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.

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:

  • CRM:
    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.
  • CRM
    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.
  • Research
    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.
  • CRM
    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.

White papers

  • 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

  • Open-source
    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.