As an industry marketing manager at Microsoft, I face a challenge that I’m sure many teams share – how do I make it easy for a solution specialist team to follow-up with customers who have registered interest? This is important for 3 reasons:
1. This is a common breakdown point in the value stream that crosses sales and marketing.
2. Customers who want follow-up, want it quickly.
3. This is one of the biggest leverage points in both maximizing the yield out of the lead management process, and in maximizing the process capacity of the specialist team, which is limited.
It is also an item of personal interest to me as it is a problem I struggled with in a DMADV six sigma project in GE in a “previous life” focused on increasing both the yield and targeting of customer acquisition processes. Had I possessed the tools then that are available now, it would have not only been easier to manage my green belt virtual teams, but to use relatively simple, inexpensive technology solutions to take quick, incremental steps to get 80% of the way there.
Some may say “that’s what a CRM system does,” but I disagree in today’s modern workplace. A CRM system forces the team member to enter an unfamiliar and often cryptically complicated application environment to both find and update information. In the case of a system like Salesforce.com, you must be online to utilize it. Given that I am typing this post from seat 39C on a delayed flight back to Newark, this has its limitations. In the case of Siebel, you can put lipstick on the interface, but the system is not fundamentally set up to allow quick collaboration or just-in-time information discovery. I believe that using true collaborative tools in conjunction with CRM systems can significantly improve their usefulness.
If this had been a year ago, I would have advocated Groove as “the solution” – structured collaboration, offline access, and back-end integration to Sharepoint. These things are still true in Groove 2007, but again you have to take the time to install and learn about Groove. For people who love it, myself included, I still prefer this method, but in the spirit of 5s I need to get as close as possible to the ideal of making information appear right where the specialist would naturally look on a daily basis. Where is this? Their Outlook inbox, of course, especially since traveling expert resources spend a lot of time on the plane catching up on e-mail in offline mode and prepping for the next customer meeting.
At its heart an RSS feed or Wiki would do the trick, but there are a couple of catches:
1. Our manufacturing specialists may throw terms like PLC, kaizen, and SCOR around freely, but ask them to use a Wiki and they’ll probably burst out laughing.
2. There is a real need to quickly throw together mixed-content in a rich format – unrealistic to reduce everything to HTML:
a. E-mail threads about previous customer interactions.
b. Clippings from research services, online sites, analysts, and publications about the company or individual being contacted.
c. Photos, PDFs, or presentation graphics that relate to a major initiative the individual is driving.
d. Internal structured information from spreadsheets and CRM systems.
The solution! The best tool I’ve found is a shared OneNote 2007 workbook that is published on a Sharepoint site and published to Outlook as a Sharepoint List. It has the following advantages:
1. Anyone can update it and it is stored securely on the intranet.
2. Information flows automatically to subscribers’ Outlook for offline access prior to a customer meeting.
3. Meeting notes, etc. entered in offline mode automatically synchronize back to the Sharepoint workbook.
4. Cutting and pasting are super quick and easy in almost any format (HTML, e-mail, Office applications, PDF, even Ink for Tablet PC users). Images and text co-exist easily with minimal formatting.
This is a great example of how a relatively simple collborative tool can dramatically improve my ability to get information to the specialist who needs it, just in time, just in the place they need it.
Look for a future post showing how to set this up with screenshots, etc.
– Marc from the Lean Team