CRM Is About Doing More Business – And Making More Money
CRM (customer relationship management) is the one enterprise software solution that focuses on maximizing your company’s relationships with its customers and prospects.
Which means that if you get CRM right, you’ll see growth on both the top and bottom lines.
CRM is primarily a set of technologies and tools designed to help organizations to track and leverage every customer interaction to maximize revenue opportunities and improve customer loyalty. But CRM products must do much more than just track customer interactions by going beyond the traditional realm of “operational CRM.”
Modern CRM solutions also boost the efficiency and productivity of sales, marketing, and service people. These solutions can help organizations optimize their operations by automating routine tasks and standardizing best practices. Ultimately, CRM must allow organizations to better acquire, manage, serve, and extract value from their customers while improving operational efficiency.
The top benefits of CRM are:
• CRM provides you with customer insight and a real-time information pipeline, which allows for accurate and timely forecasting. This allows you to build and focus on high-profit, sustainable customer relationships.
• CRM also provides your staff with customer intelligence and best practices to increase their likelihood of successful transactions.
• Other commonly-cited CRM benefits include increased customer acquisition, retention, loyalty, and profitability.
CRM has had a checkered history since its introduction in the early 2000’s. For years salespeople resisted using CRM systems, which severely restricted their value to the company. Interfaces were often complex and confusing, and required more effort than many salespeople were willing to put in.
In fact, in its early days CRM quickly earned a reputation of a costly technology with dubious results and value (being deployed as a mere customer record system). But a new crop of CRM providers, most of who now offer their applications on-demand, have avoided the mistakes of their predecessors. These vendors have taken a variety of steps to make their offerings more affordable, more flexible, and easier to use. Simplicity has become a much higher priority than supporting every possible bell and whistle. Thus, compared to setting up a new manufacturing plant, aggressively hiring new sales and customer service representatives, or raising capital to acquire other companies, CRM is a technology that can today be implemented rapidly with relatively limited costs.
There are also the benefits that come from embedding business intelligence (BI) and analytics capabilities within CRM suites. World-class CRM systems build data warehousing directly into the analytic process by providing analytics capabilities embedded into the application that work hand-in-hand with “live” transactional data.
The ability to perform historical and comparative trend analysis and match it to current information enables sales managers to anticipate changes quickly. This capability is delivered in a near real-time dashboard that displays key analytical data (performance indicators) graphically and can be customized to meet an individual sales manager’s needs. For example, a manager can view current and historical results of his/her accounts and can overlay that with reports by sales rep, geography, industry, and other relevant data.
In the last few years, CRM has been marked by a trend towards innovation. What are the major CRM trends?
Possibly the most prominent CRM trend is mobility-particularly device-independent mobility-with a rich user experience and allowing task-oriented user actions. Smartphones with Web browsers have become standard, since their ease of use and ready access encourage mobile CRM adoption, and there is increasing support for employees to use their own devices (as opposed to employer-supplied devices). Moreover, real-time updates reduce latency. Last but not least, the CRM software category has seen mainstream and ubiquitous adoption of cloud computing for its rapid deployment, flexibility of IT infrastructure, and buying and ownership options.
There are many CRM software vendors in the market so use CRM software comparison tools to make up your mind. Some of the leading providers are NetSuite, Microsoft, Infor, Consona, Oracle, Sage, SAP, SugarCRM, SalesForce.com, Lawson, Maximizer, and Deltek.
The benefits of CRM far outweigh the potential downside, but there are some risks you should be aware of:
• Effective internal controls must be in place to prevent customer information from becoming scattered across databases and servers.
• CRM can be associated with significant application and architectural security issues, especially for organizations subject to the provisions of the US Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX).
• Simply installing a CRM system is only the beginning. Successful CRM implementations start with a carefully defined organization-wide CRM strategy. Don’t forget: if you neglect to get user buy-in, you may end up with some very, very expensive shelfware.