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THE ROLE OF TECHNOLOGY AND CRM

Providers, large and small, are plying the market with alluring CRM technology.
Software that integrates operational and customer-facing systems, mines data and
provides decision support can seem irresistible. Quantum leaps in both productivity
and customer intimacy seem possible. At last, the internet can become a significant
revenue generator versus a black hole of expense.

Unfortunately, many companies fail to articulate strategy and implement business


process changes in advance of CRM technology investments. They accept the
“plug and play” promises of software firms and then struggle with systems
integration and organizational issues.

For example, a financial services firm invested in campaign management software


that held the promise of automating the delivery of “the right product offer to the
right customer at the right time”. Previously, the company had executed product
driven direct mail drops (same offer/many customers/same date) with declining
response rates. The campaign management tool promised orchestrated offers of
many types to many customers on an ongoing basis through multiple channels
achieving higher response rates. However, even as the tool entered installation and
testing, major organizational issues emerged: Who determined the priority of
customers and offers? Was funding of offers incremental or provided by the units
whose products were featured? If offer priorities skewed toward a particular
product, did that product unit’s profit plan increase? Did other units get profit relief
if their products had lesser priority? Or could they drop “bootleg” offers outside of
the strategy? If the call center generated much of the volume, did the retail
branches get profit/quota relief as business generation migrated?

The larger message from the above discussion is that technology is an enabler,
merely mortar and/or lubricant around a carefully crafted CCM. Organization
alignment and decision-making protocols must happen to support technology use.
Evaluation of proprietary technology development versus purchase, select
investments and isolated pilots are all advisable in the CRM arena. Further, with
the recent technology sector meltdown, due diligence around the stability/integrity
of partners has never been more crucial.

CRM DEFINED
CRM starts with a simple premise: the individual customer is the primary focus for
the organization. Not markets. Not products. Not services. Positive value exchange
is sought on the premise that by treating individual customers differently based on
their specific characteristics and needs, customers are more satisfied, loyal and,
ultimately, more profitable. A second tenet of CRM is the concept of building
relationships and delivering value over time. Purchase events are viewed as a
subset of interactions between a customer and a company, all of which can
influence that customer’s lifetime value. Finally, inherent in CRM is the notion of
Proactive management of interactions and communications with a customer.
Simply stated, CRM is not a one-time effort. Rather, it is the continuous and
deliberate evolution of relationships. Successful CRM is founded upon aggressive
collection, interpretation and use of data. It forces intense organizational
coordination regarding people and processes. And it requires continual
organizational learning and flexibility to respond to change. Done poorly or
superficially, CRM may result in a few tactical wins or merely drive up cost and
organizational stress. However, done properly, CRM can create relationships
where customer and company walk in harmony.

THE CRADLE OF CRM: THE SALES FORCE


AUTOMATION
The timeline goes something like this: in the early 1990’s, a handful of software
vendors realized that companies specifically those with field sales forces needed
help. The more business they closed, the more information they had to keep track
of about their customers. Meanwhile, salespersons had various means of recording
this customer information and communicating critical account news back to the
home office. And those who left simply took their little black books along with
them, forcing company to locate and re-collect customer data, starting at ground
zero.
Likewise salespeople needed better tools to help them manage their accounts, track
opportunities, establish and monitor the sales pipeline, and organize their contact
lists.

CONTRIBUTION OF SALES FORCE AUTOMATION IN


CRM

1. SALES AND TERRITORY MANAGEMENT

Which salespeople are assigned to which accounts? Who’s already reached quota?
What’s the pipeline look like in the southwest? Sales managers overseeing tens or
hundreds of sales teams can’t possibly keep abreast of every active sales initiative,
let alone the individuals in their organizations. Sales management tools enable
them to do just that, offering data and reporting options to give sales managers and
executives on- demand access to sales activities- before, during, and after the
order.

2. CONTACT MANAGEMENT

Contact management is the subset of sales force automation that deals with
organizing and managing data across and within a company’s client and prospect
organizations. Contact management software can contain various modules for
maintaining local client databases, displaying updated organization charts, and
allowing salespeople to maintain notes on specific clients or prospects. Many also
allow users to query remote databases for supplementary information or to
synchronize laptop- local data with a corporate customer database.

3. LEAD MANAGEMENT

CRM vendors claim that the capabilities described in the previous section push
sales prospects through the pipeline more quickly. But who’s in the pipeline,
anyway, and how long will they be there?
Lead management also known as opportunity management and pipeline
management aims to provide foolproof sales strategies so no sales task, document,
or communication falls through the cracks. Thus salespeople can follow a defined
approach to turning opportunities into deals. Many lead management products not
only track customer account history but also monitor leads, generate next steps,
and refine selling efforts online.

4. CONFIGURATION SUPPORT

Because many of these tools allow a salesperson to input client and prospect
information into an easy-to-use tool, CRM products have evolved to leverage this
information by providing product- specific configuration support to companies
who must “build” products for their customers. Such companies- computer
technology vendors, appliance manufacturers, and telephone companies among
them- no longer undergo the painstaking process of factoring in complex customer
attributes and requirements to build a solution from scratch.

5. KNOWLEDGE MANAGEMENT

As field salespeople know all too well, a lot more than customer data is necessary
for selling, and the more information available, the better. Organizations have a
plethora of information an account rep can use sometime during the sales lifecycle.
Accessible internal documents can provide the sales force with the information it
needs to understand a variety of components in the sales lifecycle.

Rendering salespeople better informed and more productive increases the


likelihood that they’ll close more business. And this type of productivity is bound
to enhance the customer relationship, not to mention the corporate bottom line.