CRM & The Call Centre

Sorting out the CRM confusion.

No one can be in doubt that CRM or Customer Relationship Management has become a key strategic issue for Senior Management wanting to be seen to make the transition from brick & mortar to eBussiness. Repeatedly I have been asked by journalists ‘What is the relationship between Call Centres and CRM’, ‘What is the role of the Call Centre in a CRM strategy?’. There is no simple answer; so what follows here is my personal explanation to sort out the concepts.

The key to Call Centre success is based entirely on the ability to Map out The Customer Contact Process™ and to ensure these processes are well know and integrated with rest of the organisation & of course continually improved (Benchmarking. For more click here). The key here is integration which implies that responsibility & authority is sorted out and given according to what is needed and practical for the customer.

In reality the Customer Contact Processes are not well mapped and authority very rarely matches the responsibility. What we see in most cases is the scrambling Call Centre, not integrated with Sales, Marketing but maybe with Service.

Enter CRM. Suddenly IT makes it feasible to actually automate The Customer Contact Process™ and the Internet makes it necessary. The Call Centre is seen as ideal to take on the added task of servicing eCustomers and the iCall Centre ( or Internet eNabled Call Centre) is born.

To me the role of the Call Centre is the CRM laboratory of an organisation. If you wonder how well a CRM strategy will work in your organisation, go take a look at how well your Call Centre is functioning.

The REAL challenges of CRM & the Call Centre. (Warning this might be a little philosophical for some).

Most companies and organisations are set up on an analog business model. The decision making process and authority are vested in pyramid structured departments and divisions and based on process steps which add time to the equation. The eBusiness Model is based on a digital network implying instantaneous response, taking time out of the process.

When you add the ‘old ’ analog organisation to a digital process you get a breakdown. Every day the call centre is in the middle of this nervous breakdown and the customers suffer. (Just take a look at the problems Call Centres are having when the digital server and the analog switch try to work together bringing the right call to the right place at the right time). For more on the new digital age I suggest you read Nicholas Negroponte’s book ‘being digital’ . (click here for more from

Every challenge confronted by the Call Centre will be multiplied when CRM is introduced to the entire organisation. CRM is not a software strategy, it’s the challenge of merging an analog organisation with a digital network process and changing the decision making processes and areas of authority to take time out for the Customer. It’s a major philosophical shift and will only succeed when Senior management grasps the enormity of the task and embraces programs to implement the needed changes.

Using the lessons from the CRM laboratory – The Call Centre.

In case study after case study we have demonstrated that the number one success factor is a complete Map of all The Customer Contact Processes™. A good example of this is Brisbane City Council Call Centre( read the case story here). Knowing the processes, a business case can the be drawn up showing the cost/benefits of letting the Call Centre handle these Customer Interactions. But more importantly strategic decision on responsibility and authority for fulfilling the customers needs must be sorted out and the call centres contact become integrated with the Sales, Marketing and Service department. Remember the customer does NOT differentiate between sales, marketing and service. We do because the organisation is analog. Is the customer a large or small account? Should she be transferred to Sales or are we allowed (??) to handle her. These are analog questions and ADD time & Cost to the Customer Contact Process™. The more detailed the MAP the better the issues can be dealt with beforehand.

The Digital organisation doesn’t differentiate between Sales, Marketing & Service, instead The Customer Contact Process is one division where the manager is responsible for all Customer Interaction, including sales revenue, marketing and customer satisfaction levels. Sales is no longer seen as an event but as ongoing process, where revenue is an expression of customer needs being met. The Cultural challenges for the analog organisation to such an approach are many, just think of the sales people not being the heroes and receive special rewards for having the customer sign the dotted line ( the event). However the digital approach will prevail because it lowers cost and increases customer satisfaction.

The analog approach to customer contact creates stress and lack of job satisfaction for the Call Centre employees. Not being able to complete a contact, never seeing the results of good call outcomes all add up to high staff turnover, lack of motivation and lack of self worth.

The idea that CRM Software will facilitate the migration of the organisation to a process driven customer focus is probably a pipe dream. What will drive the metamorphoses is cost/benefits, improved market share & coverage and in the end better bottom line results.

Conclusion on CRM & The Call Centre.

Viewing the Call Centre as the CRM laboratory gives us a handle on what needs to be done to implement CRM, which is not a software solution but a Senior Management vision to make the transition from being an analog organisation to being digital.


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