Customer Relationship Management

Getting Started…

This is one of a series of guides collating evidence and learning from the 23 projects within the JISC Building Capacity programme (2010/11). Each is focused on a common institutional strategic aim, describing how projects built their capacity to meet that aim and how what worked in their context, could work in yours. The guides are written to be “just enough to get started” rather than all-encompassing.

This guide addresses one aspect of the broad area of customer relationship management (CRM), discussing some ideas for different processes that institutions can put in place in the area of business and community engagement (BCE).

One of the recommendations of a study carried out in 2009 was that institutions need to understand the benefits of marketing and market segmentation. A BCE connection with the central marketing function is important and similarly, marketing departments need to understand the benefits of BCE projects. Indeed they need to know exactly what the projects are offering, so that suitable external organisations can be approached, and if enquiries come in to the institution, they can be fielded appropriately.

Teesside University has found that their CRM solution has improved their effectiveness and efficiency in business engagement. The institution has been developing methodologies to evaluate its marketing strategy and support its CRM users, the findings of which are being gathered together into a business toolkit.

What are the takeaway ideas you could use in your context?

Teesside University implemented a Client Relationship Management System (CRMS) in 2008 to manage and record all business engagement activity from start to finish, and monitor and manage all externally funded contracts. It uses Microsoft Dynamics Software, integrated with Outlook, to support effective management of business contacts. Within HE, Teesside has been at the forefront of adopting CRMS to support business engagement and so has had to overcome a number of barriers through trial and error. This project addressed further technical, cultural and organisational issues to engage more of the University in the use of the CRMS.

In many institutions where marketing activities are not centralised a large number of staff may engage with business customers.  Providing a central infrastructure to support internal staff, while improving the quality and effectiveness of communications and not appearing to prevent campaigns, is an essential challenge.

The three key issues coming out of the first JISC CRM programme were summarised as follows by Sharon Perry of CETIS, who supported the projects:

  • Buy-in from senior management is essential to ensure that the CRM approach is successful.
  • Cultural change is inevitable but is challenging to manage.
  • Data (around contacts and the customer relationship) must be shared, yet this is often a stumbling block; for example, some people are very happy to view other’s data, but not share their own.

What benefits can be gained by using these ideas?

Teesside has documented a number of key benefits in implementing a CRMS, including:

  • Provides a single system for managing all business activities;
  • Allows informed communication with businesses;
  • Allows powerful communication with targeted business groups;
  • Generates systematic and detailed reports;
  • Reduces risk of non-compliance with Data Protection Legislation and Privacy and Electronic Communication Regulations (PECR);
  • Provides accurate and up-to-date contact information through regular data cleansing.

JISC CETIS has been supporting a range of projects implementing CRM to support BCE activities, which has resulted in the sharing of a number of resources. Overall the main benefit of implementing CRM for any institution should be the development and efficient management of long term relationships, for example, such that students become alumni and later are potential employers or collaborators.

How can you implement the ideas to realise the benefits?

Through its CRMS implementation the Teesside team has learned a number of key lessons:

Start Small: The new marketing element of the CRMS was piloted in one department, which enabled the project team to test, gain feedback, refine and test again.

Integration with other systems: Any institution implementing a CRMS needs to decide whether or not to integrate it with (e.g.) software databases or the finance system. The benefits should be weighed against the costs, such as staff time, technical adaptations, training needs and any behaviour change required. Teesside has not, so far, been able to integrate the CRMS with the University’s student database.

Consultation: Consulting widely with users across the institution for ideas and feedback was essential in structuring the specification for work undertaken at Teesside.

Emphasis on training: Teesside found that investing in training and support was crucial to success. Although expensive this built confidence among users and enabled continual reassurance and reinforcement to keep using the system. User training has also helped reduce lead times for planning and implementation of marketing campaigns and events.

Project champion: In common with other key challenges addressed by Building Capacity projects, in order to effect the cultural change required to maximise take up of the new system, Teesside found that significant impetus came from a top down driving force; in their case it was a member of the Vice Chancellor’s executive team.

Demonstrate benefits: For maximising uptake it was also essential to show staff that using the CRMS for marketing dramatically increased a campaign’s impact, measurability and even quality. Further, the project team were able to show that its coordinated effect also avoided audience saturation from various other communications.

Sharing best practice: Following on from demonstrating benefits, sharing best practice and coordinating marketing activity have also proved crucial in realising the benefits of implementing the system.  The development of an internal Commercial Marketing Network has facilitated this as well as providing a forum for users to suggest ongoing improvements and system developments.

Further information

JISC is funding the University of Huddersfield and Teesside University to develop a sustainable online handbook that highlights good practice in Customer Relationship Management (CRM) for Further and Higher Education institutions. Identifying what content should go into this resource is the first step and the team developing it have recently completed a survey exercise and will be road testing the first draft soon.

JISC funded a series of projects through it’s Relationship Management programme, including 13 BCE CRM projects. These projects completed in mid 2010, and their outputs have been placed online. A particularly interesting article, written by one of the project managers, outlines some results, criticisms and recommendations.

The Trialling of Online Collaborative Tools for Business & Community Engagement project aimed to enhance and empower BCE collaboration among practitioners, between institutions, and between institutions and external partners. This resulted in an infoKit, which contains further considerations for institutions aiming to implement a CRM system, or use online collaborative tools for linking internal and external stakeholders.