The fact is well known that competition and innovation are defining the essence of survival. Business sustainability and customer affinity is not an easy game without these two factors. Organizations plan effectively on how to increase the customer footprints and hence the customer base, which can fuel the business and give leaps to the growth. As Kotler and Fox (1995) stated – “the best organization in the world will be ineffective if the focus on ‘customers’ is lost. First and foremost is the treatment of individual students, alumni, parents, friends, and each other (internal customers). Every contact counts!”
In this article, we shall see how CRM helps organizations to streamline and make maximum use of customer oriented resources in best possible manner. CRM is the acronym for Customer Relationship Management and focuses on designing a protocol, process improvisation and automation.
CRM: The evolution
While the IT boom was still in niche stage, the need to have a self accomplished application software was roaring high which can lower down the investment on technology and development and make space investment on customer management. This led to the evolution of Enterprise Resource Planning applications, commonly known as ERP. Apart from bringing down the operational cost, ERP applications also automated the business processes. With ERP implementation sufficing most of the organizational needs, customer focus reached to the concentration level where the job to maintain customer services, offerings, support, and other related activities was appearing to be a real tedious one. It was then when the evangelists gave serious thought to CRM solution.
CRM stands for Customer Relationship Management. The possible aspects of an organization – customer entity can be credit track, services, sales, offerings, or support which are well distributed under major heads Operational, Collaborative, and Analytical. All of these are managed under a single roof i.e. CRM. CRM implements a business protocol to bring new customers, understand their needs, retain the account for long and built a progressive relationship with them. In between, the protocol also keeps an eye on the cost incurred on customer management. This make the CRM a complete package which can live throughout the life cycle of customer management. Here is the list of objectives –
a) Track and identify new business opportunities
b) Serve and retain the customer base
c) Multiply customer footprints through customer led marketing
d) Maintain sales data, deals, contracts and similar stuff in planning stage
e) Balance the customer management cost
While the operational aspect of CRM implies to the automation of customer’s processes, the collaborative aspect focuses on direct interaction with the customer. Analytic aspect is the final one which targets the retention of customer and seed new business opportunities by analyzing the profitability, market study and predictability.
How CRM works?
As a product, the CRM solution strategically marinates the business plans with technology to achieve its objectives. The profitability is not only achieved from the org side, but the customers are also benefited from the solution. CRM implementation places a customer at the center of the business which connects all the aspects of the life cycle directly to the customer. The stages of the life cycle are as below –
a) Plan and Interact – The stage where customer tracing and tracking strategies are crafted. It includes market campaigning, showcase the offerings and draw competitive edge over the peers.
b) Process – The stage where the back office works along with the front one to understand and process the customer demands. The details of the activity is recorded for tracking and filing purpose.
c) Leverage – The stage analyzes the business and looks for up-sell and cross-sell opportunities.
A well processed life cycle yields better customer profitability, loyalty and organization credibility, which can open new scopes of business.
Major CRM players
Software giants like SAP and Oracle are major players of CRM products in the market. However, there are multiple mid sized vendors which natively develop CRM compliant products. Salesforce.com has emerged as one of the growing product vendor amongst its contemporaries. To stay in competition and rejuvenate the innovation, big enterprises often acquire small vendors. Some of the major acquisitions in recent years were done by Oracle – RightNow (2011) and SAP – SuccessFactors (2011). Open source CRM products like Sugar CRM, XRMS, Vtiger, and OpenCRX are also gaining popularity which validates to the need of CRM in the market.
1. Customer Relationship Management by Francis Buttle [ISBN 978-1856175227]
2. The CRM Handbook: A Business Guide to Customer Relationship Management by Jill Dyché [ISBN 978-0201730623]
3. Oracle CRM On Demand Reporting (Oracle Press) by Michael D. Lairson [ISBN 978-0071593045]
You can find all the upcoming programs for CRM