What does CRM mean to you?

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) is one of the most widely used and most widely misunderstood terms in today’s corporate environments. CRM is a catch-all term used to describe software and related technologies that manage customer facing business functions (most notably Sales, Customer Service and Marketing), business processes and data. When done right, CRM allows companies to increase revenues and profits while lowering the cost of marketing, sales and service. The payoff is clear: by better aligning business processes and managing customer data across all customer-facing functions, companies can build successful, profitable, and long-term customer relationships.

Unfortunately, CRM has also gained a bit of a mixed reputation and one of the most often cited statistics regarding CRM is how often these solutions fail to meet their objectives. There is no denying it, getting CRM right is a significant challenge. CRM strategy is about much more than just selecting the right technology, it is a business strategy that may very well necessitate a complete reinvention of how your company does business. While CRM is not without challenges, it remains a business essential; without it, your business will be unable to provide customers with the level of service they desire. Despite the challenges, the fact remains that many companies have seen tremendous success with CRM.

Having a customer strategy enables all customer facing teams to understand their role when working with a customer. After all, customers should be the focus of any successful business, and a customer strategy should be a major part of this success. The strategy helps individual business units focus on their goal of establishing customer rapport and building customer satisfaction in all three pillars of customer relationship management: Sales Force Management, Marketing Automation and Customer Service and Support. The end goal should be to enable all client divisions to serve, sell, and/or market to their respective client base.

A variety of technologies exist that can help your business create a high-impact customer strategy, but the benefits you may receive and the costs you will spend will vary. Many simplistic CRM approaches act as little more than an electronic rolodex with basic business card information about clients, doing little to help you calculate the overall lifetime value of a customer, or when, where, and how each customer-facing team interacted with the customer. More robust CRM technologies provide customer methodology functionality, automatic processes and in-depth client knowledge features. These functions help sales, marketing and customer service team members perform daily job activities quickly with the most up-to-date customer information and analytic tools to analyze all CRM information and make better business decisions.

Let’s make $ense of this…

The cost of your proposed CRM strategy should be compared to all potential benefits in a way that helps you decide which CRM technology and strategy should be deployed within your customer-facing divisions. A robust CRM solution coupled with an intelligent customer strategy can dramatically improve your business bottom line. With lower training costs and quicker ramp up time, companies can cover the initial out of pocket technology cost quickly. Cost savings can also come in the form of employee productivity gains when technology is leveraged inside the company to produce quicker, timelier results. Productivity gains may be related to a more streamlined communication with customers, automatic processes implemented in the CRM technology, or better training based on analytics.Here is something to think about:The right sales resources focused on the right targets can increase revenue 5% without any additional investment.

As customers become savvier, they expect customer service to keep pace with their expectations. At the same time, contact centers usually have the same budget (or less) as they did the previous year to cover people and technology. CRM technology can help customer service divisions improve agent efficiency, capture service issues through various client communication touch points, and lower the overall cost of service with automated workflows and knowledge management systems available to service agents who need to handle and answer various request quickly and effectively. Every customer service engagement is geared to improve customer satisfaction and retention levels.

Whether you are implementing CRM for the first time, or are already utilizing some kind of CRM solution and are considering a new one, the most critical success factor will be in defining what improvements you want to see, ensuring these are measurable improvements, and communicating these needs to your prospective vendors. Good sales professionals will work with you to determine whether their products will allow you to meet these goals and to help you make the best CRM choice for your business needs.

When done right, a CRM will help you:

  • Sell more—Enable reps to sell more effectively on
    any device.
  • Know more—Act on opportunities and threats faster. Hit your numbers without surprises.
  • Grow more—Optimize sales performance by targeting products your customers need most.

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