Second Lean Service Conference

The second Lean Service Conference will be held in Edinburgh on December 5th. As is usual, the conference will feature Vanguard’s clients talking about their experiences using systems thinking. For up-to-date information about speakers and on-line booking, check our public events page on the web site in late September. Or to be assured of being informed, e-mail and ask to be sent the brochure when it is ready.

CRM fails to deliver

Concern about the failure rate of Customer Relationship Management (CRM) is growing. Gartner Group report 60% failure, and that figure is cast into doubt when you learn there is a debate about how to measure the value achieved.

Of course the industry pundits are now claiming its all about ‘doing it right’. Well they would, wouldn’t they? The real question is: Is this the right thing to do?

CRM has all the classic features of a fad. Features are sold as benefits. To have information about every kind of transaction with your customer does not in itself mean the transactions will improve. The information may be completely superfluous – and thus it just cost you more (!). These features come in boxes – IT systems. Computers should never be used for things that people are good at (and vice versa). So now we have the cost of specifying, writing code, training people etc without any prediction (and I mean genuine prediction, based on knowledge) of the benefits.

Of course it worked – to some extent – somewhere, as all fads have done. But to expect that because, for example, a medical devices company in the USA got better sales by including relevant sales material with its bills to patients, that this could translate to a requirement for any organisation to build a customer database and so on is to stretch the imagination (or expose the gullibility of senior managers).

Most management fads begin with evidence that it worked somewhere. But generally even those ‘improvements’ were limited by the prevailing thinking. To improve in a sustainable way we need to ask different questions, we need to think differently.

I wrote about these problems with CRM over a year ago (see ‘From push to pull, changing the paradigm for CRM’ in the articles section of the web site).

I hate to say I told you so.

Local Authority misses the mark with CRM ‘solution’

A Local Authority correspondent writes:

‘A neighbouring Authority has already spent something in the region of £600,000 + IT consultants fees, on CRM to produce a limited link to only one ‘back-office’ system. Approx £2m is the projected spend for the 2 year project for this one service area. The IT changes have merely taken existing processes and overlaid a CRM system – holding records of all citizens in the area. Consider the time, effort and cost of acquiring and maintaining details on every person within a large geographic area!

From a customer perspective, the CRM system makes absolutely no improvement in service performance – in fact the CRM front-end screens provide staff with less information than necessary to answer ‘awkward’ enquiries satisfactorily. You could pull the plug tomorrow and no one would notice the difference, other than the shareholders of the CRM company!

If the authority had spent a fraction of their investment in understanding demand and improving process capability, they would have been in a far better position. I must admit, after seeing their operation, I have a deep feeling of relief that I am not responsible for justifying the value-for-money of the £2m project.’

I have to say this is typical of what is going on in Local Authorities at the moment. It is of no surprise. When you look at the guidance they are offered by, among others, IdeA and the Government, you find encouragement to make the same mistakes that have been made in the private sector.

Audit Commission invites comments on modernising public services

The Audit Commission is undertaking a strategic review of their role in improving public services. It represents an opportunity to get systems thinking on the agenda. I have written to the head of the Audit Commission – Sir Andrew Foster. If you would like to read my submission and send in your own, and please do, for democracy works this way, please e-mail and ask for a copy of the letter.

Vanguard Standard for Customer Contact Centres

The better way to design and manage customer contact centres is to use the principles and practices of systems thinking. The out-sourcing sector is keen to use standards (regardless of their merit). So if yours is an out-sourced organisation and you are obliged to ‘prove’ your worthiness, and you want to avoid the garbage of ISO 9000 or CoPC, I recommend you take a look at The Vanguard Standard for Customer Contact Centres.

This standard ensures you have designed a system that will continually improve. What else would your customers want?

Vanguard events

Civil Service Master Classes

Over the next six months, I shall be leading a series of Master Classes for the civil service. The topics are ‘The Better Way to Best Value’, ‘Systems Thinking and the EFQM model’ and ‘The Systems Approach to Call Centre Operations’.

IQA West of Scotland

I have turned down many recent requests to speak at the Institute for Quality Assurance branches. I did two tours on what’s wrong with ISO 9000 – so I feel I have done my time amongst the inspection brigade, trying to show them that what they do has nothing to do with quality. But as we now have an organisation in Scotland (over eighteen months old and doing very well), I agreed to speak at the West of Scotland IQA, 2nd October, 6:30pm, Paisley University. If you are in the area you will be welcome. I shall be talking about systems thinking – a better way to make the work work. (No surprises there then).