft handling especially since any change is usually met with resistance. By ensuring that it is methodical, provides details of benefits, and ensuring support to employees to help manage the change, will enhance the chances of success. If employees were to resist the change, there would be a direct impact on their job performance and, in the manner in which they serve customers. This would naturally adversely affect the relationship a company has with its customers, leading to dissatisfaction and churn. There is therefore, a direct connection between any organizational change and customer service. An inefficiently managed change would meet with negativity that would then radiate out to the customers, which is never an acceptable manner of dealing with customers.

Organizational change requires careful planning and implementation and in order for it to be successful, the impact on customer relationship management must definitely be discussed. If the program will lead to a major change, it is advisable to affect it incrementally, to ensure least possible disruption to the employees and in turn, to customers. Organizational change is a must – however, it should be managed in a way that both employees and customers can perceive the short-term benefits and envision those in the distant future.

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