Understanding CRM


CRM is more than just software or a set of processes—it’s a business culture solidly focused on winning and keeping the right customers. A good CRM system builds value for your business by opening vital communication channels and creating a common client-focused knowledge base to better serve your clients. CRM is about understanding the buying habits and preferences of your customers and prospects, so you can:


  • Build and strengthen customer relationships to keep them coming back.

  • Provide value-added services that are difficult for competitors to duplicate.

  • Improve your product development and service delivery processes.

  • Increase your staff’s awareness of customer needs.

  • Reduce customer frustration by not asking the same questions over and over.


By effectively integrating your marketing, sales, and customer service functions, a good CRM system makes it easier for everyone inside your company to work together and share critical information.


An effective CRM system empowers your customers and prospects to do business with you­­—the way they choose. Imagine connecting your customers to your employees and business partners across any department, through any process, and through any communication device—phone, fax, e-mail, text chat, and the Web.


A properly installed and implemented CRM system can contribute many benefits to your organisation, including:


New sales opportunities

The more you know about your customers and their buying habits, the better prepared you’ll be when they’re ready to make a purchase. A good CRM system will classify your prospects and help identify your best customers. With detailed information about your customers, you can accurately project and respond to their buying needs throughout the sales cycle. A good system also acts as a sales assistant to help you automate sales tasks—allowing you to spend more time focusing on

strategic sales issues.


Improved customer service

Customer satisfaction is a critical success factor for all businesses. The right system allows your team to take a proactive approach to customer service. With up-to-date customer information at their fingertips, your employees can resolve customer issues more quickly and successfully. Improved customer service also opens doors for revenue-generating loyalty campaigns and long-lasting relationships with your customers.


Better decision-making

CRM systems provide a single view of the customer across all touchpoints and channels, as well as deliver comprehensive reports of customer behaviours, marketing campaign results, and sales activity. Each of these elements is necessary for smart decision-making and long-term strategic planning.


Greater efficiency

With an integrated CRM system, you can gain immediate access to your organisation’s critical customer information. A good CRM system also creates internal efficiencies by automating workflow processes, reducing human error, decreasing process time and

providing consistency throughout the entire organisation.


A foundation for growth

The right CRM system can help you manage the growth of your organisation. Effective

CRM systems allow for additional users and modules and provide the option to integrate

with other crucial business systems.


Getting Started

Most companies require that you justify the need for a new system before you make a purchase. That’s why it’s important to determine all the different ways your company will benefit from a CRM system. Building a case for CRM provides the necessary background information to help you define the need, justify the cost, and demonstrate the value of the investment. For best results, get the key people in your company to agree on and share a unified vision for customer relationship management —from executives to programmers to customer care personnel. Everyone should have the same goal in mind and agree to work to that end. This is, of course, always easier said than done!


Set your goals

Your team should have a shared understanding of your CRM goals. To achieve this, the core group should identify your organisation’s objectives, focus on processes that require reengineering and discuss the appropriate courses of action.


Examine your current processes

Analyse your existing business processes from many viewpoints, both internal and external, to find out how they impact both your organisation and your customers. Ask your sales force, marketing, and customer service teams to identify and document best practices. By evaluating your processes now, you can identify what’s working and what’s not, and prepare to implement a new CRM system that emulates the most effective strategies for achieving success.


Ask questions

It’s important to ask questions, especially if you’re finding that your organisation is not as productive as it can be. Think about the challenges your organisation is currently facing in marketing, sales, and customer support. Here are some questions you may want to address:

  • How are inaccuracies negatively impacting your organisation?

  • What do you need to accurately track your marketing campaigns?

  • What information or reports are being requested that currently cannot be generated or delivered?

  • Which reports are produced that include information that exists “somewhere” and needs to be manually completed?

  • How can your current system integrate with your e-business initiatives?

  • What information do you need to make strategic decisions?


You may want the help of an experienced consultant during the analysis.


Involve the Right People

A true CRM strategy involves the collaboration and support of multiple groups throughout the organisation. The decision to choose a specific CRM system should be delegated to a core team of individuals to serve and represent the functional needs of various departments throughout the organisation.


For a smooth process, you’ll want to involve and interview the people that will be directly and indirectly affected by the new system. This requires full cooperation and collaboration among the following five groups:


System users

This group interacts with the system most often, typically dealing directly with your customers. A few examples of system users are customer service agents, field and inside sales representatives, and marketing associates.


System managers

System managers oversee activities for their departments and provide business analysis and reports to upper management. System managers supervise and direct (and sometimes train)

system users how to effectively use the system.


System integrators

Responsible for all technical considerations, system integrators oversee and contribute to the implementation and integration of your CRM system and provide regular maintenance. They are usually IT staff; however, you may want your system programmers and system architects

involved in the process. In some cases, the software reseller may perform the bulk of the work to integrate a CRM system.


System customers

Any person who requires information supplied by the CRM software is a system customer. This group relies on reports, summaries, account status, and other data generated by the system. System customers can be found inside the organisation, in marketing, sales, customer service, accounting, and human resources—as well as outside the organisation, such as your business partners. To gain a clearer picture of the capabilities your new system should include, find out what data your system customers use most and how they use it during your internal interviews.


System signoffs

These individuals make the final purchasing decision. Usually, system signoffs are the same people to whom you presented your initial business case for the project, and can include senior management and directors, board members, or other advisors.


Choose a Consultant

Consultants offer specialised expertise in evaluating and implementing CRM systems­—bringing considerable value to your organisation. These experts can help your organisation in

three important ways:


  • Evaluate your needs and suggest the best CRM system for your specific situation.

  • Save your company time and money during system install and subsequent training.

  • Help you get the most out of your CRM implementation, based on your organisation’s requirements.


Even if your internal staff have the time to implement your new CRM system, you still may want to seek an outside expert who can focus on analysing, installing and maintaining your system.


Some of the best CRM consultants are software resellers. Software resellers have a valid stake in your organisation’s success—they want to be the company you turn to for additional services in the future. Many resellers also offer a range of services, including strategy development, business process management, technology implementation, and training.


For larger CRM systems, resellers often have the additional consulting support of their software Suppliers to help manage the complexities of the implementation. A good software Supplier will have a highly experienced professional service group whose focus is on education, training, and systems implementation.


Narrow the Field

The best CRM systems are those that go beyond fulfilling the basic CRM functions. Look for a system that integrates your back-office accounting software and other business systems— so customer information can be updated in real-time while being shared and employed effectively across the entire organisation. Be sure that your system is robust and versatile

enough to:

  • Be accessed from any location—from headquarters to remote locations and mobile employees.

  • Integrate with a wide range of third-party software or other internal systems.


Systems with these capabilities will enable your organisation to operate more efficiently

and realize greater economies of scale.


Increase communication channels

The ideal CRM system will integrate your multiple business channels and provide your users with seamless, remote access to up-to-date customer information. Look for a system that supports multiple communication devices (such as Web browsers, handheld computing devices, and WAP-enabled phones) to let users access customer data anytime, anywhere. Choose one that will meet the functional needs of your system users.


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