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.
Digging Deep And Staying Focused With Enterprise CRM
BY SOREN KIRCHNER, Ph.D., NET PERCEPTIONS
You can speak from now to eternity about the business value of computer technology. As the old song goes, “It don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing!” In the consumer catalog world, as in every other channel of retailing, the swing is toward finding ways to stay focused on the customer.
It’s a clear trend. Word from any variety of top industry watchers is that customer relationship management (CRM) software is the chief object of technology affection among businesses worldwide. It is being purchased and implemented at a phenomenal rate -- faster than any other analytical application, according to International Data Corporation (IDC). Indeed, a January CyberAtlas article by Michael Pastore quotes IDC as estimating that the CRM market will tally revenues near the $2 billion mark by 2004.
Why is customer relationship management such a hot prospect? While the hallmark of typical analytic software is its ability to dig deeper, sort faster and put forth volumes of reports, if it does not support the experience offered to the customer, it becomes random terabytes of data piled higher and deeper. Neither customers nor the CEO will see the benefits of such an operation.
In the wake of the e-commerce revolution, one lesson that is being learned is that the need for customer focus is the same as it has always been. However, advances in technology mean that retailers face an ever-greater challenge of trying to maintain that focus while the numbers churned out in their back rooms press companies to increase average order sizes, sell higher-margin goods and services and increase customer lifetime values.
It’s now more important to emphasize CRM than ever before. Just a few years ago, retailers were marking down an average of 8 percent of their inventory to get the kinds of traffic, sales and revenues they required. More recently, that number has increased into the double digits and rebates are often not just a marketing strategy -- they’re an expectation.
Another Channel Of Opportunity
In the final analysis, what the Internet has done is present merchants with yet another channel through which to address customer needs and desires. It’s one more channel of opportunity, and one more way to measure a business. Companies must be able to measure what percentage of inventory they are marking down, in which departments, which stores and in which regions -- and they must be able to do this across the entire company. Regardless of which channel a customer chooses to initiate contact at any given moment, that customer desires a singular experience that reinforces the feeling that an enterprise understands him or her as an individual.
Organizations that have begun to deploy the latest generation of one-to-one, real-time, enterprisewide CRM, whether via the Internet or the contact center, are aware of the advantages.
The fact that large retailers are embracing multichannel opportunities and implementing CRM solutions supports the conclusion that the early adopter phase is nearly over for this type of software. With the shakeout of pure-play Internet retailers well under way, the chaff is being separated from the wheat and consumers are grabbing their bread from the branded, multichannel players. Numbers provided by Nielsen/NetRatings support that claim. Nielsen reported that on the day after Thanksgiving (a day that traditionally kicks off the holiday shopping season) in 2000, buyers on the Internet pushed sales of multichannel retailers up 49 percent compared with 26 percent for those who sell online only. This kind of mainstream action means greater mainstream demand for solutions that deliver a healthy return on investment.
What To Look For
So what should a multichannel retailer be looking at when trying to get the entire enterprise properly aligned with the customer? First, each specific business problem that needs to be solved should be clearly identified. Is the issue sluggish sales in the contact center? Are online shoppers defecting because of a disconnect between what they want and what you have? Are tempers flaring because in-store shoppers can’t return purchases they made online?
Whatever the issue, the solution you choose should give you the insight you need on both the front and back ends. The solution should maintain a focus on the customer, but go deep into essential product and promotional data and transform those data into not just “look what happened” reports, but offer “best action to take” prescriptions that lead to improved service, greater revenues and stronger profitability.
Along with knowing what business problems need to be solved, the company that implements CRM must also decide specifically how the deeper insight that is being achieved into all of its activities is going to drive change throughout the organization. Every employee in every department across an enterprise should know what the goals and objectives are, and they should be ready to be held accountable through the measurement of progress and results.
The Right Attitude
Indeed, some might argue that the biggest threat to the successful implementation of CRM is not the software, but ensuring that the entire company has adopted positive customer relationship management as part of its business philosophy. That said, once the right attitude has been achieved throughout the company, the issue of integration across channels is still something to be reckoned with.
Multiple channels often mean multiple databases. Somehow, the zeroes and ones of base-A must be translated into zeroes and ones that base-B can understand. Most CRM vendors assure customers that their solutions do that. The trouble is, when customers look behind most of their curtains, they may find that the application lacks depth. That puts the “buyer beware” onus back on the merchant, and the way to address this is to make sure the vendor demonstrates deep knowledge and understanding of the issues specific to the retail world.
Questions worth asking include:
Obviously, these are not the only questions that matter, but along with the criteria outlined earlier in this piece, they provide an effective guide to ensuring that whichever solution a retailer ultimately puts into place, it will address specific business issues, deliver solid performance and result in measurable improvement in profitable action.
- Does the solution offer a complete picture, linking product performance with customer behavior and promotions?
- Does it show which customers are buying which products, through which channels, at what price?
- Can it show which products tend to drive the sale of additional products at the same time?
- What’s the expected return on investment?
Soren Kirchner, Ph.D., is the call center product manager for Net Perceptions, a provider of data mining and real-time personalization to call centers.