A Quantitative Business Case is Not Enough: Document the qualitative benefits of integrated Customer Relationship Management (CRM) technology in a future-state customer experience scenario

Authored by Daniel T. Murphy and Andres A. Salinas

The CRM Practitioner Perspective:

As CRM practitioners, we are all able to explain why CRM is important – Customer expectations are still significantly on the rise. Customers care less about brand and more about choice. They have come to expect frequent flyer miles and other rewards every time they shop. Loyalty continues to diminish. Customers expect consistency across multiple channels or “touchpoints” and accessibility 24 by 7. They expect to be able to touch the seller when they want, where they want, and how they want. In the new multi-channel world, customers will increasingly expect to self-manage their relationship with sellers. Expectations are high and getting higher. And the competition is only a click away.

Nearly all CRM practitioners can eloquently describe the spirit and objectives of CRM – Collecting, analysing and utilizing customer knowledge to provide higher quality and more personalized service. It is about better managing the customer touchpoints and maximizing the lifetime value of customer relationships.

Many CRM practitioners can eloquently describe the features and benefits of the various technologies that make CRM happen – From the touchpoint technologies (e.g., telephony, web, PDA, web chat, email Response, etc.), to the true customer management applications (e.g., Siebel, Peoplesoft CRM, Oracle CRM, Pivotal, etc.), to the database technologies and architectures (e.g., Oracle, Sun, Microsoft, etc.) that make it all possible.

As CRM practitioners, we have also become adept in the building of the Business Case behind a CRM implementation. We have refined our approaches for articulating and documenting the business benefits of a CRM implementation – the documentation of the sales and service strategy, the strategic “levers” (e.g., increase cross-selling) that will be “pulled”, and the associated performance measures (e.g., percentage of sales per quarter which included cross-sells) that will describe the quantitative benefit of a specific CRM technology.

The CRM Practitioner’s Challenge:

Yet, there is one area where we often struggle. It is in bringing to life the future-state business vision in living color. Helping the client and their customers truly picture in their mind the future-state CRM-enabled business is indeed a challenge. Helping the client to be able to articulate that future themselves is perhaps the greatest challenge for a CRM practitioner.

Two years ago, we were implementing a complex CRM solution at a large financial services organization. We were discussing options for communicating the new CRM capabilities to several thousand sales and service representatives as well to as customers. Our client said “Listen, my customers don’t want to hear all that mumbo jumbo about customer knowledge, personalization, and customer lifetime value. They really only want to know one simple thing – What will the customer interaction of the future feel like, look like, taste like, etc.?” A good analogy would be, “Do I need to stop buying VHS movies, and start building my DVD library?”

To help answer these critical questions, we now develop a detailed “Two-Years-in-the-Life” scenario that can be published whole or in part for sales and service functions within the organization, or externally for customers. To build the Two-Years-in-the-Life scenario, we typically:

  • Bring together a small group of forward-thinking sales and/or service representatives from the current-state touchpoints (e.g., sales reps, CSRs, etc.);
  • Select a point of time in the future, say five years from now;
  • Select a customer segment (e.g., “family builders”);
  • Begin storyboarding on a whiteboard or with flipcharts;
  • Tell the story of multiple customer interactions, across (a) multiple touchpoints, (b) an agreed period of time (typically two years), (c) multiple product purchases, and (d) multiple existing technologies, new technologies, and perhaps some yet-to-be invented technologies.
  • Work through the two-year timeline discussing possible interactions or “acts” across a customer lifecycle, from the Attract phase of the customer relationship through the Evaluate, Purchase, Service and Retain phases;
  • Develop a scenario for each customer segment.

In the storyboarding exercise we document the experiences of customers across the entire Customer Lifecycle. We typically emphasize the service delivery phase in order to “bring to life” the service experience of the future. Using whiteboards or flipcharts, we document a series of customer interactions or “acts” in which we weave in multiple product and media interactions to “paint the picture” of what it will be like to be a customer x years in the future.

The benefits of this approach are several:

It provides a qualitative business case for CRM expenditures. When coupled with a quantitative business case, it creates a powerful cost justification. This helps all business executives rally around the cause, and specifically helps to bring into the conversation, executives who are focused on things other than the dollars and the IT architecture.

Our experience shows us that, once the future-state customer experience has been articulated, executives will use it as a tool to champion the cause – at board meetings, shareholder meetings, and Marketing communications.

It provides sales and service representatives with a vision of the desired future-state customer experience. It presents an expected outcome and a light at the end of a potentially long tunnel of complex point solution implementations, stop-gap solutions, and disruptions in day-to-day business.

It provides Human Resources and sales and service management with a blueprint for recruiting, selecting, training, evaluating, retaining, and rewarding the employee skill sets and personalities who will make the future-state business a success.

Customers will greatly appreciate knowing what it will be like to do business with the company in the future. In fact, customers who are on the verge of defecting to a competitor who offers the latest whizbang touchpoint technology may decide to change their mind if they see that their existing service provider is, in fact, planning to deliver the same technology eventually.

The following is an example of a customer scenario that we developed with a financial services client. It features a customer named Rolando.

Two Years in the Life of Rolando

The year is 2006…

My name is Rolando. I’m 30 years old, married with 3 children. I guess FINCO would say that I am in their “family-builder” customer segment. I work for a medium-sized company and have an annual income of $120,000. Some day, I would like to start my own company. But in the meantime, I climb mountains, windsurf, and ride motocross. I’m a real extreme sports guy!

This past January (2006) I decided I wanted to purchase a life insurance annuity. Since I already had a small life insurance policy with FINCO through my employer, I went out to the FINCO web site to get some information. I saw that FINCO has a link for corporate members like me, so I clicked on it and logged on with my company id. I saw my existing policy information, and a place to provide updated personal information (e.g., income, household information, ages, interests, education, etc.). So, I updated my personal information. Based on my updated input, I saw very targeted advertisements based on my personal profile. I was also able to see all of my accounts with other financial institutions as well (including my whole life policy with Prudential). All my accounts! Checking account, credit card accounts, investment accounts, frequent flyer accounts, all on one page. Alongside several of my account summaries, I saw advertisements for similar FINCO products. Cool.

I clicked on the whole life insurance link because I was initially interested in increasing my coverage. A screen pop-up told me that FINCO’s whole life coverage is cheaper and has more features than my current whole life provider (a policy my parents opened for me 20 years ago). Very interesting. I decided to revisit the whole life option later though, because the web site also gave me a screen pop-up product recommendation for a Variable Annuity contract based on my customer profile. The screen pop gave me the following options: Email me, call me, chat with me, search the FAQs, or call FINCO’s 800 toll free number.

Rolando doesn’t know this, but…

  • When he interacted with the FINCO web site, Rolando was assigned a FINCO broker, and an automatic activity notification was sent to the Assigned Broker’s inbox. The notification provided the FINCO Broker with information on the time and nature of Rolando’s interaction.
  • In addition, a tickler was automatically sent to the Customer Care Center for a “Did you get the information you needed?” follow-up call.
  • An Email will automatically be sent to Rolando in a few days (if he hasn’t made a purchase) with a specific offer.
  • Rolando’s click stream activity on the web site was recorded in his customer profile. For the next year, his activity will be visible by any Customer Care Rep or FINCO Broker that he speaks with on the phone.
  • A notification will automatically be sent to Marketing, informing them that a customer is considering migrating to FINCO from a competitor provider, in this case Prudential.

Now, Back to Rolando…

I clicked on the FAQs link and browsed a bit, but then I didn’t do anything with the information for a week. I received a call from a FINCO Customer Service Rep asking me if I had found the information I had needed on the FINCO web site. I told her I had found some information but was interested in additional information on the Variable Annuity product. She told me that she would have someone call me. I then received a call from my “Assigned” FINCO Broker, Claudia Ng. Wow! I didn’t even know that I had an Assigned FINCO Broker. She gave me the additional information I needed, and after some discussion about the product, I bought a Variable Annuity contract.

I completed the entire transaction online:

  • I filled out the application, approved it with E-signature;
  • I downloaded the prospectus;
  • I downloaded the policy pages;
  • I chose to receive electronic statements over paper statements;
  • I chose a consolidated statement instead of several separate statements;
  • I chose my payment option of checking debit;
  • And I chose to receive new product update alerts.

It was great – I didn’t have to leave the comfort of my own home to get a new policy.

Six months later…

In June 2006, I wanted to re-allocate my portfolio, so I went to the FINCO web site to do the re-allocation from growth funds to bond funds. It was easy as pie! When the web self-service feature asked for my “reason” for the transfer, I clicked “other”.

Rolando doesn’t know this but…

  • The Customer Service Center received a tickler to call Rolando to confirm his satisfaction with the transaction and ask for a reason for the transfer.
  • Rolando’s Assigned Broker, Claudia Ng also received a tickler with a recommendation to check in with Rolando and simply ask “What’s up Rolando?”

The next day…

I received a call from a FINCO Customer Care Rep asking how the transaction went. They also asked for a reason for my re-allocation. I laughed to myself because I guess they wanted to know why I clicked “other” on the web-self-service page. I told them that I was applying for a small business loan. My Loan Officer wanted me to reduce my risk ratio. Hence, my transfer from growth funds to bond funds. The smart Customer Care Rep asked me if I had established benefits (life, 401K, etc) for my employees or set up an IRA for myself. I told the Rep that I was setting up my own ten person company and needed “the whole shebang”. The Rep used web collaboration technology to click with me through the Small Business Owner sub-site, and then electronically created a sales lead that was sent to my Assigned Broker.

My Broker Claudia called me the next day and told me she had received a notification from the Customer Care Rep that I was interested in the whole shebang. Like the Service Rep, Claudia had a record on her screen with every interaction I have had with FINCO. She had a history of all the calls I had made, emails I had sent and received, web pages I had hit (I think they call it “click stream”), and my online purchases. I figured wow, these guys really know who I am. And I really trust them. So I purchased the whole shebang with FINCO.

Fast Forward to June 2008…

My company now has 7,000 employees and $1 billion in revenues.

Last week I had a question about my individual Variable Annuity and called FINCO. I was surprised to get the same Customer Care Representative that I have been talking with during my last three calls to FINCO. Her name is Julie McCoy (yep, like the Cruise Director on the Love Boat).

Rolando doesn’t know this, but…

  • He has been assigned a permanent Customer Care Representative (Julie McCoy) because he is now considered a high lifetime value customer.
  • He has also been transferred from having an Assigned Broker to a Top-Tier Assigned Broker (Mark Baker). A Broker receives Top-Tier status when they have been recognized by FINCO for their excellence in customer retention, and that excellence has been tracked and proven by numbers.

Back to Rolando…

And now my new Top-Tier Broker, Mark Baker is sending me birthday cards and tickets to the Lakers games. Needless to say, I am now a loyal customer.

In the last few years I have revisited my homepage many times. I have converted most of my accounts with non-FINCO institutions to FINCO accounts. I have used FINCO’s slick financial calculators that recommended several additional products that I have purchased. I’ve interacted with my Top-Tier Broker (Mark Baker) and my own personal Customer Care Rep (Julie McCoy) via every media touch point available. I have executed transactions, asked questions, and I’ve even answered surveys. In fact, last week I gave feedback on a web survey, regarding my service experiences and my service professionals (Mark and Julie), and I received an email from a FINCO Senior Vice-President thanking me and promising to take the lead on an improvement that I recommended. And I’m sure he’ll follow thorough on his promise. They always do.



Rolando’s story illustrates the power of proactively recognizing customer needs, and in having the ability to build on an existing customer relationship with affective CRM capabilities. Indeed, his case is one in many where various players (in this case Brokers, CSRs, etc.) working for the service provider (FINCO) were able to recognize, or were alerted to opportunities in which Rolando was already interested (e.g. Whole Life upgrade, Variable Annuities, etc.).

Rolando’s story also illustrates the power of going beyond simply defining the right portfolio of service offerings. His customer experience is compelling because Rolando had the opportunity to choose from several touchpoints and channels when dealing with FINCO and in researching his options. Rolando could have gone to several competing providers for the services he needed. Yet he remained loyal to FINCO because he recognized the relationship was founded on a keen understanding of his service and channel needs. He also recognized that as his own business grew, so did the exit costs associated with seeking another competing service provider. As with any successful partnership, the Rolando’s relationship with FINCO grew in strength, just as it evolved in breadth.

Copyright © 2004 by Daniel T. Murphy and Andres A. Salinas. All rights reserved.