Most companies have become aware of the importance of a robust CRM program to support their customers. However, what many still fail to understand is how to properly build-up this function in an existing business.
We spoke to Andrei Dinca, Global Head of CRM at Wise on how to successfully introduce and scale a CRM team, and what companies need to keep in mind as they hire their first CRM employees.
- Andrei Dinca’s Career Journey
- Evaluating the Potential of CRM
- Hiring Skilled CRM Team Members
- 4 Common Mistakes While Implementing CRM
- Final Thoughts
- Lessons Learned
Andrei Dinca’s Career Journey
Andrei began his career in an agency, something he states came with a lack of autonomy but did afford him the opportunity to observe how many different clients handled CRM.
“We were given a brief and specific instructions about what to deliver, which in some ways was quite limiting. But I was lucky enough to work on some big clients – such as Barclays and Starbucks – and see how they approached CRM which was a great learning experience,” Andrei said.
After his agency experience he moved to carwow as their second CRM Manager, before leaving to Memrise to restart their CRM program. Finally he moved to his current role at Wise where he became the second member of the CRM team.
“When I joined there was no official CRM function, so it was my task to build the team. We’re now a team of 15 and hoping to be 18 by the end of the year,” Andrei said.
“I’ve been slowly getting more ownership over the communications that go out to customers and building our team to make sure CRM can complement the product experience and help grow revenue.”
In the rest of the article Andrei shares the lessons he’s learned scaling the CRM team at Wise and the advice he would give any company for introducing a CRM function.
Evaluating the Potential of CRM
Receiving a mandate to implement CRM in an organisation can be daunting, but Andrei shared that he knew he wanted to take a step back before making any big decisions.
“As only the second member of the team I knew I would have to hire more employees to meet the demands of the organisation. But before I started hiring I first took 3 months to better understand the business” Andrei said.
Crucially Andrei sought to answer three big questions before developing the structure and strategy of his new team:
What are the needs of the organisation as it relates to CRM?
What are the biggest pain points that customers have with Wise that CRM can help fix?
How can CRM create a more engaging experience for customers?
“Once I felt like I had answered these questions and understood what the business and customers were looking for, I started crossing things off my list.”
Andrei first looked to define a North Star objective – offering customers a coherent and consistent communication experience – that could generate growth for Wise, along with the metrics that would help them measure their success. Crucially, Andrei then had to align different internal groups behind his plan to ensure customers weren’t being spammed with 5-6 Wise communications in a single day.
“Once we had sorted out some of the obvious opportunities we pivoted to making sure we were speaking to customers at every step of the lifecycle, which was much easier now that I had internal alignment across key topics.”
Hiring Skilled CRM Team Members
As the popularity of CRM grows, companies are increasingly competing for skilled CRM experts. However, Andrei doesn’t believe you should lower your hiring criteria.
“For me it’s never worth hiring someone for the sake of hiring. We took months to fill some of the roles on the team because we cared about the diversity of the team and ensuring our CRM team had the right mix of experience and diverse skills,” Andrei said.
Andrei shared that he had key criteria when hiring:
- An analytical and creative mindset – “A balance between being data-driven and creative is absolutely necessary. If you focus too much on content, then something can be beautiful but not achieve your objectives. If you’re too focused on analytics then your communications might seem robotic. You need to find people who know how to leverage both.”
- Diverse skill set – “I look for CRM Managers that can be ‘Jack of all trades’, meaning there’s no area of CRM they can’t cover. I even embrace this myself and believe as a team lead I should also be able to support and execute campaigns. This helps me assess our potential and allocate resources better.
- Stakeholder management – “CRM is highly dependent on other teams, whether that is Design, or Product, and it’s crucial we’re able to get buy-in from these teams to support our objectives. I’m looking for CRM Managers that can use data to make a business case and effectively stand behind it.”
Crucially, Andrei emphasised that when hiring you should also try to bring on junior and senior CRM members at the same time. “Having a support structure for junior CRM employees is a great way to accelerate their development, and also gives senior members an opportunity to practise mentorship and build their leadership skills. A clear win-win.”
4 Common Mistakes While Implementing CRM
Across multiple roles, Andrei began to take note of the many mistakes companies make when they feel compelled to bring on a CRM team for the first time. He shared some of the most common errors below.
1. Establishing CRM Too Late
“So many companies put a big emphasis on their acquisition efforts through Product and Paid Marketing, but only think about CRM when they see acquisition numbers start to level off. Then they panic about increasing retention and focus on scaling a CRM team.” Andrei said.
Andrei points out the many issues with this approach. “First, you’re neglecting the power of customer retention to balance out increasing customer acquisition costs. Second, you’ve wasted time needed to establish and test a solid customer lifecycle; while the organisation expects immediate results, they’re unlikely to come quickly. And finally, there’s the wasted potential of deepening your relationship with customers and building brand affinity.”
2. Believing CRM is Just Retention
CRM is able to influence multiple areas of the organisation, from improving acquisition rates, enhancing customer support and synergising with Product communications. But in Andrei’s experience, a common misconception companies have is that it should be entirely focused on retention.
“I often see companies that invest heavily in CRM to support retention, but don’t want to consider the other benefits it can bring,” Andrei said. “Even as CRM could help other areas, companies are single-minded in evaluating CRM based on how much it increases the customer retention rate or revenues, which as metrics, are not the sole ownership of the CRM team.”
3. Fixating on Revenue from CRM
Similar to the fixation with CRM as it relates to Retention, Andrei also noted that some companies neglect CRM because they evaluate it solely on how much revenue it can generate.
“CRM is not a one-dimensional discipline. To fully understand the impact it can have you need to consider improvements to customer sentiment, or how it can unlock things like targeted research communications,” Andrei stated. “However, some companies don’t invest early because they look at their customer base and make a short-term calculation on how much revenue can come from CRM; they don’t appreciate that CRM is a long-term investment that has benefits that are not immediately measurable.
4. Withholding Internal Support
Anyone who has scaled a CRM team before knows that hiring a few CRM Managers is not enough to successfully launch a CRM function, even if most businesses think that’s the case.
“I’ve seen it many times where companies support you by hiring a few employees and give you enough developer support to onboard a platform such as Braze. After that, they assume you’ll be generating results in no time.” Andrei said.
“The reality is that ongoing support from multiple departments is needed to truly unlock the potential of CRM. Collaborating with designers, engineers, and product managers can make sure you’re really using CRM to double-down on a customer-centric approach across the entire company.”
While Andrei shared the struggles some companies will have implementing CRM, he also knows from experience that if they can figure it out, the results will speak for themselves.
“We’ve got an amazing team of experts and now that we’ve established a foundation, we’re finally able to look towards bigger opportunities and what the future of CRM at Wise can be,” Andrei said.
Andrei is set to focus on two things in the near future. First, he’ll be trying to implement more 1:1 communications via improved analytics. Second, he’ll be using research to better understand the needs of their customers to further refine the customer lifecycle.
“CRM is increasingly about deepening your relationship with customers by improving your understanding of them, and for me that means more data and more research.”
Before ending our conversation I asked Andrei for any words of wisdom he could share. Here’s what he had to say:
“Always put yourself in someone else’s shoes before you make a decision. Consider who they are, their point of view and how your decision might affect them. That’s how you develop empathy, something that’ll be invaluable for working more effectively with your colleagues, and more importantly, will help you better champion your customers.”
|1||Before you hire a CRM team, take the time to evaluate your organisation and understand the expectations the CRM team will have and the strategy you’ll need to achieve success|
|2||Don’t compromise on hiring – make sure you have a set of requirements and stick to them to find employees that will fit within your structure and culture|
|3||Invest in CRM early, understand the impact it can have in your organisation, and make sure the company is aligned with supporting the team beyond the initial setup phase|
Sign up for our newsletter, participate in future articles or get help with Data & CRM.
Join +2000 Product, Marketing, CRM, Data, Analytics & Engineering Professionals Building Next-Generation Experiences Around The World.