Customer relations management system

For the mere pleasure of sitting in those revolving chairs, as a child, I used to accompany my mother to her office, a small but proud consultation firm, set in that fascinating glass building.

Sitting in that chair in the conference room, staring out of glass walls at the constant motion all around by people dressed in crisp smart suits carrying files and things, always appearing to know what they were doing, used to really fascinate me. To me it appeared to be a very fancy school that grown-ups went to, wearing very smart uniforms and not at all confused about what was happening in the class. I wanted to go there instead of my strict Convent school with red skirts as uniforms and would frequently ask my mother if I could and what was it that she did at the "office" and she would tell me that when I grew up I would understand it all.

Although, when I grew up, my fascination did not grow out and now I visit the same office, not to enjoy the chairs, but to immerse myself into the corporate environment that gives me the zeal to belong to it. But even till recently, although I am an engineer now, I still did not understand what really happens in the consultation firms.

So when I began my course at WBS, I was in for a shock when I realized that we all, as groups, actually have to run a consultation firm here for five weeks as a part of the BSIC module. I was in a fix and rather a state of shock as I had no knowledge of the working environment, being a fresh graduate out of engineering college.

The first "Monday" was a surreal blur as I tried to merge myself with the group and tried to find my voice which seemed to have been lost somewhere inside me, doubting for the hundredth time that day if my decision of taking up this course had been the right one. As I tried to focus at the work in hand, I could not help but notice how small I felt within the team, contrary to my actual size, for I was worried that being a fresher I probably would not be able to bring anything to the table.

When a baby first learns to walk, his/her first steps are guided by a constant support until he/she is able to hold firm ground. The actual walking comes to him/her with due experience, learning the hard way. Similarly, when our group started off, we had absolutely no clue whatsoever of what was expected of us or how were we, as a team, to endure the next five weeks and also excel in what we would do. As our guidance we had our mentor- Dave, who not only provided us with a firm ground to step on but also supported our ideas and enthusiasm as he helped lift the fog over the task we were to take on.

As we sat around the round table, brainstorming over a petty issue, such as the name of the company, I found my hidden voice and realized that it was not going unheard and my ideas were not falling on deaf ears. Hence when the roles were being decided, I volunteered to act as the Marketing and Public Relations Executive, which meant I would be in-charge of handling the relations of the firm with external entities and would also serve as a contact point for communication with the "client". As nine different people from seven different nationalities and diverse backgrounds got together as a team, Intech Consulting Group or ICG was born and we became its employees.

"Et tu Brute?", playing the role of Julius Caesar in a school play once, I had never thought then, that one day, I would be playing a real-life role of a consultant as a curricular activity. The idea appeared very fascinating to me. For the act to appear more real-life like, it was decided that various materials were required and needed to be created in order to simulate a proper working environment. Having a creative take on things, it was decided that all the creative tasks were to be handled by me and another colleague-Jasinee.

When Leonardo Da Vinci painted 'The Mona Lisa', he wanted to tell us that a face ought to show the inner workings behind that face and the ideas underlining it as well as revealing as little as possible. Similarly the logo of a company shows what the company is made and capable of. It is the perfect portrayal of the company in one symbol. Like a man of few words, the tag line should be such that said everything in the fewest number of words. We decided we needed something that reflected our international and diverse yet united background and so I decided to design a picture of different people holding hands in unity aiming to move up towards success as can be seen from the figure below:

With eight firms appearing to be competing for the bid, every firm needed to come up with innovative ideas and for our company we decided to get the upper hand by showing our sunny side with materials like brochures, name tags, letter heads, posters, door plates, table tags and visiting cards. Examples of the posters are shown below.

Having created a shiny wrapper for our firm, we were now to focus on what lay within. Our "client", Aluxtel Communications, required us to come up with strategies to increase their sales and enhance their customer base at minimal cost in a given period of time and thus propose a new Customer-Relations-Management [CRM] system.

If Michael Moore decided to make a documentary on the life of a consultant, capturing the whole period of the four weeks that we spent on the project, from the experiences we had, I think, the movie would show people toiling over strenuous research and brainstorming, endless sleepless nights, disagreements and agreements, discussions and conclusions, private and group meetings with clients and amongst various departments, making up and tearing down, destruction and construction, jumbled up with a dollop of fun and frolic.

The final presentation day saw us selling the 'stake-holders' of Aluxtel our strategy that involved five project stages bound into three stages of execution plan. The project structure aimed to involve three stages of committees affecting all the major roles within the organizational structure of Aluxtel Communications. The automated CRM system in particular would consist of the databases of both the products combined together into a shadow database which after being automatically cleansed would attach with the new system and thus be centralized. As means of cost reduction, our strategy proposed the merging of all the call centers into one branch and also the phased-out closure of the branch in Milton-Keynes.

While we stood there facing the jury, many eyebrows were raised at the mention of the closure of Milton-Keynes office. One of the reasons for the obvious smirks on the faces were due to the fact that we had proposed the closure of their head-quarters, which in a conventional world was an idea to be laughed at for. We knew we would be bombarded with a million questions on this front but we were firm on it because our various meetings with the client had confirmed the fact that the office there was bringing in the maximum amount of expenses and if it were to shut down, the savings obtained would write a whole new success story. Although the mere movement may cause the firm a few quid, the long-term gain was no fairy-tale. Many other companies who have done this have profited from this physical and movement.

If the different parts of our bodies were not controlled by our brain, we all would live in a chaotic world with involuntary actions. An organization is a body with the various departments as its parts working together to achieve success. Interaction between different parts is important for proper functioning or else the system breaks down. This being one of the problems of Aluxtel, where no co-ordination was seen between the font and the back offices, the direction in which our approach was streamlined was to move towards consolidation and thus have a centralized control over the movement of information. The strategy was focused on achieving integration of the people, processes and technology involved.

"People, processes and technology" was the anthem of our approach keeping in mind the major factors involved. These three aspects within an organization go hand in hand like a three-way handshake. If you want to change the system, you have to be in the system and so to bring about a complete makeover inside out, identifying the social leaders within the firm that can act as inspirational leaders and 'tongues' of the managers within the actual work-force. People eager to accept a change hasten the processes and set forth in a positive light thus improving the output from the technology. A knife in the hands of a carver can be used to create art while in the hands of a killer can be used to take lives but if the killer is inspired and taught the skill, he too, with the very same tool, can become a carver.

There is a well known Hindu proverb which in English maybe translated as "coconut in the hands of a monkey" which means a shiny new toy in the hands of a child or a new technology in the hands of a novice can wreak havoc. In most companies that undergo such major technological changes forget the "human factor" involved. They forget that a technology works as and how the hands behind the wheels and knobs control it. The multi-staged approach of the execution plan aimed at the complete and thorough change that facilitated a comfortable acceptance from and adaptability of the end-users i.e. the staff members of Aluxtel.

The famous story, "Goldilocks and the Three Bears", is no fairy-tale when it comes to the implementation of a CRM system in the real world. Customer-service oriented approach is the only weapon companies can use in the cut-throat business era these days and news of companies undergoing multiple CRM roll-outs is not uncommon. The first time: it's too big, second time: it's too small but the third time is just about right. This expensive experience or trend is known as the "Goldilocks Syndrome" and companies like Avnet, IEC and Gomez have learnt the importance of CRM systems the hard way. With so much money at stake, the strategy chosen should be one that is the closest to an ideal solution. Hence our strategy aimed at providing a solution most befitting the requirements of Aluxtel as the saying is apt "Lose customers only if you must, only by design and not by default and certainly not by a (CRM) design-default."

Half a glass of water on a table can be viewed as half full or half empty depending on the person viewing it. If you were to analyze both ways you would have to shuttle between different minds like a 'Bugs Bunny' cartoon. Similarly a strategy for a CRM system can never be a complete pessimistic approach or an optimistic one and hence I completely agree with the approach we took to get to the solution although there is room for improvement.

"Murphy's Law" states a very wise and oh-so-true fact that "Anything that can go wrong will go wrong". Risk is an important issue that needs to be considered always, a front our strategy never had a take upon. If I could go back in time and make some changes to our strategy, risk management is one aspect I would really focus on and hence induce methods such as backup scheme, time-management, control measures etc to help prepare for and contain any hazard that may jeopardize a part of or the whole system.

From the very first words of this essay up till now, the morphosis of a student into a consultant is an essence that has not been lost. The five weeks on this module have been a roller-coaster ride with me losing hold of my bearings most of the time but the fact that not only did I survive but also emerged victorious as a group is a commendable feat for me. Bill gates would be really happy to know that I have had the opportunity of mastering the art of creating presentations on PowerPoint. My creative skills have been chiseled and my brain has learnt to think analytically and critically. My heart has taken an early retirement from the fluttering when I am speaking in a group and the big butterfly in my stomach has been forced to go under hibernation when I decide to voice my ideas and opinions. I, as a person, have evolved from an individual to being a part of a team which works together as a system.

Being a part of a team has its drawbacks as well. Due to a whole range of orators in the group, I never got to work on my stage-fright problems as I had chosen a role that acted like a cave for me and sheltered me from making presentations and meeting with the clients. I chose to work behind the curtains and tried to avoid facing my fears of public speaking. But the many experiences gained have overshadowed this and have also taught me to take one step at a time. This module may have provided me with the perfect push I needed to step out of my shell and in due time I may be successful in doing so.

In Dr. Finnigan's (2009) words, "A consultant is someone who will borrow your watch to tell you the time (when you didn't ask to know) and then try to sell it back to you." Now this quote, hilarious and witty, tells us about the skills of a consultant. I do not know if I have been able to acquire them in this short course of time but if I have been able to catch your attention during this essay then I may dare to say so, that, it is definitely growing on me.

The next trip to my mother's office will be one I will be looking forward to, having really understood what her work is all about. I will be able to stare out of those glass walls yet again, at the motion around, but only this time, knowing and understanding everything. The perfection amidst the chaos will be crystal clear and the language will no more be foreign to me. I can now dare to belong to the crowd of people dressed in smart suits carrying briefcases and files. I can actually walk up to my mother now and tell her that I know.


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  • Avidor, R. Murphy's Law. [Online]. (URL: (Accessed 07 December, 2009).
  • Finnegan, D.J. (2009) introbsicfinal.pdf (Accessed 14 October 2009, 10:30 A.M.)
  • Picarille, L. The Goldilocks Syndrome. [Online]. (URL: CRM Magazine, January, 2004. (Accessed 21 October, 2009).

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