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Reaping the full benefit from your CRM technology

CRM is the next natural step in the way companies interact with customers. It closes the gap between call/contact centre teams and the sales & marketing professional’s attempts to reinvent ways of communicating with customers.

The main problem with CRM is that it has become a term with no real definition. If you are not sure what an application is for or the real use of a piece of software then it must be "CRM". The branding of CRM applications is commonplace, everything from a website to a billing application is described as a CRM solution. Step one is to stop listen to everyone and learn for yourself what CRM means to you and your organisation. Uncertainty about what the term really represents, will lead to the

mistaken belief that it in itself offers utopia in the call/contact centre.

Organisations need to adopt a more strategic approach in understanding what they want to achieve from their desire to work with a CRM process and not take on unrealistic expectation. Before this magic approach is put to the test – that means in layman terms - put in the hands of the users, you must gain their support and belief in the new way of doing the day-to-day tasks. If you force employees to change the way they work, you will create masses of resentment and resistance within the call/contact centre. Not to say that you have only one chance, however if every call counts and costs then it is better to do it right the first

time. Projects that do not focus on winning the support of real users at every stage in the process will usually end up taking more steps back than forward.

First, you do the research into the market and then the salesman convinces you that it was the best that money could buy. With pride you installed it in record time and below estimated cost and finally no one in the call/contact centre uses it. I believe that this false economy is losing organisations millions of pounds / dollar / yen… every year from individuals desperate to jump on the CRM fast track to success.

Yes, it is true that excellent customer service will improve customer retention, sales and added value support from your customer. It will even increase the level of satisfaction amongst your call/contact centre team as dealing with calm and collected customers who have not been bounced

from one end of the company to the other is productive. Before organisations invest millions in large CRM systems, they should ask themselves honestly, do I really need all these features, services and options? If not, maybe they should consider the more cost-effective alternatives and build it in line with their business and their business objectives.

For CRM to have a real impact on the bottom line the customer must calculate the ratio between spend and money spent. If this ratio is out of line it may take longer than expected for the system to start showing a positive effect on the balance sheet.

As we are all aware, technology is moving at a phenomenal pace and if the correct balance is not made, you may need to upgrade before any cost savings have been introduced to the company. This will bring you back full circle and facing your user team. Lost confidence

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and mixed messages to both them and the customers that they represent will result in a negative return on your CRM attempt.

Technology is like a glove it must fit its owner. A modular approach to CRM is the most efficient, especially in small to medium size organisation. A scalable model that will grow with your business must be established from the onset. To reap the full benefit of the technology it must work with the organisation not against it. It is important that organisations view CRM as part of a wider competitive strategy with the senior directors firmly at the centre of the process. In practice, this means deploying only the elements of a CRM solution

that sits well with your company's business goals. Further modules can be implemented as your company grows or when additional services are needed. Winning does not only mean having the biggest and the best it is how it improves profit and performance.

This does not mean that CRM only offers doom and gloom to those that have chosen to learn more about the real advantages on offer. Companies willing to invest in implementing a CRM strategy that is right for their call/contact centres stand to reap huge rewards. Many are reducing the cost of sales and customer service while increasing revenues through improved cross-selling and

up-selling capabilities. By gathering high-quality customer information, companies can improve their understanding of buying patterns and preferences as well as being able to implement more effective targeted marketing campaigns. Equipping call centres with the proper tools reduces the frustration and improves the attitude and morale of call centre employees. More importantly, companies can improve the overall quality of customer interaction while streamlining

customer requests and orders. As a result, organizations are achieving increased customer loyalty and satisfaction and ultimately greater profitability. The greatest and most important challenge is nurturing and maintaining a "personal" relationship with the customer.

In conclusion, the message is in the system and the process that is right for you – before you even attempt and know and service your customer you must understand the internal needs of your organisation.

Copyright Author:
Amita Krishna
Director of KrisTEL
IT Malaysia April 2001.