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Tighten the focus on enhancing the customer experience for business and consumer customers alike, as opposed to continually trying to attract new customers. That includes examining and, if need be, upgrading contact center and self-service tools including IVR and Web sites.

CRM Software

Can Your CRM Evolve as Fast as Your Customers? (Part 10b)

Also consider adding automated outbound notifications. This may also mean connecting existing on-premise ERP applications such as financials, purchasing and supply chain. This will further tighten    integration and expand access to available customer and operations data.

Mobile is becoming the customers’ preferred communications means for multiple channels. Mobile-enable CRM applications and external and internal Web sites to serve customers and workforces using these devices, ensuring that mobile applications are connected into the contact center for seamless transition from channel to channel.

Build in and integrate with CRM real-time social media tracking, analysis    and reporting. Add to this collaboration (contact management, surveys and activity charts) and marketing tools such as e-mail, profiles and mobile applications.  Turbocharge customer referral value by accounting for customers’ influence with others via social media, and give this metric greater weight in assessing customers’ total lifetime value.

Applying BI and predictive analytics to data in real time is important to    knowledge discovery about the customer while supporting marketing, sales and customer service operations. Mining data provided by analytics, applying mathematical models to it, and building targeted marketing initiatives with it helps connect the business manager to the needs of their customer. The benefit for the marketer is to see response rates climb as a   result of marketing initiatives and to help validate the ROI from the CRM system in the process.

The challenge to midsize businesses is clear: you need to adjust your CRM strategy to market, sell to and service customers on their terms, consistently, across all channels. But how? Every company will be different, but there is a set of critical points you must consider when evaluating a new approach to your CRM planning:

CRM Software

Can Your CRM Evolve as Fast as Your Customers? (Part 10a)

The challenge to midsize businesses is clear: you need to adjust your CRM strategy to market, sell to and service customers on their terms, consistently, across all channels. But how? Every company will be different, but there is a set of critical points you must consider when evaluating a new approach to your CRM planning:

Examine the goals you are trying to reach. Understand what CRM is and the business functions this software and others that support it, including analytics, data integration and collaboration are intended to enable. See what specific objectives these tools can meet, how long they will take to get there and at what costs, and determine the returns.

Seek out and get buy-in from the very outset with all stakeholders: senior    management, marketing, sales, customer service/contact center and IT. Find out their pain points with the firm’s existing sales and customer care processes. Discover their thoughts and suggestions for solutions: what they want to see and avoid. Ask their opinions of and uncover any    reservations they have about CRM and other related tools in order to deal head-on with any strongly held views they may have on this technology— traditional CRM has earned a bad reputation.  The IT department can be an important ally during this process. They can help senior leadership to better understand the technology requirements on the infrastructure in order to deploy and maintain a CRM platform such as modularity and open-sourced software.


CRM is about knowing customers and meeting their specific needs to gain their patronage and loyalty, as well as new customer referrals.

CRM Software

Can Your CRM Evolve as Fast as Your Customers? (Part 9b)

It is treating all customers well and exceptional customers exceptionally well, with a level of service that ensures profitability. Midsize firms can leverage this smarter approach to CRM to combine the best attributes of a large enterprise and a small business. Today they can have at their fingertips the insights needed to provide the high-quality experiences that today’s customers are demanding—and to do it profitably.

The smarter approach to CRM is a powerful customer engagement methodology for midsize businesses looking to build customer loyalty and gain market share, particularly in a slow economy. As a manager in a midsize business, take a close look at the goals you are trying to reach. Do you have actionable data to know and service your customer better? Have you considered a mobile strategy? Are your contact center agents able to collaborate seamlessly, and are your marketing programs automated based on real-time data?  If these types of questions are top of mind, it may be time to reexamine your customer engagement strategy and  see if a smarter approach to CRM would help you address these and other questions.

Continued in Part 10

 

In today’s economy, it is difficult to simply employ intuition and assumptions when trying to maximize the customer relationship. Data is required for informed and better decision making, but only if it is integrated and not locked into silos. For midsize businesses, gaining new customers and maximizing the value of existing customers are paramount. How you go about this is the challenge.

CRM Software

Can Your CRM Evolve as Fast as Your Customers? (Part 9a)

CRM lets companies use data mining strategies and segmentation analysis to identify patterns in customer behaviors. Marketers with CRM are empowered and able to identify habits and anticipate future purchasing needs. Customer service agents are able to qualify a lead instantly and to proactively make recommendations regarding purchases. At the same time, checking data against address-correction databases, opt-out suppression files and do-not-call registries ensures the right customers are reached—and on their terms. The power of information generates results, moving a company from reactive to proactive decisions.

CRM solutions have been developed and deployed with the best of intentions: to help firms make more profitable sales and service decisions. Unfortunately, in some implementations the solutions over-promised and under delivered on the results, at high costs and with long lead times. These traditional CRM tools are outmoded in today’s dynamic, real-time global digital business environment. However, midsize firms now have the opportunity to take control by embracing and integrating advanced technology when deploying their CRM solutions.  Modularity, cloud delivery and mobile enablement, coupled with analytics, data integration, collaboration and social media capabilities, ensure substantial benefits, reasonable costs and quick implementations that provide a bankable ROI.

Customer service enhancement, in the contact center and online, reinforces the benefits of this smarter approach to CRM with customers while enabling improved productivity. In addition, the smarter approach to CRM can deliver midsize companies other business value, including:

  • The ability to understand and take advantage of the rich data the    companies possess
  • New insights into their customers, giving the company competitive advantages
  • The agility to meet the demands of the customer to collaborate when and how they feel most comfortable engaging with the company.

Continued in Part 9b

 

Enterprises have also taken the lead on social media, in part because of greater customer brand awareness and consequently their focus on projecting and protecting it. Midsize companies are behind them as they are still trying to figure out this channel.

CRM Software

Can Your CRM Evolve as Fast as Your Customers? (Part 8b)

Contact centers are key conduits for customer interactions in both B2C and B2B environments. They may represent the only opportunity for customers to interface with companies. Customers’ impressions of firms are often shaped by their experiences with self-service tools and live agents. Unfortunately, many companies often neglect their contact centers, treating them as cost centers rather than as strategic assets.  To an extent, this is understandable: these operations are costly. Then again, losing dissatisfied customers is also expensive.

To lower costs, most firms have deployed IVR systems to divert customers from interacting with live agents, but too often these installations have been made with little regard to customer usability—with complex, hierarchical menu structures.  Customers often experience long queues before reaching agents, as well as delays while agents toggle between apps. Often, information entered into the automated IVR must be repeated. Agents themselves may be poorly selected, trained and coached.

The ROI is there from contact center investments to address these issues and deliver a better customer-retaining-and-attracting customer experience. They enable the smarter approach to CRM by improving the customer experience while enhancing productivity. IVR improvements (including deploying speech recognition applications) encourage customers to stay in the automated channel. Web chat, when deployed properly, can provide highly personable and productive service. With it, an agent can handle multiple interactions at the same time. Skills-based routing to well-trained and managed agents permits high-quality, individualized service, while workforce management tools enable managers to efficiently schedule these employees. Agent performance optimization (APO) tools shorten calls, lower costs, and, more importantly, improve the overall customer experience, bolstering customer satisfaction and retention. Automated outbound notification tools give customers insight into important changes like fraud alerts or service delays.

Continued in Part 9

 

Improved CRM techniques enable business leaders to mine data for customer insights and present appealing offers in real time.

CRM Software

Can Your CRM Evolve as Fast  as Your Customers? (Part 8a)

In today’s economic environment, there are no new, big untapped markets of affluent consumers, businesses, governments or institutions. Consequently, business managers have to find ways to grab bigger wallet share from current customers—while they retain those customers—and/or go after competitors’ customers or expand into markets in other countries. Improved CRM techniques enable business leaders to mine data for customer insights and present appealing offers in real time.

Whereas many business leaders are working with their IT counterparts in midsize companies to consider embracing Cloud CRM solutions, overall they have been lagging behind small companies and enterprises in their current use of them. Moreover, the adoption of CRM solutions has been lower on their priority lists than data storage or database management applications. While enterprises have embraced CRM for B2B and B2C, midsize outfits have largely employed CRM solutions as B2B sales force automation applications. The chief reasons are their cost and complexity. Consumer-based CRM applications require high contact-center functionality, spread out over many more users (agents and supervisors), in order to interact with customers over multiple live and self-service inbound and outbound channels.


Continued in Part 8b

 

A smarter approach is one that seeks to resolve functional gaps in a company’s operational performance. It is an approach that focuses on customer-centric processes, including improved contact center, IVR and Web self-service; customerpermitted, proactive, outbound, multichannel notification; and, where there is an advantage to be gained, multiple language support.

CRM Software

Can Your CRM Evolve as Fast as Your Customers? (Part 7b)

It also incorporates marketing, scripting and localization to serve global customers, with procedures for data collection and use. It identifies and targets specific metrics of performance so that the potential benefits of improved efficiency, productivity, and greater revenue can be projected as part of the justification for CRM. Lastly, it entails integration with other vital processes, including accounts receivable/billing/collections, ERP and shipping/receiving (i.e., supply chain management) to help serve, support, attract and keep customers from end to end.

The case for a smarter approach to CRM is not just about a return on investment (ROI) or a payback analysis; it is also about the opportunity costs of not implementing an effective CRM solution. For the marketing manager, how long can poor response rates to marketing initiatives be justified? For the customer service manager, how can conversion ratios be improved and call handling times be reduced in a tough economy? Companies seeking more functionality from their

current management systems can make the case for a CRM platform that can help close these functional and ROI gaps while expanding on performance capabilities.

The global economy is in slow or no-growth mode. The International Monetary Fund’s World Economic Outlook predicts a lower than three percent rise in U.S. output through 2013. The European, Japanese and Canadian economies will also experience sluggish growth. The IMF warns of inflation risks and increased financial volatility in this environment.  The world, and businesses, still look to the U.S. for growth.

Continued in Part 8

 

Modularity and open source. As the IT teams in midsize firms are investigating and buying Cloud-deployed CRM solutions, they are purchasing those tools and others like analytics that have modular or service-oriented architectures (SOA). They can then source pieces such as contact or order management as needed.

CRM Software

Can Your CRM Evolve as Fast as  Your Customers? (Part 7a)

Modularity and open source. As the IT teams in midsize firms are investigating and buying Cloud-deployed CRM solutions, they are purchasing those tools and others like analytics that have modular or service-oriented architectures (SOA). They can then source pieces such as contact or order management as needed. Modularity can save time, enables realized benefits and ROI sooner and spreads resources over a longer period than “lump sum” traditional CRM designs. Firms are also acquiring solutions written in open source software. Open source software gives developers and IT teams access to the core or kernel code, permitting them to rapidly and less expensively create customized applications. In contrast, proprietary software is “locked,” which means some companies may have to adapt—at great expense—their existing applications around it. In software, few apps are more entrenched (and interdependent with other systems) than CRM.

The changing customer, the implications for CRM and CRM trends have combined to make the case for a smarter approach to CRM: a menu of best practice methods and solutions, designed to work together. On it are Cloud-delivered, modular, open and mobile-enabled CRM, social media monitoring, filtering and analytics, data integration, BI including predictive analytics, data warehousing, marketing automation and collaboration applications. While traditional and many newer CRM solutions have these other tools built in, these wares may not be suitable for individual companies’ specific requirements.

A smarter approach is one that seeks to resolve functional gaps in a company’s operational performance. It is an approach that focuses on customer-centric processes, including improved contact center, IVR and Web self-service; customerpermitted, proactive, outbound, multichannel notification; and, where there is an advantage to be gained, multiple language support.

Continued in Part 7b

 

The constraints imposed on CRM by the changing customer have resulted in clear trends in the development of the software and in how midsize businesses use it.  Marketers, as well as sales and customer service managers need to adjust their operations based on these trends.

CRM Software

Can Your CRM Evolve as Fast as Your Customers? (Part 5b)

The constraints imposed on CRM by the changing customer have resulted in clear trends in the development of the software and in how midsize businesses use it.  Marketers, as well as sales and customer service managers need to adjust their operations based on these trends. They are making better decisions: no longer is it appropriate to rely on assumptions when data can be leveraged. They are focusing on the customer experience in order to grow business with existing customers and attract new ones. This strategy is far less expensive than traditional, aggressive customer acquisition programs, and is more effective in meeting customers’ requirements for personalized and immediate service. Social media has also turned customers’ referrals that are based on their positive experiences into a prime business development tool. And midsize companies are looking at cost effective ways to deliver the software and services that will help them achieve these growth strategies.

Many midsize companies are planning to implement hosted Cloud–delivered CRM solutions. Cloud applications typically rest on outsourced infrastructure or infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS).  This method can reduce capital, as well as IT and related facilities expenses. IT expenses may be reduced because required applications can be built on the outsourced platform and upgraded as needed—and at lower cost compared to on-premise hardware and software. And facilities expenses are reduced because deployment is expedited from an off-premise infrastructure. This gives firms greater flexibility in meeting changing customer demands without incurring added installation costs or wasting money on overbuying capacity. 

Continued in Part 6

 

In today’s tough economic environment, business managers have to be more bottom-line focused than ever before. Every investment is being carefully scrutinized to see if it maximizes value and if returns are justified.

CRM Software

Can Your CRM Evolve as Fast as Your Customers? (Part 5a)

In today’s tough economic environment, business managers have to be more bottom-line focused than ever before. Every investment is being carefully scrutinized to see if it maximizes value and if returns are justified. CRM solutions are under the microscope. Many companies still remember older CRM solutions that were rolled out in the late 1990s and which were one-size-fits-all packages that required extensive integration and customization. The traditional solutions could cost as much as $1,500 to $2,000 per seat with deployment taking two to three years, and a return on investment (ROI) in as long as three to five years. Sometimes the problems that the CRM solutions were intended to fix had disappeared by the time these old-school systems went live.

That kind of time frame is just too long to deal with today’s information-rich, empowered customers. Companies serving the ever-changing customer should avoid large, stand alone CRM packages with long lead times and costly integrations that are difficult for managers and other staff to use. Instead, they need products that are modular, scalable, and user friendly, with open architectures to protect their investments. The systems must incorporate the mobile and social behaviors of customers in the marketplace as well, or risk being irrelevant to customer needs.  If these conditions are not met, companies will be hard pressed to deliver on the expectations of the customer.

What midsize companies need to realize is a simple truth: the customer is in charge. The companies they choose to do business with have no choice but to pay attention to customers’ desires and needs by delivering the goods and services the way they want, at the price point and service quality they expect.  Advanced CRM solutions and execution strategies can help companies’ business managers meet these demands

Continued in Part 5b

 

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