One of the basic tenets of customer relations is as old as the basic ideas of marketplace, customer, selling, and product: Know your customer. That knowledge, coupled with a good product, should equal a sale and the start of a brand—basic marketing 101. However, as mom and pop store fronts became corporations and then multinational corporations, knowing all your customers became much more than merely remembering a name or a face.
In a global, interconnected, technology-powered economy, knowing your customers has become dependent on an information infrastructure that must measure and track potential customers, actual sales, customer preferences, market tendencies, regulatory environments, and financial transactions, just to name a few. The larger your enterprise, the more likely you are to need a sophisticated customer relationship management (CRM) system.
According to Randy Harris, writing for Darwin Magazine, CRM systems have evolved over the past few years into what he calls "customer-driven CRM." In this CRM system, revenue performance is the central theme for organizations seeking to achieve and maintain expected financial results. He suggests that:
Organizations are now challenging everything from how they create value, to how they serve their markets, to how they meet shareholder expectations. It is the answers to these questions that create the framework for [Customer-Driven CRM].
Without a deep understanding of what's going on in the customer's head—specifically what will influence buying behavior—it is difficult to establish customer strategies that mutually serve the needs and expectations of the buyer and seller communities.
No matter what CRM system an organization chooses, no matter what level of sophistication is required, installation and maintenance of that system's technological infrastructure will fall to the IT professional. CRM systems are complicated applications, requiring a substantial infrastructure, the success of which is dependent on significant amounts of planning, organization, and time. To help the IT professional manage a project of this magnitude, TechRepublic has put together a multitude of resources.
Pitfalls and warnings
Emphasizing the need for proper strategic planning when deciding on how and when to build a CRM system, these TechRepublic articles show some of the pitfalls that can arise during implementation:
Dream or nightmare?
The implementation of customer relationship management software, though still largely seen as a be-all-end-all solution, has not been an easy road for many enterprises. Here are some common pitfalls and some strategies for avoiding them.
costs can derail your efforts to stay competitive
Deciding to focus all your IT efforts on the customer with a CRM solution could prove disastrous if it's performed at the wrong time. See why CRM does not always makes sense when you are competing with others for customers.
shows CRM success is uncertain
Depending on whom you listen to, organizations are either generally satisfied but unsure what makes a CRM implementation successful, or are implementing CRM but not seeing any benefits. This week's Analyst Views column tries to make sense of it all.
systems still promise more than they deliver
According to a report from Aberdeen Group, organizations that have bought CRM systems still aren't reaping the benefits that they expected when they decided to implement them.
- What Time Is It? It's CRM Time!
The CRM phenomenon is spreading across multiple industries and is being employed by companies, large to small, all around the world. But there are still skeptics, and that's understandable seeing as many CRM companies have been selling promises without delivering the goods.
- Quantifying the CRM Investment
CRM Benefit Models can be very effective in helping you quantify the merits of CRM programs, and can help you sell these benefits internally.
- Webcast - How to Avoid CRM Failures
You know the benefits that CRM can deliver to your business but you've also heard a lot about the risks and failure rates associated with CRM implementations. Now you can avoid those pitfalls by hearing from a seasoned group of industry experts who can help ensure your CRM initiative's success.
Next generation CRM
CRM firm offers subscription service
Start-up SugarCRM sets out to shake up the business applications market with a free program and low-cost support.
- Are You Ready for Second Generation Hosted CRM?
The first generation of hosted CRM is over. Second-generation hosted CRM systems should be built to deliver enterprise-level functionality to the SMB market and departments within an enterprise, and to do that, hosted-CRM applications must be built on a workflow engine constructed to deliver true workflow capability. This white paper defines "true workflow", and its importance to sales and customer service teams.
- How to Successfully Deploy Workflow in Your Hosted CRM Application
Workflow enables businesses of all sizes to realize the enormous benefits that were previously only available to large budgeted enterprise-level organizations. Since there are multiple vendors offering hosted CRM applications, we believe the buyer's toughest (and most important) decision is finding a vendor that offers the many benefits that come from a real Workflow engine, similar to that used in multimillion-dollar CRM deployments. In this white paper, you'll learn the difference that a true workflow engine delivers to help you fully maximize your company's investment in hosted CRM.
CRM takes center stage
Customer relationship management is an integral part of your organization's competitive marketing strategy, whether there is a true CRM system up and running or not. If you accept James Surowiecki's view, as expressed in an article for Wired Magazine, that market brand loyalty cannot be relied on to make a sale anymore; customer relationships must take center stage in any marketing plan. This renewed emphasis on measuring all aspects of that relationship means that the IT infrastructure will be more vital than ever to the success of the CRM implementation. As one of the IT professionals that could be called upon for a CRM project, you should take some time to familiarize yourself with this complicated enterprise application.
Mark W. Kaelin has been writing and editing stories about the IT industry, gadgets, finance, accounting, and tech-life for more than 25 years. Most recently, he has been a regular contributor to BreakingModern.com, aNewDomain.net, and TechRepublic.