CRM – Stepping stone to business success

Customer Relationship Management or CRM is the hottest buzzword among enterprises today with vendors terming it as a choice between—sinking and swimming. But, what exactly is CRM and what does it do, what are the advantages it can bring to an enterprise, and how can an enterprise choose the right CRM tools? 

Customer Relationship Management is a software package that can be used to collect information and collaborate internally across a corporate organization in order to improve interaction with customers. There are two elements that make up CRM: one is interaction with the customer, which can be through Internet or through traditional methods such as the telephone. The second is for a company to utilize the information gathered from such interactions to market their products better using the internet or more accurately, corporate intranets, so that the information is widely available within the organization. The software packages, which make up CRM, thus, help a company identify who its customers and their behavioural patterns. 
CRM consists of: 

  1. Helping an enterprise to enable its marketing departments to identify and target their best customers, manage marketing campaigns with clear goals and objectives, and generate quality leads for the sales team. 

  2. Assisting the organization to improve telesales, account, and sales management by optimizing information shared by multiple employees, and streamlining existing processes (for example, taking orders using mobile devices) 

  3. Allowing the formation of individualized relationship with customers, with the aim of improving customer satisfaction and maximizing profits; identifying the most profitable customers and providing them the highest level of service. 

  4. Providing employees with the information and processes necessary to know their customers, understand their needs, and effectively build relationships between the company, its customer base, and distribution partners.

After all, good customer relationship is the heart of business success. 

CRM concentrates on the retention of customers by collecting data from every interaction every customer has with the company using this data for specific marketing, services, support for sales purposes while designing a customer-centric approach. The idea is to use the information to meet customer needs better, build loyalty, and increase efficiency through call centers and other marketing activities. CRM package should cut costs and encourage communication. 

What are the advantages that CRM tools bring to enterprises? CRM tools enable companies to identify their best customers, establish individual relationships with them and manage marketing campaigns for the salesforce. 

They also aid tele-marketing and sales management by optimizing information shared by multiple employees in an organization. Profitable customers can be identified and provided the highest level of service. It is said that CRM calls for a top to bottom reassessment of a company’s corporate culture.

In order to serve their customers better, companies providing call centre services have differentiated themselves by becoming providers of Internet based customer services or Customer Relationship Management (CRM). This has meant a greater emphasis on technology, presence of offshore contact centres, and proliferation of non-phone based channels. Following are some of the trends that are shaping CRM outsourcing worldwide. 

Emphasis on latest technology: Most of the companies offering CRM services are using state-of-the-art technology like network based, web enabled, chat, automatic call distributors and voice-response units. This helps them in defining their value proposition for their customers.
Offshore contact centres: Today a large number of customer contact specialists are being based in centres in countries like India and the Philippines. These countries offer good value for money due to their low operating costs and high level of resource availability.

Exploring newer channels: The telephone remains the most preferred mode of communication. But e-mail and text-chat are gaining ground quickly. As the Internet becomes more ubiquitous, e-customer care will play a bigger part.

While the more established segments of the ‘call centre outsourcing’ market continues to grow rapidly, newer models of CRM Outsourcing are emerging. These include: -

  1. Contact Centre Operations: Complete contact centre operations, including building, staffing, operating, and managing contact centres and customer interaction processes on behalf of clients. Typical areas of support that these companies provide include sales, customer service, billing, technical support, and marketing support services. 
    Eg: Continental Airlines

  2. Web-based customer contact: This involves e-mail and web-based customer contact. 

  3. Operations Outsourcing: In such cases, a client company retains it’s own contact centre facilities and staff. It outsource the centre’s operations and management to an outside service provider. 
    Eg: AT & T, Worldcom

  4. Technology Outsourcing: The CRM market is also seeing the emergence of service providers that are pre-integrating and hosting various components of CRM solutions. These components would include front office applications, and call and e-mail routing technology. These companies primarily focus on technology. 

Studies reveal that 90 per cent of companies believed that eCRM was of strategic importance to their organization even though there are obstacles to its successful implementation. These are: Information barriers, Poor marketing practices, Inadequate and unintegrated information systems, Inability to access and understand customer needs, Ineffective segmentation of customers, Lack of marketing tools to manage the customer relationship including loyalty schemes.

In essence, e-CRM provides seamless integration of every area of business that touches the customer — namely, marketing, sales, and customer support and field support. It does this through the integration of processes, procedures and technology, taking advantage of the revolutionary impact of the Internet. The widely accepted principle that it costs between five to ten times more to recruit a new customer than to retain a current customer makes CRM a necessity.