DSC Tech Library
Customer Relationship Management
This section of our technical library presents information and documentation relating to CRM Solutions and customer relationship management software and products.
Providing timely customer service information is vital to maintaining a successful business. Accurate information provided in an organized and thoughtful manner is key to business success.
TELEMATION, our CRM and contact center software, was originally built on this foundation. The ability to modify Customer Relationship Management software is important in this ever changing business environment.
Telemation Customer Relationship Management solution and contact center software is ideally suited for call centers throughout the world.
Do You Need CRM?
10 Questions to Guide Your Customer Relationship Management Strategy
A few years ago, I was speaking with a friend who is a senior executive at a large restaurant franchise. The conversation went something like this:
Executive, "We´re thinking about investing in a CRM program, what do you think about that?"
Me, "Sounds great," but I knew that they had very slim margins, low revenue per transaction and many transactions. "How do you expect to justify the marketing and technology costs?"
Two years later we´re still not sure if there is a good answer to that question.
Be careful about taking the advice of that over-zealous salesperson, consultant, marketer or systems-integrator. CRM is not for everybody.
The issues that my friend has been dealing with, coupled with all the stories of "CRM gone bad" has led many people to ask the question...
Is CRM Right for My Company?
It´s a fair question. But because of all the misinformation still in the marketplace, the answer can be elusive.
At the most fundamental level, every company has customers. And every company should maintain some basic information about those customers (names, addresses, purchases, contracts, invoices, etc). Therefore every company should have at least some basic "CRM Technology" to track and serve their customers. Even small businesses use Outlook, Quicken or other applications for this purpose.
But for purposes of this discussion, we are going to define CRM as "targeted mass marketing." That is, having a large number of customers and/or prospects whom you want to selectively communicate with depending upon their preferences, past buying patterns, demographics or other information.
Given that simple definition, companies that are not trying to communicate in a way that is both large scale and targeted can walk away from CRM.
For the rest of the world, there are 5 key questions you should ask yourself:
Am I trying to communicate with a large audience of perhaps 500 or more individuals, on a consistent basis (4 times per year or more)?
Will I be able to benefit (lower my costs or increase my revenues) by addressing that audience through direct channels such as snail mail, email, web, telephone, salesperson or point-of-sale?
Will customers or prospects gain additional value if I personalize how I communicate with them and provide my products/services to them?
Personalization can start as simple as using a name on direct mail, but should eventually include customizing how you serve customers throughout their relationship with you. The benefit to the customer is that they receive more value out of the relationship. The benefit to you is that customers become more loyal and less likely to leave.
By analyzing customer and prospect information can I learn things that will help me become more efficient and effective?
This is not survey or focus group data, but detailed data such as transactions, sales stage, segments and demographics. Your goal is to leverage this data in a way that makes your sales more targeted, relevant and personalized allowing you to get customers faster and keep customers longer.
Is the data used to analyze, segment, personalize and target customers available?
This last one can sometimes be difficult to answer. Ask yourself three more questions to bring clarity: (i) Do I already have data about customers and/or prospects on one or more systems? (ii) Is this data spread across different systems (i.e. sales, accounting, service, marketing, Internet) that would be more valuable if it were in one place? (iii) Can I cost-effectively either bring this data together or start to collect it?
The more of those questions you answered with a firm "yes," the more likely you are to benefit from CRM. If you comfortably answered "no" to all of those questions, then focus on fine tuning other ways of getting new customers and serving existing customers - you´re not likely to get much value out of CRM.
If more than one or two of your answers are "maybe," then sit down with someone you trust to be objective and experienced and try to firm up your answers.
Once you´ve made the decision that CRM is for you, it´s not a matter of deciding to do it. You need to understand ...
Which Flavor is Right for You?
It can actually be tougher to decide where to start your CRM project than it is to decide if you should do it at all.
Where are you having the greatest volume of customer interactions?
Which channel is most important in driving revenue into your organization?
What data do you have readily available, and through which channel could you apply it in order to influence customer behavior in the near-term?
Which channel can you most easily influence (i.e. in many organizations it can be tough to get past gatekeepers for certain communication channels).
Look for patterns in how you answered questions 1 through 4. If you see a lot of opportunity in your sales group, then make it a priority to streamline the sales pipeline process. If direct mail is critical to your lead generation or customer communications processes, then focus on database marketing. If the Internet is a popular channel with your customers, then consider personalizing it for each customer, tracking it, and collecting click stream data.
There is one more question you should ask yourself. It is usually for companies that have become more sophisticated in managing and using customer data. But it is important in that it can lead to a significant competitive edge. So I include it here for your long-term thinking:
Will custom tailoring your products, services, prices or other areas of your business operations to meet the personalized needs of each customer result in greater customer loyalty / profitability?
Those two sequences of 5 questions are a starting point for making rational decisions about CRM investments. Although the answers do not always come easily, spending time on them will lead to customer relationships that are longer lasting and more profitable
Should you organize all of that data that is in different systems? Should you streamline your sales pipeline with better processes and technology? What about personalizing your web site, measuring your direct mail efforts and segmenting your customers?
The one answer that is certain to be wrong: "All of the above."
While all of these areas may seem to have some value to offer, attempting to go after all of them at once is one of the key reasons for those "CRM gone bad" stories I mentioned earlier. Your job will be to prioritize and arrange those projects in a meaningful sequence.
Here again there are a few key questions you can ask yourself that will point you in the right direction. Answer each of these questions with a list of one or more communication channels (i.e. sales force, direct mail, email, web site, call center, telemarketing, etc):
Summary and Helpful Hints
Don´t jump in too quickly. Just because a competitor is "doing CRM" or a salesperson is selling cool technology is no reason to leap in. Decide if it is a good match for your business before investing.
Go for the "low hanging fruit." Discover which area of CRM can deliver value the fastest and focus on that - don´t try to do too many things at once.
Get help. If you think CRM is for you, but you have little expertise, then find an objective outside expert that can help.
Take it slowly. CRM can be thought of as an evolution. There is no final destination, and you will continue to fine-tune even your best processes and technologies. Break projects into affordable pieces that can be delivered within 2-5 months.
Geoff Ables can be reached via email.
This article, written by Customer Connect president Geoff Ables, was originally published by the American Marketing Association in "The Source." Article is © 2003, Customer Connect Associates, Inc. If you have any questions regarding your CRM goals or would like to partner with Customer Connect, e-mail Geoff at email@example.com, or call us at (704) 947-5653