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.
Solving The Puzzle Of CRM Solutions
BY RENE WHITE, eCONVERGENT INC.
Choosing a CRM solution can be a daunting and frustrating task. There are literally hundreds of CRM options as well as vendors who claim to contribute vital pieces to the CRM puzzle. As companies attempt to solve the puzzle, they find that the pieces may not function properly, blend together seamlessly, or reply in a timely manner. These setbacks can cost companies precious time and money. One way to minimize these problems is by looking at the present needs as well as the future growth potential of the business and constructing a CRM blueprint.
The Need For A Blueprint For CRM Strategy
The Internet has drastically restructured the communications upon which business relationships depend. The old maps are no longer adequate. To understand the impact of the new environment, management must figuratively step outside the company and look at it from the perspective of their customers who now have new, much higher expectations for the level of service from their suppliers.
An objective understanding of the company's current and planned CRM needs is a vital prerequisite to choosing the systems that will enable the company to deliver on these expectations. It is essential that a company hire someone who is experienced in CRM in the Internet world, one who is capable of helping the client avoid a number of potential mistakes that will cost the company dearly.
Evaluating The Total Supplier-Client Relationship
The totality of the buyer-seller relationship is composed of many different relationships, including outbound marketing, sales inquiries and fulfillment, the process of customer acquisition, initial sales transactions, routine customer service, complaint handling and the automated delivery of marketing literature. Perceiving the company from this viewpoint of a single total relationship is at the heart of the preparation needed to assemble the CRM strategic blueprint. However, the converse element is the key to a successful implementation: every customer-facing employee, from front-office to back-office, must be able to see the same single view of the customer. Changing the culture of the company to become customer-centric is the objective and CRM is the tool to achieve it.
Surmounting The Lines Of Demarcation
This total view of a supplier-client relationship translates into a need for the CRM system to integrate all of a company's communication channels, internal and external, electronic or legacy, into its business functions from sales, marketing and service, through fulfillment and finance, to product development. Achieving this objective enables a company to have a complete and integrated view of all its internal and external relationships and to focus them on achieving total customer satisfaction. The plan must be inclusive across organizational and functional boundaries.
Hidden From View
A common problem in the CRM planning process is that of underestimating the effort that will be involved. Changing a corporate culture is a difficult and resource-hungry task. Resources will also be stretched in every area as day-to-day activities compete with the deployment effort needed. While anticipating the resource challenge is a normal management responsibility, one aspect of the change is frequently hidden from view until deployment is well under way: the existing IT infrastructure is often unable to handle the new technologies that will be necessary. Almost certainly, the existing structure will not be capable of integrating not only legacy applications and new technology, but also future enhancements or new, as yet unconsidered, applications. In the dynamic world of e-business CRM, the lack of future proofing can quickly become a serious Achilles' heel for the company.
Measure For Measure
When it comes to CRM solutions, one size does not fit all. Only install what you need, no more and no less. Too much solution wastes IT dollars and crucial time in its installation. Too little will leave critical gaps in the system that will damage rather than enhance customer relationships. The implications of this apparently simple objective are technically challenging. Whereas traditional company IT systems may consist of independent, stand-alone applications and databases, the totally customer-facing structure requires that all customer-affecting applications and data repositories can interact fully and freely with one another to provide an integrated relationship to service the customer. As a result, the most important technical decision management must make is choosing the infrastructure that will be the integration platform for new and legacy applications and data.
The Best CRM Demands Best-Of-Breed
A common mistake to avoid is accepting that any one application vendor, or any one application service provider (ASP), can provide the optimum technology across multiple applications. In a market where evolution is rapid and continuous, to deploy the best possible CRM, a company must be enabled to use the best available technology from whatever source, and to incorporate new or replacement technologies as they arrive. Products that were not designed to work together must be integrated into a single, seamless service. What is more, deployment of new systems, upgrades or replacements needs to happen while maintaining an uninterrupted and full service. This new approach requires a new way of looking at CRM...a new business model. One model that has emerged to address this need is the business solution provider (BSP) model. Unlike the ASP, which hosts applications, the BSP oversees the entire business process. By outsourcing the most complex challenges facing companies, the BSP can provide specific expertise, often addressing problems that the organization may not be able to solve on its own.
The BSP Business Model
In planning for CRM, some large and small enterprises are turning to BSPs for their outsourced services for the deployment of business infrastructure.
BSPs provide the more obvious benefits such as capital preservation, rapid deployment and packaged expertise, but can also assist during the selection process. Following is a checklist to use when considering using a BSP.
Many analysts who have studied the needs of companies who are embracing e-business agree that in the new financial environment brought about by e-commerce, the BSP model is a good paradigm to consider for outsourcing critical business infrastructure.
- Does the BSP host multiple vendor-supplied products?
- Does it provide custom products and content where necessary?
- Is deployment guaranteed within a fixed period and cost?
- Does the BSP offer domain-specific expertise?
- Will the deployed solution provide a common data management and business analytic platform?
- Will it provide a common management and administration platform?
It is not too extreme to state that the impact of the Internet has fundamentally altered the customer environment in which businesses operate. But before responding by deploying CRM technology, it is essential that management ensure that they fully understand how extensive and pervasive the effects of this change are, and then apply this understanding to the particular needs of their company.
Rene L. White is senior vice president of marketing at eConvergent (www.econvergent.com), a company which offers a pre-configured, completely integrated electronic customer relationship management (eCRM) solution to customers as a service.