While the managerial rationale for adopting customer relationship management (CRM) has been fairly well articulated in the literature, research on strategy development is scant. Moreover, reports of “CRM failures” in the popular business press have done little to inspire confidence. To date, what little research has been conducted in the area of CRM strategy development has been confined to a single country (often the U.S.). Global CRM strategy development issues have yet to be specifically addressed, particularly which elements of CRM strategy should be centralised/decentralised. The present study examines the complexities of global CRM strategy using the case of a leading financial services company. Interviews are conducted in 20 countries. Global Head Office and external IT consultant perspectives are also considered. Our findings confirm that a hybrid approach has wide practical appeal and that subsidiary orientation towards centralisation/decentralisation is moderated by firm/market size and sophistication.
Recent advances in information technology (IT) have enhanced the possibilities for collecting customer data and generating information to support marketing decision making. CRM has been heralded by some as being the key to delivering superior business performance by focusing organisational efforts towards becoming more customer-centric and responsive (Davenport, Harris, & Kohli, 2001; Puschman & Rainer, 2001). However, others have cautioned that increasing information may actually increase the complexity of the decision-making process thereby adversely affecting decision-making performance (Van Bruggen, Smidts, & Wierenga, 2001).
Much of the extant academic literature on CRM has focused on identifying antecedents and consequences (e.g., Bull, 2003; Day & Van den Bulte 2002; Kotorov, 2003; Ryals & Knox, 2001). CRM has been variously conceptualised as (1) a process (e.g., Day & Van den Bulte, 2002; Galbreath & Rogers, 1999; Srivastava, Shervani, & Fahey, 1998); (2) a strategy (e.g., Croteau & Li, 2003; Verhoef & Donkers, 2001); (3) a philosophy (e.g., Fairhurst, 2001; Reichheld, 1996); (4) a capability (e.g., Peppers, Rogers, & Dorf, 1999) and (5) a technology (e.g., Shoemaker, 2001). Although there is clearly more to CRM than technology (Day & Van den Bulte, 2002; Reinartz, Krafft, & Hoyer, 2004), it is important to recognise that technology does play a central role in supporting the seamless integration of multiple customer touch points. IT also enables organisations to collect, store, develop, and disseminate knowledge throughout the organisation (Bose 2002; Crosby & Johnson, 2001). Customer knowledge is critical for successful customer relationship management (Crosby & Johnson, 2000; Davenport et al., 2001; Hirschowitz, 2001).