Putting the ‘Customer’ and the ‘Management’ Back in CRM

Jennifer Schiff

Updated · Feb 22, 2010

Like most businesses these days, Cambridge, Mass.-based video-editing startup Pixability has a customer relationship management software system (Highrise), a lead generation/conversion system (HubSpot) and a project management system (Basecamp). But to founder and CEO Bettina Hein, these are just tools.

For Hein, the real customer relationship and project management happens when she and her team get together every morning, for 10 to 12 minutes, to discuss and visually map or explain (via an easel-sized sticky-note pad) what all the data means — as well as go over issues and concerns that CRM and lead generation programs just aren't capable of revealing or solving.

Hein refers to Pixability's morning meetings as Daily Huddles, a term and concept borrowed from Mastering the Rockefeller Habits: What You Must Do to Increase the Value of Your Growing Firm by business guru Verne Harnish. The tactic has been adopted and adapted by hundreds (if not thousands) of successful startup businesses over the past few years, including such recognizable names as 1-800-GOT-JUNK, which shot a popular YouTube video of the 1-800-GOT JUNK Daily Huddle.

The Daily Huddle concept is simple, which is part of its appeal. At Pixability, the Daily Huddle is broken down into six agenda items:

  1. Good news (a quick mention of something positive that came out of a previous huddle or a feel-good story)
  2. The numbers (a discussion of critical metrics – such as sales numbers, leads generated/converted, marketing campaign figures – and what they mean)
  3. What have we accomplished since the last huddle?
  4. What do we need to do before the next huddle?
  5. Is anything blocking you from making progress?
  6. Positive reinforcement

And everyone is expected to participate.

“During the Huddle our operations manager gives a daily snapshot of our projects pipeline, and our sales manager talks about how many customers are likely to close in the next days,” Hein explained. “And because we can visually see where all projects are in our process on a big board, we can see bottlenecks coming,” and resolve them before they become a problem, she said.

For example, they can instantly see if a particular editor has too many projects and determine if they need to give some projects to another editor or recruit additional video editors. Similarly, they can immediately determine if a particular e-mail or marketing campaign is working. And if it isn't working, they can stop it immediately, so as not to waste any more marketing dollars.

Going Beyond CRM and Lead Generation

The Daily Huddle is also great for identifying issues that its CRM and lead-generation applications can't reveal. For example, during a recent Huddle, when the team was discussing Item 5, “Is anything blocking you from making progress?” Pixability's operations manager mentioned that he was having a hard time with a video format a customer sent in.

The operations manager gave a quick 30-second description/overview of the problem, then opened the floor to suggestions on how to resolve it — or who thought he or she could come up with a solution. After listening to the operations manager explain the situation/problem, Pixability's chief technology office met with the operations manager to brainstorm a solution. Working together they found one. As a result, the customer's project was barely delayed.

Had it not been for the Daily Huddle and the operations manager having a venue/opportunity to present the issue, however, that format issue could have turned into a real problem. Instead, the customer was none the wiser and Pixability not only saved a project and customer but discovered a solution it could apply to future customers.

“The Daily Huddle helps us stay focused and keeps everyone in tune with what everyone else is doing, as all current customer projects and pending sales are mentioned, [albeit] in rapid-fire fashion, daily,” explained Hein. “As a management method, it really allows you as a team to discover and address individual customer issues as well as bigger systemic issues that pertain to all customers. That's the beauty of it.”

Jennifer Lonoff Schiff is a regular contributor to eCRM Guide.com and CRMToday.com and runs a blog for and about small businesses.

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