Customer relationship management requires a team effort

November 1, 2019

Customer relationship management requires a team effort

In CRM projects, it is often not technology and implementation that are challenging, but rather the company culture and familiar habits or data silos and patchy business processes. Dr. Beate Schuhr, an expert in pharmaceutical customer relationship management, reports on how to recognize the difficulties and where to encounter them.

Imagine that during a football match, players on one team are only allowed to enter certain areas of the turf. Each player is responsible for their part of the lawn and for the movement of the ball within this area. The player doesn't care where the ball comes from and where it rolls, indeed, he shouldn't and doesn't want to know. How he handled the ball in his own sector, on the other hand, is of no concern to everyone else. "That’s absurd!" you might think.

Let's transfer this constructed example to the world of customer orientation, customer relationship management and technical support through a CRM system: There are times when companies buy a highly cooperative CRM system, during implementation of which walls, fences and data silos emerge. It is not the technology, but rather the organizational and cultural barriers that pose a challenge. The resistance to data sharing and to adapting business processes is detrimental to the project, and people will begin to place the blame on the CRM. CRM projects are change projects. By digitizing marketing, sales and service processes, they greatly interfere with the in-house processes. Professional change management is therefore just as important as professional implementation. The success of this change process also determines the perceived success of a CRM project.

Multichannel: A Reality Check

Multichannel is feasible – at least from a technical standpoint. The "out of the box" offer of many CRM systems allows the integration of all marketing and sales activities. The planning, documentation and user-friendly presentation of visits by the field sales force, communication via mailing or e-mail marketing, event management and advanced training are hardly a hurdle for a CRM system.

In terms of organization, however, the path is not quite as easy to follow. For the interaction with the customer to be visible to all employees involved in customer contact, the information must be available within the CRM system. This is the exciting part. Where does the data come from and how does it get into the CRM system? Usually the requirements are that the information must be available quickly, well-structured and easily comprehensible and, of course, in accordance with all legal regulations and data protection.

In pharmaceutical companies, the search for a suitable CRM system often begins with the aim of optimally supporting the doctor-related sales force. A good CRM system displays all industry-specific standard processes, so that sales can usually work quickly and easily with the new system. The interface to a professional provider of high-quality HCP addresses is either part of the CRM system or is "supplied" as a standard interface. It becomes interesting when the information from marketing actions is to be visible to the field sales force and conversely, the sales activities are to be available in the home office. When additional data from the cooperation with agencies, logistics service providers or external call centers is integrated – remember the requirement of: fast, structured and secure – this is the first step towards multichannel marketing.

Who owns the customer?

The necessary transparency and cooperation of the large customer-oriented areas of a company often pose a challenge to the organization. Often, managers and employees have to agree on a new type of partnership, coordinate measures more closely and allow transparency of the internal work processes. This requires careful analysis and, if necessary, the adaptation of essential business processes, mutual trust and professional change management.

The interface always wins: linking CRM and ERP systems

Worlds collide here: the product-centric logic of the ERP system meets the customer-centric logic of the CRM system. Much attention is paid to defining, programming and maintaining the technical interfaces between CRM and ERP systems – for understandable reasons. Organizational and process-related interfaces often fade into the background.

There is a risk lurking here: information sharing and coordination processes between the employees involved must function just as smoothly as the transfer of data between IT systems. Well-organized workflows around the CRM system and the ERP system are crucial for both systems to be accepted. Process gaps create a sense of insecurity and uncertainty can quickly lead to rejection. The employees experience such organizational deficits as a constant source of discomfort and transfer this perception to the overall project and the IT systems.

Knowledge is power: data silos and familiar habits

The company Eyeforpharma surveyed 500 executives in the pharmaceutical industry regarding what stands in the way of innovative approaches to customer orientation within their organization. Among other things, the existence of data silos (20%), the corporate culture and an unwillingness to cooperate (28%) were identified as internal challenges. In compliance with all applicable data protection regulations, this is precisely the great advantage of a CRM system: the end of the data silos and the sharing of information.

However, transparency and cooperation between departments not only trigger enthusiasm, but discomfort and even fear as well. It is not uncommon for technical "walls" within CRM systems to be raised in a project and limit cross-team visibility of information. Data silos are created instead of disappearing. CRM projects have contact points with almost all departments of the company through numerous organizational and technical interfaces. An indispensable part of any CRM project is therefore the constant promotion of cooperation and the sharing of information. Unease makes good projects and good CRM systems look bad in the perception of employees. What is missed here or is unprofessional can greatly jeopardize the success of a CRM project.


• A CRM system is no substitute for a lack of strategic customer orientation decisions and a not a panacea for patchy business processes.

• A CRM project is a change project and a good opportunity to question organizational models and optimize business processes.

• Underestimating the change process jeopardizes the perceived success of the CRM project and the acceptance of the CRM system.

• The willingness to cooperate and transparency within a company are decisive factors for success on the path to customer orientation.

• Customer relationship management requires a team effort.

Dr. Beate Schuhr, Customer Care Consultancy

For many years, Dr. Beate Schuhr has successfully supported healthcare companies in the development of CRM systems and establishing multichannel marketing. Customer relationship management has been her central topic since the beginning of her pharmaceutical career: in leading positions for large generic companies, researching pharmaceutical companies and the GKV and responsible for numerous projects in pharmaceutical companies and associations.


ysura means innovation
ysura offers software solutions to the pharmaceutical market, including Sales and Marketing Optimization, Customer Relationship Management (CRM), Activity Planning, Consent (opt-in) Management, Multichannel Marketing Campaigns, Order Management, Sample Management, Key-Opinion-Leader Management and Augmented Video Conferencing. All Modules can be integrated in and to a CRM and can also be used as a Stand-alone Solution.

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