CRM Center of Excellence – The Purpose, Benefits & ROI

Highlights

  • A Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Center of Excellence leverages and scales scarce and high-demand technical skills across the company. The intent is to centralize to scale and achieve a force multiplier performance effect by disseminating skills, insights, best practices and services.
  • The goal of a Center of Excellence (CoE) is to shift from routine CRM software operation that delivers incremental improvements for a limited period to much higher utilization that drives increased user adoption and technology ROI. Many times, that means advancing from operational mediocrity to Best-in-Class performance achievements.
  • A CoE aligns application capabilities with the most significant cost and revenue opportunities. Research shows that successful operation delivers midrange single digit improvements to company revenue and high double digit increases to CRM ROI.
Johnny Grow Revenue Growth Consulting

The Business Case for a CRM Center of Excellence

Satisfying customers isn't getting any easier.

Customers are more connected and informed. They educate themselves on companies and products from sources other than the companies.

They pursue non-linear purchase paths over multiple channels. Their behaviors and ad-blocking technologies increasingly tune out company communications to avoid a sea of irrelevant noise. They are in control.

At the same time, companies engage customers from several departments without coordination. Their staff and customer data operate in siloes.

Despite individual learning from each customer experience, nominal collaboration results in minimal innovation, tacit customer knowledge, and lost revenue opportunities.

Poor knowledge management, inefficient reusability of customer intelligence and labor redundancy become acceptable costs that deteriorate customer revenue opportunities and company margins.

Best practices and shared insights sound like great ideas but will have to wait for available time.

All of these complexities create an accelerating pace of change that makes it difficult for companies to move as quickly as their customers. And when companies are unable to keep up, customers view them as slow, non-responsive and eventually irrelevant.

When disconnected approaches deliver inconsistent customer experiences, they fail to engage customers. And that reduces customer acquisitions, lifetime value and retention.

Fortunately, there is an increasingly popular solution for these challenges.

Companies are adopting CRM Centers of Excellence to harness skills, turn collaboration into performance results, and deliver personalized and contextual customer engagement.

There is no shortage of hyperbole in this industry, so to separate fact from fiction, it's helpful to clearly understand exactly what a CoE is, when it's needed and the financial payback it delivers.

CoE Defined

Gartner defines a CoE as "concentrating existing expertise and resources in a discipline or capability to attain and sustain world-class performance and value."

That's a good start but lets put some context around it to make the definition more practical.

A CRM Center of Excellence is a virtual or physical team focused on specific software competencies or areas of expertise to increase CRM software user adoption, software utilization and technology ROI.

The CoE dedicates resources with skills and proficiencies to achieve increased operating performance and revenue results. The team members generally prioritize and focus on the initiatives that drive the biggest revenue uplift to the company.

They share several operating characteristics, including the following:

  • They are customer focused. They align company engagement with the customer journey to increase conversions, customer growth and retention
  • They remedy deficiencies and exploit opportunities that increase revenue and profit growth
  • They compare customer facing programs and tactics to understand and rank those that drive the most revenue growth or highest ROI
  • They apply data to precisely understand where increased effectiveness and scale delivers a linear impact to revenue growth
  • A relatively small group of specialists can identify the insights and share best practices to the broader organization to achieve a force multiplier performance impact
  • They are often benchmark driven to achieve slated and measurable performance improvements; quite often to achieve Best-in-Class performance levels

Be clear that a CoE is much more than the centralization of resources or delivery of shared services. It's a purpose-built operation to maximize CRM software to achieve customer and company objectives.

CRM Center of Excellence

When a CoE is Needed

A CoE is often a response to marketing, sales, customer service and other departments operating independently and failing to share customer intelligence and orchestrate customer journeys.

We've helped clients implement CRM Centers of Excellence for years, and from our experience we have identified several scenarios that deliver the highest ROI.

Consider a CoE for the following conditions.

  • You need to address a CRM software knowledge deficit with specialized skills or expertise
  • You need to adopt or scale critical skills that drive the most important customer and company outcomes, such as solving for the customer to improve customer lifetime value
  • You need to improve company and customer alignment, such as implementing company processes or technologies that engage customers on their terms, in their channels and on their devices
  • You need to better leverage your technology investment for improved ROI
  • You need to acquire buyer insights, customer intelligence and customer engagement best practices and deliver that knowledge to every person that engages customers or every customer interaction touch point
  • You need to centralize difficult to acquire skills so they can be scaled across the company to achieve a force multiplier productivity impact

What CoEs Actually Do

Before we get to the ROI or payback, we have to identify what these operational units and resources do that delivers that payback.

The missions and activities vary, but the below responsibilities and services are common.

  • A primary goal is to surpass performance norms and deliver extraordinary results; conducting business as usual or failing to accelerate the most important performance objectives would render the CoE ineffective.
  • Fully leveraging application capabilities is the most common responsibility. The CoE is responsible to implement those CRM features, functions and technologies that deliver the biggest upside. They may also be responsible for related systems such as customer data management, master data management or Configure-Price-Quote apps.
  • The CoE drives continuous process improvements. Staff identify high impact process improvement opportunities and apply methods such as Agile Value Stream Mapping to streamline, simplify and automate those processes.
  • They turn data into institutional knowledge and harness that knowledge with knowledge management tools such as knowledge-bases, content management systems or wikis. This also includes harvesting reusable assets. Sometimes, they maintain a catalog of reusable assets. They improve organizational memory and avoid making repeated mistakes.
  • They quite often take on complex or first of a kind (FOAK) projects. They understand how to apply risk management to identify, measure, and prioritize risks, implement strategies to manage them, and create plans to prevent, mitigate or respond to high likelihood or high impact risks that threaten project objectives.
  • They calculate the CoE’s revenue contribution and ROI. They know they must justify their existence with top line and bottom-line financial measures.

CRM CoE ROI

No business development program is sustainable unless it drives incremental profits.

The CoE must be able to cover its cost and demonstrate a significant ROI.

Fortunately, Center of Excellence research shows that the top performers achieved a median ROI of 85%. That’s an impressive payback that makes the CoE indispensable to the company.

Or you can apply relatively simple math to estimate your own upside.

For example, consider a company with 200 opportunities per month at an average opportunity value of $10,000 and a close rate of 48% (which is the median close rate in several industries). If the CoE applies a combination of process improvements and technology to raise the close rate to 58% (which is the Best-in-Class close rate in several industries), the annual impact is a $20.4 million increase in revenues and a 10% increase in profits. Most companies would celebrate a 10% profit rise, especially when created from a single effort and an existing technology investment.

Similar financial gains may be earned by increasing lead acquisitions, reducing lead leakage, calculating price optimization, or improving any number of other lead-to-revenue funnel conversions.

If you can scale the improvements across locations, you will achieve a linear impact.

Here are some Johnny Grow client examples that demonstrate some hard-hitting numbers.

  • At a midsize industrial client, we implemented a CoE to focus on lead distribution to manufacturer sales reps. The original plan was to use CRM automation to optimize lead conversions. However, during the planning we discovered lowering lead leakage would produce an immediate revenue uplift. That decision increased revenue 8 percent.
  • At a financial services company, we implemented a CoE to take the lead role in increasing customer lifetime value (CLV). After acquiring solid customer insights, the CoE applied a combination of dynamic customer segments, look-alike modeling, precision offers and price optimization to increase CLV by 11 percent for the highest value clients and 8 percent for all others.
  • At a small but high growth software-as-a-service technology company we implemented a CoE to lower customer churn. The CoE acquired customer intelligence by customer type, used Salesforce to automatically calculate customer health scores and used the application's AI component to create at-risk customer defection alerts. This SaaS company lowered customer churn by 9 percent.

See CRM Center of Excellence use case examples and ROI results.

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Each of the above examples achieved significant financial results because the CoE combined top talent with disciplined processes and technologies to solve challenges that were otherwise out of reach.

Takeaway

More empowered customers, fluid buyer behaviors, complex consumer technologies and digital-first startup competitors create unprecedented change.

Failing to proactively respond to this change steadily deteriorates customer engagement and revenue results and is a recipe for irrelevance.

Business leaders must recognize that maintaining the status quo in an advancing market is by definition moving backwards.

Instead, leaders must embrace the change and harness it for competitive advantage.

For many companies, that can occur with a CRM CoE that applies technology to resolve the biggest challenges, pursues the biggest revenue uplift opportunities and aids the company in achieving repeatable, predictable, and scalable performance results.