5.32 Customer Relationship Management

Customer Relationship Management programs manage a company's interactions with customers, clients and sales prospects. At its most basic, CRM tracks every stage in the sales process for every prospective client, but many systems also handle opportunities, territories, sales forecasts, analytics, workflow automation, quote generation, and product information. Some also employ mobile phones, social media and/or cloud-computing, the last being particularly attractive to smaller companies wanting to employ expensive software on a 'pay per use' basis. CRM data can also help bridge the technology divides that commonly develop in big companies (e.g. between R&D and Marketing).

Types

There are various incarnations, generally grouped by the aspects stressed.

Sales Force Management (SFM) or Sales Force Automation (SFA) concentrates on the sales process, enabling companies to use their sales representatives more effectively.

Marketing CRM systems focus on identifying and targeting potential clients to generate leads for the sales team. Media used include email, Internet search, social media, telephone and direct mail. Metrics include clicks, responses, leads, deals, and revenue.

Prospect Relationship Management (PRM) tracks customer behavior from first contact to sale, nurturing the relationship throughout.

Appointment CRM helps sales, customer support, and service personnel to arrange effective meetings with customers and prospects. Analytics are generally accessed by sales, marketing, and service, and often integrated with web statistics to compare on- and off-line marketing campaigns.

Advantages

When used properly, CRM systems provide:

1. Quick access to all critical account data, including a company overview, key sales data, relevant documents, partners involved in the account, and data sharing rules.
2. Integration of data from a wide variety of sources: email address books, calendars, company data, personnel profiles, financial data, industry contacts, etc.
3. Improved management of marketing campaigns, with the important metrics displayed in customizable reports and visual presentations.
4. A more effective sales force, with data, quotes and examples immediately to hand.
5. Better forecasts of product demand and sales revenues.

Problems

CRM systems have a mixed reputation. A 2003 Gartner report estimated that more than $1 billion had been spent on software that was left unused, and a 2007 TMCnet article cited employee resistance as still the biggest problem.

Many earlier models were:

1. Non-intuitive, making employees reluctant to climb the steep learning curve.
2. Inflexible: companies had to fit their practices round the software.
3. Simply automated flawed customer management practices rather than redesigned them according to best practice.
4. Over-complex.
5. Implemented in a fragmented way.
6. Liable to expose company shortcomings to their customers.
7. Lacking in an acceptable level of security
8. Binding the company to the system: if the software house failed, then so could they.

Essential to successful implementation are:

1. Strategic planning with a thought-through rationale and clear targets.
2. Acceptance by all relevant departments.
3. Staff training and continued support.

Questions

1. What is customer relationship management? Give examples of where it could be useful.
2. Describe a typical crm system.
3. What are the pros and cons of customer relationship management?
4. Give a short history of customer relationship management implementation in the USA.

Sources and Further Reading

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