Interview with Fabrice Cathala: ‘Data-Driven Decisions Have Always Been on the CRM Agenda’

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Interview with Fabrice Cathala: ‘Data-Driven Decisions Have Always Been on the CRM Agenda’

Editor’s note: Technology always was a mere toolset for business facilitation but with the appearance of CRM the situation changed its course of development. So currently, you align strategy, technology and people for delivering outstanding service, getting high profits and keeping your customers come back. Yet the question of choosing and applying the right CRM is still open. Today we are present you an interview with Fabrice Cathala, a seasoned IT professional and experienced Salesforce architect and business consultant with multiple successful CRM implementation practices, where you will find down-to-earth pieces of advice about improving your business with CRM technology.

1. Fabrice, for several decades you are working with technology. You have a great experience in IT infrastructure. Since 2000, you get involved in different roles within a CRM industry. Can you tell us about your first impressions with CRM? What was the most exciting/challenging?

With a background in IT, working at the operating system level in data centres environments, being involved with CRM implementations was an amazing feeling. I got to meet very clever people, understand customers' issues while still being involved with technology and its direct impact on business performance. This is so rewarding!

2. You dealt with CRM consultation, as well as was a product manager. Are there any specific requirements of SMBs to CRM solution? When should small business owners consider CRM implementation?

SMBs are generally more inclined to secure a quick ROI to justify change. SMB's don't usually do these “big sky thinking programs" seen at big corporations. But this is not an issue as CRM can deliver immediate returns providing it’s implemented properly. Best practice number one is always to consider the ROI as the most important project KPI. ROI must drive the project. Think ROI during the whole duration of the project from start to finish. Customers must measure business performances before and after go-live. SMBs should definitely consider implementing a new CRM as soon as inefficiencies are identified in their business processes. If automation, collaboration or information management seem to be potential solutions to your pain points, then you need a CRM!

3. Lots of companies try to keep up with the trends of customer-centric business strategy and eagerly aim to increase the number of touchpoints with their potential clients. In your opinion, can integration with social media facilitate the process of customer hearing and improve the overall performance?

Yes, definitively. Having said that and to be accurate, there are still cases where the customer base is simply not on social media. I won’t name them but these exceptions exist. But in most cases, you must invest in the social media channel. Now, being on social media doesn’t mean better customer hearing performance. The technology must come with best practices. First of all, speed. You must react fast in the social media world because it’s the way people expect things to happen. Get back to your customer as soon as they mention you. Also, you want to use a senior member of your staff to handle these conversations. See your interactions on social media as a live radio show. Everything you say is accessible and can be amplified in seconds: the good (WOMM) but also the bad.

4. CRM enables with a toolset and options for effective process management. Thus, every business has specific objectives and milestones. What processes should be set up primarily? Are there any obligatory settings for sales or marketing processes?

There is no real priority or best practice around where to start first. Without going into the detail CRM as a software solution has evolved from times when we were talking of "modules" to these days when we talk about "capabilities". Modules were much siloed sections within the application communicating with each other - say - via a single door. It's all different now and a single capability can target both Marketing and Sales users or Customer Service and Marketing, etc… If anything, your priority will be to correctly design and configure the way you manage your prospects and customers (the “360 view of the customer”) and integrate this data with external sources like your ERP. At this point, you will have the right foundation to build your CRM strategy on, ideally starting with whichever process would benefit the most from your new system.

5. Currently, we hear about the value of data-driven decisions and analytics. In your opinion, can reports solve the strategic problems? What data should be collected for building near to real-time analytics and ROI estimating?

Data-driven decisions have always been on the CRM agenda. Did the previous solution delivered? Certainly not as much as expected or sold... I think the key issue with standard CRM reporting engines is that to build meaningful reports you have to have a good understanding of your CRM under the hood, its "data model". Users are even not supposed to know what is a data model, so… Effectively, we are seeing new tools on the market which are providing managers with an easy way to play around, test and simulate various scenarios without the need to involve their CRM administrator. They usually come with improved visualisations to help the cognitive impact of dashboards and extended connectivity and data enrichment options. Looking into a vast amount of relevant data from the past can help the system cleverly to detect unnoticed trends and provide some insight in the future. That's predictive analysis and it's a game changer that can for sure help solving strategic problems. Typically the more data you collect the more clever correlations you will be able to do with your tool. It's difficult to describe a minimum set of data to collect as it changes from one industry to the other, typically "the more, the merrier"... But don't forget about data quality which is still the key enablers.

6. When the available tools fail to meet the needs and future hindrance directions of business development, vendors decide to change their current CRM. How to manage the implementation and end-user adoption issues? Can you give some workable tips?

The easy option when moving from one platform to the other is to do a "like-for-like migration" meaning that previous capabilities are reconfigured in the target system to behave as the legacy system so that change is minimised. I think it's not a good approach and, for me, the business requirements must be re-evaluated without bias towards any technology or business habit. It may increase the overall complexity of the project but this ensures mistakes from the past are not reiterated in the brand new CRM.

7. Cloud technology becomes more and more requested. Some consultants state that it is highly advised to begin your CRM experience with a cloud solution. Fabrice, would you agree or disagree with this idea? Why?

I would agree. Other customers have tried and tested on-premise solutions in the past when there was no choice. This lead to somebody coining the expression “shelf-ware” (unused “software” stored on a “shelf”). Don’t suffer from a complex system to install and maintain! Just pick a SaaS version of your CRM of choice, pay a monthly subscription and start your journey to business improvement. Plan several deliveries (or versions) start small (with no code) on version 1 and see what your users think. Then when becoming used to your new SaaS CRM you can turn-up the complexity by adding code on a future version. With time, you will improve your tool and the vendor will deliver upgrades. Many thanks to Fabrice for such an in-depth interview with practical tips that will serve our readers in their CRM initiatives. 

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