An industry analyst speaks out on breathing life back into sluggish customer relationship efforts.
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Upgrading, simplifying, using analytics, adding marketing and sales effectiveness, and making systems mobile are the top-five ways to get more out of CRM systems, according to Sheryl Kingstone, an analyst at The Yankee Group.
Kingstone, speaking at the recent DCI conference in Chicago, said CRM software is in the middle of a significant evolutionary shift, similar to the mainframe to client/server shift in computers, providing many companies with the impetus to upgrade their CRM systems.
"The new CRM is more dynamic as companies focus more on external customer and partner management," Kingstone said. "This implies that the business process drives an interaction and can change by leveraging both external and internal data, including real-time and historical [information]."
However, Kingstone cautions that customer-centric CRM isn't possible without J2EE, Web services, XML, and other standards that improve sales effectiveness, customer interaction, and the end-user experience.
CRM systems can enable companies to harness the power of their data collection, investments in technology, and changes in process for improved business performance and customer-centricity, Kingstone added. But older CRM systems very often neglect valuable resources within the company. For example, some older CRM systems don't have the ability to include email information (e.g., customer complaints).
"The ugly secret about CRM systems is that critical data is often still locked away," Kingstone said, "so investments in a [complete] view of the customer haven't increased efficiency." That information needs to be unlocked to provide the most effective sales and marketing campaigns, according to Kingstone.
Another checklist item to consider when revitalizing your CRM system is to simplify it by eliminating clicks or other unnecessary complexity to increase end-user access to the system. Simplification also means extending the system across the enterprise, which will also increase the use and the benefits the company can gain from the system.
Yet to get full effectiveness from CRM programs, Kingstone recommended that companies extend the technology out to mobile devices. That means more than just enabling a manager to access the application with a laptop or PC when he's on the road, Kingstone said. It also means making the application accessible on tablet PCs and smaller handheld devices.
In turn, that requires the use of mobile CRM applications that strip out unnecessary detail and complexity, according to Kingstone, so the user can access the information he needs without excessive bandwidth or screen space requirements.
"View mobility as a necessary incremental expense within the overall proj-ect," Kingstone said. "Ideal solutions will allow remote access to information from multiple applications. A mobile platform is critical to success."
Kingstone also recommended that companies develop solutions based on the end user, rather than on management needs.
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