If your organization’s revenue is based on the spending habits of your customers, chances are you have completed some type of project involving customer relationship management (CRM). You’re way ahead of the game if you’ve managed more than two CRM projects.

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For more information, check out TechRepublic’s Enterprise Application Center, or visit PeopleSoft

But did you know that CRM is changing? It’s morphing into e-CRM, or Web-based CRM, and changing the way CRM projects are managed. Interest in e-CRM is rising, and more organizations are starting e-CRM projects.

This article will help you prepare for e-CRM by defining it and explaining the different components that make up the new technology.

What the “e” means
The “e” in e-CRM stands for electronic and signifies the inclusion of Web-based functionality into standard CRM applications.

As a term, e-CRM is not accepted by all of the leaders in the CRM field. For example, The Aberdeen Group, a consultancy in Boston, does not use e-CRM in its lexicon. E-CRM is an implied progression of CRM, said Christopher Fletcher, Aberdeen’s vice president and managing director.

Despite different views on terminology, many experts agree that coupling Web-based technologies with CRM applications makes sense because it allows customers to reach your organization in various ways.

Not only are Web-based applications a natural progression of CRM, the Web is gaining ground in other enterprise applications fields, such as enterprise resource planning (ERP) and supply-chain management (SCM).

What e-CRM can offer your company
According to a recent report by Gartner, components of e-CRM include an e-commerce sell-side platform, e-CRM communication infrastructure, and CRM applications. (TechRepublic is a subsidiary of Gartner.) E-CRM applications include:

  • ·        Content management
  • ·        Product and pricing models
  • ·        Support for customer service including technical support, problem resolution, and automated response agents
  • ·        Marketing automation tools
  • ·        Campaign management functions

An e-commerce sell-side platform allows enterprises to interact in Web-based business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-consumer (B2C) relationships.

An e-commerce sell-side platform should include these functions:

  • ·        Order placement, management, and execution tasks
  • ·        Catalog and content management
  • ·        Secure transportation of data between browsers and servers

Likewise, an e-CRM communication infrastructure should contain:

  • ·        Chat/browser control
  • ·        Voice-over IP
  • ·        Multilanguage support
  • ·        Messaging and workflow applications
  • ·        Web measurement tools
  • ·        E-mail inbound/outbound support

With these components in place, e-CRM applications can provide managers and executives with real-time, online access to customer databases, along with Web-supported customer service.

Don’t have CRM?
If your organization needs e-CRM but doesn’t have a CRM infrastructure in place, the time to think about e-CRM is now, even before the CRM infrastructure is put into place.

Mark Millan, founder of the CRM consultancy Data Instincts, said that many of his clients already have a first-generation, brochure-style Web site up. They need e-CRM because of promises made to partners and customers that ordering products from and interacting with the organization on their site is possible.

“People have migrated to that [e-CRM] more. They have a lot to gain from a CRM environment, and often, they already have a Web site up,” said Millan.

Beware of tainted ROI
As more and more customers use the Web, your organization may be forced to use e-CRM.

According to Gartner, however, e-CRM is so new to many organizations that there isn’t enough substantiated data to prove it is worth the hefty price tag. According to Gartner, “Sustained benefits have yet to be assessed over time, using proven, ongoing measurement processes.”

Gartner also advises companies to scrutinize enticements offered by e-CRM vendors.

Do you plan to implement e-CRM?

Is your organization considering e-CRM? What products are you looking at and why? Let us know what strategies you are using and what applications are important to you by dropping us a line or starting a discussion below.