The Changing Face of CRM

The recent economic slowdown has illustrated how interwoven our global economies really are. The demands to increase enterprise performance has accelerated. Whether it’s to find new opportunities to increase or maintain market share, or to generate new revenue opportunities, each of these areas represent additional challenges in fulfilling customer expectations and demands. A greater need now exists on placing the organization’s focus on the requirements of the customer, and many organizations have embraced the “customer centric” business model which was first brought to light in 2003, by Mitchell Tsang and Frank Piller (eds.) in The Customer Centric Enterprise: Advances in Mass Communication and Personalization.
They wrote:
Being customer centric includes a wide range of strategies, approaches and ideas. Agile manufacturing, focused factories, flexible specialization, customer relationship management, and mass customization are strategies that emerged from the literature in the last decades. Despite different backgrounds and focus, the major objective is to improve the ability of enterprises to react swiftly to changing customer needs and to address the heterogeneity of demand more efficiently.

As a result, sales organizations have to optimize their customer relationships by relying heavily on technology. In particular, organizations will have to count on CRM vendors to deliver visibility into streamlined operational and supply chain efficiencies, mainly so organizations can retain existing sales opportunities. Other CRM challenges include the need to measure the impact of sales campaigns “on-the-fly” and to offer greater insight into sales analytics. This document will take a look at how some CRM vendors are working to meet the challenge.

The Challenges Marketing Organizations Face

Marketing and sales driven organizations face a variety of challenges at different levels. At the senior management level, the challenge is to maintain and increase profitability and grow market share. Inherent in these is the need to identify key performance metrics to
• Increase customer penetration
• Conduct sales planning and forecasting to predict future revenue accurately
• Use and leverage sales resources effectively
• Manage all information relevant to a particular sales account
• Implement opportunity management to obtain visibility into the sales pipeline and to qualify, manage, and distribute sales leads to appropriate personnel
• Perform sales performance analyses to monitor results by region and individual territory
• Apply product configurations and estimates to enable the sales staff to provide accurate and timely quotes to their customers, on–the-fly
• Employ collaborative tools to ensure accurate information is delivered to the customer
• Ensure customer retention by providing consistent personalized service across all client interactions

The Evolution of CRM: CRM 2.0

The CRM space has evolved from a one dimensional set of tools which provided limited interaction between back-office functions and client facing functions. Today, it has evolved to become a set of tools that are versatile enough to meet a unique set of capabilities, that are interactive, and that can provide visibility to an organization. The new CRM, “CRM 2.0”, is based on tools and principals from social networking sites, wikis, blogs, community forums, and RSS content syndication. The use of CRM 2.0 requires a paradigm shift away from just implementing a customer centric business model, to engaging the customer. This engagement becomes an integral part to any line of business that can benefit from customer input—whether it be product design, research and development, procurement, etc. Therefore we can describe CRM 2.0 as both a business model and a strategic philosophy used to actively engage customer collaboration, and is supported by a technology platform and business process.

In addition to CRM 2.0, we note below some other CRM applications.

Analytical CRM

Analytical CRM enables an organization to collect data on its customers (data mining) and develop predictive analysis by dividing clients into various segments through the use of rich application online analytical processing (OLAP). Among other things, it can be used to predict the likelihood of a customer purchasing a product or the impact of pricing models.

Mobile CRM

Mobile CRM is one of the fastest growing segments of the CRM marketplace as companies are looking for innovative ways to reach customers. The convergence of fourth generation WIFI networks, and the addition of greater functionality uniquely designed for wireless technologies, has resulted in a fully mobile office environment. The belief is that a dynamic, integrated sales force can increase the number of sales opportunities by giving sales personnel more time to meet with clients, as opposed to engaging in daily and weekly administrative work. This technology provides customers with the opportunity to have information, on-the-fly and reduces order processing time.

Integrated CRM

As many organizations—especially those within the small medium business (SMB) enterprise space—do not regard marketing, service, and sales as separate activities, CRM systems must be able to provide an integrated view of these and other back-office functions. Typically a sales representative or call center may require one view that gives them the ability to look at previous or past sales orders, track the status of a customer order, view any pricing or billing issues, and see information on sales contracts. These integrated functions are designed to optimize service to the customer.

Customizable CRM

Some sales organizations have become frustrated with rigid CRM packages that offer only one type of specific functionality and do not address the unique characteristics of their business. To remedy this, customizable CRM packages offer multiple CRM templates that are easily configurable and can support different enterprise verticals, providing flexibility and performance.

Outsourcing CRM

As the current economic slowdown continues, there may be a continued demand for outsourcing CRM—specifically call centers. In the US, there are increased compliance issues that companies need to respect, particularly with regards to the vigilance of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to enforce “do not call” legislation. However, lower forecasted economic activity may cause some US-based organizations to consider outsourcing a portion of their call center operations to stimulate onshore activities. This may potentially create a demand for focused contact center CRM applications

On Demand CRM SaaS

For organizations with a limited budget yet requiring some, but not all, of the feature functionality from major on-premise CRM solutions, on-demand (SaaS) CRM may be an option. It has a lower total cost of ownership (TCO) through its subscription-based pricing model. Additionally, the ease of deployment (as the application is accessed over the Internet) can be an advantage worth looking at if your business model is not complex.

Some Vendors Offerings
The TEC vendor showcase is an excellent place to review the CRM space and vendor offerings in greater detail. Below are some CRM solutions that I reviewed and found worthy of mention.

Pivotal CRM by CDC Software
Pivotal CRM by CDC software is a flexible and feature-rich product which enables users to define their enterprise requirements through a customizable file template built on the MS .NET technology framework. It provides versatility to clients in the ever-changing financial services industry and to other, heavily compliance-laden industries, such as health care.

Maximizer CRM 10
Maximizer is a leading vendor of highly accessible CRM solutions. It offers an on-premise version, which has over 8,000 corporate clients, ranging in size from large global organizations to individual entrepreneurs. There is also a mobile version available, which allows users to access remote Web-enabled applications through a PDA device. The product builds on the organization’s twenty year legacy of success.

NetSuite CRM+
If your organization is considering an integrated end-to-end solution that delivers a robust CRM tool which includes sales force automation; customer support and service; analytics capabilities; and Web-enabled functionality, then this product provides the full “360 degree” of customer requirements. Through a simple click on a web portal, you can view all financial transactions by your clients. Your sales force will be able to enter orders directly into the system using remote access to engage supporting enterprise systems, like ERP, to review production schedules, thus enabling another level of customer service.

A Final Word

The current CRM space is reminiscent of the Olympic motto “Citius Altius Fortius”— Swifter, Higher, Stronger—in that the elements of the customer centric enterprise are similarly aligned. The features and functions mentioned here are all designed to drive a higher level of performance than what traditional CRM tools offer.

In these lean economic times, there is great competition for your customers’ business. Brand loyalty cannot be counted on to generate revenue. The current global economy and the many sales and marketing delivery systems available to the business place are increasing pressure on enterprise profitability and market share. The current generation Y has driven much of the need for instantaneous results and to meet this need, the enterprise market has adopted the “swifter, higher, stronger” philosophy. In a lean economy, can your organization afford not to provide your customers with the optimum service they expect?
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