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DSC Tech Library

CRM Software

CRM Customer Relationship Management This section of our technical library presents information and documentation relating to CRM Applications and Customer relationship management software and products. Providing customer service is vital to maintaining successful business relationships. Accurate and timely information provided in a professional manner is the key to any business and service operation. Telemation, our CRM software application, was built on this foundation. But the flexibility to change is just as important in this dynamic business environment. Telemation call center software was designed with this concept from the very beginning. That is why so many call center managers, with unique and changing requirements, have chosen and continue to use Telemation CRM software as their solution. Our Telemation CRM solution is ideally suited for call center service bureaus.

Defining CRM: Finding the Distinctions in an Overused Buzzword

By: Ronni T. Marshak
Patricia Seybold Group

CRM has become the new buzzword of e-business. And it seems that there are almost as many definitions for CRM as there are vendors promoting products for getting closer to customers.

We propose that establishing and managing customer relationships is first and foremost a strategic endeavor, not a technology category. Just as your company established goals, strategies, plans, and objectives, you need to determine how your customer relationships are being served at each step.

Technology fits only at the tactical level-as the tools with which you implement your plans to support your strategies.

On the technology side, we have identified two different types of technologies that support your customer relationship strategy (CRS): CRM, the customer-facing, interaction systems, such as support, campaign management, and sales force automation; and Customer Intelligence (CI), which provides tools to capture, store, process, access, organize, and analyze/model customer data. The results of this analysis are typically put into action via the CRM systems.

The Dual Nature of CRM

Remember the old commercial, "It's a breath mint." "No, it's a candy mint." "Why, it's two, two, two mints in one!" (Or for "Saturday Night Live" fans, "It's a floor wax." "No, it's a dessert topping!") So goes the ongoing debate over Customer Relationship Management (CRM). Is CRM the customer-facing applications of customer service/support and sales, or is it the back-office applications of customer data interpretation?

I believe that this question misses a crucial point, and that is that managing customer relationships-which is, after all, what CRM is all about-is not simply a group of applications, nor should we be focused on technology.

Establishing and maintaining long-term, mutually beneficial relationships with your customers is something that must be at the core of your organization's raison d'etre. Your executives must mandate it. Your employees must embrace it. It must become a core value of your company. You have to feel it in your gut!

That has nothing to do with technology.

Big Deal! Customers Matter! Tell Me Something New!

So, here I am, espousing motherhood and apple pie. You all know that customers are vital to every business. You know that relationships with your customers are the key to your success. But with the advent of new and exciting technologies that focus on customer interactions and analyzing customer information, we've gotten caught up in the inner workings of CRM technologies.

We are now able to perform customer-related processes over organizational boundaries in real time! We can be in constant touch with our customers. The technology is exciting (and confusing), and we are spending all our time trying to figure out which products to implement rather than determining how we want our customer relationships to look and feel. We've lost sight of the bigger picture-the strategic importance of our customer relationships.

Hitting the G-Spot

Let's look at it another way. Every company's game plan includes what I call the "G-SPOT." This stands for Goals, Strategies, Plans, Objectives, and Tactics. Here's how it breaks down for CRM:

  • Goals. Every business has clearly defined goals. At the most basic level, these include things like profitability, worldwide recognition, and high stockholder value.
  • Strategies. To achieve your goals, you establish strategies, such as designing innovative products, focusing on international markets, and establishing long-term relationships with customers.
  • Plans. Executing strategies requires plans. For example, to design innovative products you might implement a plan of hiring top product engineers; to focus internationally you might develop a public relations plan that targets worldwide press; and to establish customer relationships you might determine to measure customer satisfaction and behavior and to invest in technology to support customer interactions.
  • Objectives. These are the measurable goals of each plan, such as maintaining a 60 percent customer retention rate or lowering product return rates to less than 20 percent.
  • Tactics. Tactics are how you achieve the objectives that are part of the plans to implement the strategies to achieve the goals (whew!). For example, you might establish a 24 x 7 call center or create a data warehouse that consolidates all customer information.
I'm sure you've noted that CRM topics and technologies fit in almost every area (see Illustration 1). Customer relationships are, in themselves, a strategic concern. The plans lay out how to establish the relationships. The objectives indicate how to recognize (via measurements) successful customer relationships. And CRM technologies are implemented at a tactical level in support of the strategy.

CRM Customer Relationship Management

CRM Technologies

Now that we've positioned technology in the strategic planning and implementation process, we can go back to the original question: is CRM the customer-facing applications of customer service/support and sales, or is it the back-office applications of customer data interpretation?

Basically, we see two dimensions of CRM technology: customer-facing applications and company-facing applications.

Customer-Facing Applications

Customer-facing applications are fundamentally those that customers actually experience. These might also be considered customer interaction applications, wherein customers interact with your employees, your Web site, and/or your systems.

The old standby CRM applications-the ones originally featured at all the CRM trade shows-fall primarily into the customer-facing category:

Sales Force Automation. Epitomized by Siebel Systems, SFA applications include such capabilities as lead tracking, opportunity management, contact management, and (more recently) aspects of partner relationship management.

Customer Service and Support. Led, again, by Siebel (after its Scopus Technology acquisition) and PeopleSoft (which acquired Vantive), these customer-facing applications include areas such as call center management, online help facilities, internal help desk, and expert knowledge-based systems for problem resolution.

Marketing Automation. The automation of marketing functions encompasses a wide variety of capabilities, some of which are customer facing, such as automated e-mail response systems, campaign management/execution tools, surveys and contest management, and the management and distribution of marketing materials (both hard copy and online) to sales personnel and partners.

Company-Facing Applications

Marketing automation, however, is the primary culprit in the confusion between customer-facing and company-facing applications. While the execution of campaigns, the customer engagement capabilities (such as surveys and contests), and direct customer research (soliciting feedback from customers) all involve interacting with customers, the major portion of marketing responsibilities are actually handled within the organization. Thus, these should be called Customer Facing. At the Patricia Seybold Group, we call these applications Customer Intelligence.

The Customer Intelligence process (described by Lynne Harvey in her July 13, 2000 report, "How to Provide Customer Intelligence," consists of four steps:

  • Gathering customer data
  • Analyzing that data
  • Formulating a strategy based on the analysis in order to recognize customer value
  • Taking action based on the strategy
There are six different categories of tools to achieve Customer Intelligence (as Lynne described in her August 10, 2000 report, "The Customer Intelligence Landscape,". These are:
  • Tools for gathering customer information
  • Tools for storing customer information
  • Tools for processing customer data
  • Tools for accessing customer information
  • Tools for organizing customer data
  • Tools for modeling and analyzing customer data

The Intersection of the Two

The line between customer-facing and company-facing applications is very blurry, however. This is because the customer-facing products are typically the solutions used to gather customer data (from call center databases, contact managers, etc.) and, similarly, the action taken as the fourth step of the CI process is usually delivered via customer-facing systems (offers in a campaign, new loyalty programs, etc.).

Further adding to the confusion is that vendors that offer solutions on both sides of the equation don't stop at the border! Sales systems, such as Siebel's, offer data capture, storage, and analysis. Analysis systems, such as E.piphany's, offer campaign management and execution.

Acknowledging the Distinctions

The key difference is in the purpose of the two types of solutions. CI is an internal process for truly understanding who your customers are and what they want from you. The customer-facing applications, which I continue to call CRM, are all about being in touch with customers, getting their input into your databases, and giving them ways to interact with you so that these interactions (and behaviors) can be captured and analyzed.

There is truly a symbiotic relationship between Customer Intelligence and Customer Relationship Management. But it helps everyone when we can attach more granular labels to the different technology areas.

A Proposal for Naming Conventions

Thus, I propose that we reserve the acronym CRM for the front-end, customer-interaction systems. The company-facing analysis and strategizing should be called Customer Intelligence.

Both are implemented in support of a Customer Relationship Strategy. And thus, heretical as it may seem, I propose that we call the strategic aspect (which is removed from all technology) CRS (see Illustration 2).