Friday, April 8, 2011

The Benefits of CRM

CRM, or Customer Relationship Management, as a technology solution and application is not simply a product to be purchased with associated benefits enjoyed. CRM, in this light, is a business system that integrates and enhances a customer centric business plan of a given organization. A precursor to gaining a quality CRM application is the complete understanding of HOW the organization operates and interacts with customers. Most businesses have a clear picture of how they are supposed to run, but with a complete process review (the initial stage of any successful CRM implementation) often shows that the “what is” is separated from the “what was intended.” In many instances, this helps companies realign themselves or see better ways of accomplishing goals. Either way, productivity increases and management gets a better view of the actual corporate operations and a 360 degree view of the customer relationship.

The second affect of a quality CRM application is realized as a result of the automation of each business process; creating a series of benefits, which include the integration of systems that are immune from system deviation. The workflow processes are all dependant upon earlier stage input in order to function correctly. This makes sure that all activities add value, each process is complete, necessary steps are not skipped and the end result is consistently accomplished. For instance, in the case of a customer request for information – the request itself starts a CRM process, which must result in an action (in this case an acknowledgement and response). This action can then escalate to a supervisor based on a subsequent or downstream stimulus (such as if no response is given within a pre-designated time.)  As this type of process can occur in an automated and measurable fashion, the customer request is not ignored, or if ignored can continue up the supervisory chain until action is taken. In the case of a sales inquiry, appropriate notices and commands would go to appropriate functionaries in the proper departments. The bottom line in this instance is that nothing started can end without a defined resolution. All sales inquiries are responded to and sales managers are involved automatically. If an existing customer (i.e. one of a stand-alone electric generator company) places an order for a part, or needs their work redone, not only is the appropriate sales representative notified, but his or her supervisor, the parts manager, the permit department, and the accounting department are all notified and the appropriate forms and approvals generated. Everyone who is supposed to be involved in whatever process is required becomes notified and, held responsible for their own actions and contribution to the process. If any process member fails to do their job, the system stops and the appropriate executive is alerted with relevant information.

Simply put, a company using a quality CRM solution has clearly defined workflow processes and message consistency. It has defined business rules, key metrics and customer value drivers. These benefits significantly improve productivity and, with the CRM solution’s reporting capabilities, provide real-time visibility across the process lifecycles.

Everyone involved, from the customer to the CEO, gains from a shared understanding of what their roles are, what is expected of them, what they can expect from the business and how it will all be accomplished. This results in increased customer retention through higher customer satisfaction levels, increased efficiencies through enhanced operation analysis, lower employee turnover from better defined responsibilities and job satisfaction, and lowered operating costs as the need for support staff is lowered and operating redundancies are eliminated.

Thanks to the CRM Guy for this article