IT's part to play in customer relationship management (CRM)

Customer Relationship Management (CRM)

So far as the technology goes, CRM is no longer solely the province of large companies. These days, CRM IT is available for SMEs too.

Knowing about your customers is key to the profitability of your business: a thorough understanding of them is essential if resources and effort are to be pointed in the right direction.

Knowing which customers are most profitable to your business is not as straightforward as it may seem. One of your 'biggest' customer may not be as important to the bottom line as turnover might suggest, once the time, effort and overheads associated with running that customer's account are included in the equation. In contrast some 'small' customers may be highly profitable in real terms yet slip under the radar because they are not perceived as 'big'.

Too often, DMW Consultancy contends, over-sold CRM systems are not delivering promised improvements in customer intelligence gathering, sales opportunity generation, sales efficiency enhancements and reductions in marketing spends.

DMW insists that what CRM needs for success is a comprehensive approach, and believes that DMW can assist you in developing a successful CRM strategy for your business.

Benefits of CRM

Where you experience CRM applied correctly, you experience a business bringing their customers close and putting distance between it and its competitors.

Investment in CRM is repaid by benefits including:

  • Increased customer lifetime value
  • Reduced churn rates
  • Reduced promotional costs
  • Efficiencies in business processes
  • Increased staff per-capita yield.

Keeping Up With the Consumers

Today, expectations of customers towards suppliers are much higher than when IT entered the CRM business. Consumers now assume that the companies supplying them should treat them as individuals.

IT suppliers have to work hard to keep the technology they provide up to the task of supporting the evolving CRM efforts of their customers.

Get the IT supporting your CRM efforts right and you are up with the game. Fire fighting your CRM problems and you are almost certainly loosing out to competitors.

CRM and Return on Investment

It is difficult to obtain figures relating to return on investment in CRM systems. Some CRM ROI claims that DMW hears emanate from the IT side of the business and yet seemingly are not endorsed throughout the business.

An argument in favour of the view that CRM is in anyway special in respect to ROI assessment, is one that DMW does not accept. DMW maintains that CRM ROI assessments should be achievable from measures of performance as might be applied to other areas of business activity.

Pressure on SMEs

Software manufacturers are increasing their targeting of SMEs. They see SMEs as an important growth area. Marketing pressure has built on those SMEs that have not already done so to take the CRM plunge.

Committing to the IT is just a start. Having the hardware and software is not enough. Without proper resourcing, there is the danger that your CRM system bogs down in data collection. Limited resources are exhausted by this effort. Consequently little or no return accrues in terms of business opportunity and improvement. In effect, the CRM system ends up little more than a contacts database—an expensive one at that.

Opportunity For SMEs

Resisting overemphasis on technology, and focussing on exactly what it is that makes your business attractive to existing and potential customers is key to success in customer relations.

For the SME taking on the challenge of breaking with the adversarial attitude UK businesses often take to their customers, there are considerable gains to be made in securing a productive customer base and an advantage over competitors.

DMW maintains that it is within the scope of SMEs to engage CRM with the aim of exceeding customers' expectations, building on the growing realisation that business and customer interests need not conflict.

IT Solutions—Little Beyond the Technology

In the 90s, IT took up cry of CRM as the 'next big thing' and pushed sales of the technology hard. This push is renewed today with major software manufacturers bringing fresh focus to the promotion of their products.

Yet some of today's CRM technology remains based on original CRM models. These were developed to suit a mass-production-oriented business plan, the main objective of which was to reduce unit costs. Some other technology appears little more than contact management

It is still highly debatable whether or not CRM software has the refinement necessary to accommodate an increasingly demanding and sophisticated customer base.

There are e-commerce examples of where CRM systems are excelling without any apparent human intervention on the part of the vendor. However, translating an IT-lead approach, successful in the marketing and selling of CDs and books, say, into the promotion of your products or services probably may not be feasible.

DMW contends that IT solutions as they stand will not necessarily deliver gains. What actually accrues improvements in business performance is the effort beyond that of the technology cycle of collecting and collating customer data.

The technology must support CRM practice, not dictate it or restrict it.

CRM Solutions

It seems common sense to argue that for a CRM programme to be a success it must accommodate the objectives of all the people affected—employees, management, partners and, of course, customers.

The clever stuff comes in the practicalities of preparation, implementation and maintenance of your CRM programme:

  • How do you adapt to accommodate and promote the programme on all fronts?
  • How do you find the correct balance between business objectives and processes?
  • How do you foster employee participation in CRM?
  • How do you monitor customer satisfaction?
  • How do you adapt your CRM to change?

Getting Your CRM Strategy Right

If you need assistance about where your CRM is headed, DMW Consultancy can assist you in achieving the maximum yields from your CRM, whether you are contemplating CRM for the first time or revising or upgrading existing methods:

  • Needs assessment
  • Formulating CRM strategy
  • Building business cases
  • Determining the IT component
  • Budgeting for CRM
  • Selecting CRM suppliers
  • Planning and managing projects
  • Streamlining customer-facing processes
  • Facilitating organisational changes
  • Goal setting
  • Building CRM teams and teamwork
  • Return on investment measures.