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CRM Summit: Gartner highlights cutting-edge CRM

Gartner gave a nod to General Motors, Canada Post and Bank One for their forward-thinking CRM strategies. Several common elements run through these companies' initiatives.

CHICAGO -- Industry analyst group Gartner presented its CRM Excellence Awards at its CRM Summit Spring to recognize major projects that exemplify forward-thinking strategies.

Winners of the award, presented twice each year at Stamford, Conn.-based Gartner's Spring and Fall Summit conferences, are chosen based on their ability to effectively bring together critical elements for CRM success. This year's recipients were financial services firm Bank One Corp., Chicago; Canadian mail service Canada Post Corp., Ottawa, Ontario; and automotive giant General Motors Corp., Detroit.

Perhaps the most interesting story comes from GM, which began piloting CRM in 2000. The massive company, with over 1 million employees, has embraced its project on an impressive scale, driving it through many business units including its vehicle making, auto and truck lending, mortgage financing, parts supply and OnStar electronic guidance system divisions.

The real ingenuity of the company's plan, executives say, lies in its financing. GM's CRM effort, dubbed as C3RM, is designed to be self-financing. In fact, the firm estimates that the project has already generated returns that represent 20% of its investment, and the system was only officially launched last year.

"We think it's really landmark," said Lisa Anne Charney, executive director of C3RM. "Part of the plan is to garner referral fees from partners that want to be linked into the system. It's also flexible, which allows us to run a lot of different 'what-if' scenarios in charting where we want to go."

Charney indicated that Siebel Systems Inc., San Mateo, Calif., has played a major role in building the strategy and CRM infrastructure. One of the major goals of the initiative is a network-wide upgrade to Siebel 2000 software over the course of the coming year. GM currently has some 50 professionals dedicated to the C3RM project.

Aaron Nichols, general manager of business transformation at Canada Post, the country's government-owned postal service, delivered another compelling story.

According to Nichols, the emphasis at Canada Post was put on building new tools and encouraging employees to play an active role in developing and executing CRM strategy. The organization has more than one million customers, employs some 15,000 mail carriers and operates roughly 20,000 retail locations.

"We asked our people if they had the courage to act in making CRM an intuitive process company-wide," he said. "This resulted in the development of an array of strategies we currently employ that range from very basic to truly advanced."

Working with SAP, Walldorf, Germany, Canada Post created a new portal-based eCRM application that drives increasing numbers of customers to the company's Web site. Nichols estimated that online traffic has grown by about 30% since deploying the application in early 2001 and that the tool has changed the makeup of its Web users -- with the biggest growth among its commercial users.

At BankOne the drive has been to create a "single view" of the company to all its customers and to arm company representatives including bank tellers and call center employees with every piece of information related to a specific customer. The financial services conglomerate worked with E.piphany Inc., San Mateo, Calif., to help develop its CRM project.

"Customers need to get the same answers no matter who or when they call," said Michael Devine, vice president and eCRM project manager at the firm. "We're created an environment where any representative is the relationship manager of the moment, so opportunities aren't missed and people aren't working in silos."

There were many common themes among the winners' strategies: clear guidance and communication from top-level executives, tight integration among technologies, and an unyielding customer-centric approach.

The firms also share common goals for the future, including making sure that costs don't become bloated, driving further integration among different aspects of the CRM systems and keeping everyone involved with the projects working on the same page.

"We keep asking ourselves, 'Are we on course?" said GM's Nichols. "If we don't keep our business units acting together and get our partners to work together, CRM will never work."


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