CRM suite vendors have been speedily building out their applications to provide all customer facing functionality for companies that are turning more customer centric. Some of the accomplishments over the last 12 months or so include increased functionality in field service, wireless capability, web enabling the suite, and multi-channel personalization. The marketing application and analytics has been a focus for many vendors as SAP has strengthened its Business Warehouse, Siebel has invested heavily in Siebel Marketing 7, PeopleSoft has acquired Annuncio, and Oracle has started rolling out various analytical applications under the Oracle Intelligence branding.
In parallel, the Internet vendors have been quickly developing enterprise scalability and platform functionality. Personalization, document management, inter-company communications, portal platforms, and e-mail capabilities are just some of the features that are starting to truly come of age. Companies like Oracle, BEA, ATG, and IBM have developed sophisticated Internet platforms that allow developers to create reusable applications and display personalized content. Content Management vendors like Documentum, are allowing us to finally leverage non-traditional formats like text, Web content, e-mails, and other documents just like we do with structured information.
CRM and Internet platforms need each other badly. What are the integration issues?
To perform personalization, the portal platforms need access to key customer profiles. The CRM applications will typically, though not always, have a much richer set of customer information than the Web channel. Organizations must build a central customer information repository that combines the best information from the off-line and on-line channels. This information must be combined with analytical information from the data warehouse and marketing automation systems. Sample information could be promotion history and possible promotions to offer as well as customer value scores and algorithms.
To really understand and manage content for customer facing activities, the investment in content management must increase in the off-line channels. Providing one repository for call center scripts, sales pitches and proposals, marketing presentations, reports and analytics, marketing creative, web content and competitive information. Having one repository that houses, indexes, and categorizes all of your content will enable your company to have a single view of the materials available to it, just like a data warehouse provides a single view of a company's structured information like revenue or profitability.
To provide a 360 degree of customer contacts, the Web must be included. This means when a customer calls customer service, that representative must be able to view past interactions at the call center but also web site activity like what they looked at, what transactions took place, and what e-mails were received and sent.
Finally, the combination of normal CRM information with Web behavior needs be combined. Web analytics gives us a rich understanding of behavior that off-line data is hard pressed to provide. Web analytics application vendors have matured but most importantly, business analysts have a much firmer grip on what they are looking for. Web Analytics is ready to be an important part of the equation.
Many IT departments have one group of developers for their Internet platform and one group for their off-line CRM operations. Many times marketing is divided the same way. As companies move to their next phase of CRM, the true use of the Internet for CRM will become apparent as well as the synergy and integration between the Internet and traditional CRM applications.
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