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E-Lectrifying Customer Relationships
By now it is clear that e-commerce is rapidly changing the landscape of business. But after all the new systems are up and running, how is e-commerce truly affecting your customer relationships and the efforts of your marketing and sales teams? Also, how can your organization capitalize on its e-commerce investment and improve customer service? By defining how to leverage and manage an e-CRM strategy, the answers will become clear.
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By now it is clear that e-commerce is rapidly changing the landscape of business. But after all the new systems are up and running, how is e-commerce truly affecting your customer relationships and the efforts of your marketing and sales teams? Also, how can your organization capitalize on its e-commerce investment and improve customer service? By defining how to leverage and manage an e-CRM strategy, the answers will become clear.

strategies If You Please

E-CRM, the integration of CRM (customer relationship management) with e-commerce, offers a new channel for conducting sales and marketing efforts and maintaining customer relationships-on the World Wide Web. But simply opting to implement an e-commerce solution does not guarantee improved customer relations. To achieve this goal, a company must thoroughly plan the execution of its e-commerce strategy with the ultimate goal of enhancing customer relationships in mind and continually monitor the technology through a set of pre-defined measures to see if that goal is being achieved.

Though an effective e-CRM strategy may incorporate several delivery methods, two of particular importance are the Business-to-Consumer (B2C) model and the Business-to-Business (B2B) model. B2C provides a link from an organization directly to the consumer through online sales. Customers obtain instant gratification by having access to product information without ever having to leave their living rooms. B2B, on the other hand, is the automation of a company's entire commerce cycle. According to a recent report from the Yankee Group, that cycle includes awareness, product research, comparison, selection, supplier sourcing, transactions, fulfillment and post-sales support. Though one step removed from customer interaction, the B2B e-commerce model can also beneficially impact CRM by comprehensively streamlining business processes. Developing, implementing and maintaining an e-CRM strategy based on the B2C and/or B2B models can yield reduced administrative costs, more efficient marketing campaigns, increased customer responsiveness and increased selling time.

Marketing Manna

An effective e-CRM strategy impacts both sales and marketing efforts. With the advent of e-commerce (aided by e-mail) marketing organizations can develop and manage direct mail campaigns much more efficiently. Delivery of a direct mail piece to a prospect list, using e-mail, can be done in the morning, with follow-up that afternoon. Use of e-commerce inquiry referral capabilities increases the number of qualified leads an inside or direct sales organization will receive. Significant efficiencies are then realized through the elimination of those not interested in a firm's products and services. To the degree that prospects are able to acquire relevant information online on a given product, less time is spent by the sales and service organization answering questions. The result will be a significant increase in selling time. Given the real-time availability of information, prospects and/or customers will perceive the company as being more responsive to their needs. In many cases, instead of calling, leaving the question and waiting for the answer, prospects can get answers to their questions immediately

Following Up
The potential benefits of a well-planned e-CRM strategy are considerable, but only if the strategy is implemented and maintained. Once a company has e-commerce systems up and functioning, Web sites must be aggressively monitored, users must not be neglected, and customer information must be followed up on quickly in order for the company to realize the benefits of its e-commerce investment. Companies should have data monitoring, gathering and disseminating procedures in place prior to setting up their Web sites to facilitate this process. If these proper procedures are followed and maintained, then it is very likely an e-commerce solution will strengthen and streamline a company's customer service capability, thereby directly enhancing CRM.

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