Weathering Troubled Times
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As I write this column in March, the economic outlook is looking increasingly gloomy. In recent weeks at several CRM-oriented trade shows and user conferences, attendance has been light and the talk has been about slowing corporate investment in IT.

You're probably reading this magazine in late April or early May. As unpredictable as the economy has been the last few months, it's entirely possible that in the ensuing six weeks things may have turned around and everything I write here will seem irrelevant.

We should all be so lucky.

Probably, though, most of you are still finding it considerably harder to get a CRM project funded than it was a year ago.

While that may stall some large-scale projects, CRM professionals suggest that there are some strategies that can keep your customer relationship initiative moving forward:

Consider a hosted solution. While horribly overhyped last year, the ASP alternative (an acronym that's understandably losing favor) is looking a lot more attractive now because of lower cost of entry and quicker ROI. It's more important than ever to choose the right host and get the right deal, but there are solid and reputable hosted solutions out there.

Pick your battles. While soup-to-nuts CRM is expensive, time consuming and hard to cost-justify in tough economic times, limited, best-of-breed solutions to specific problems often offer relatively short implementation times and much more quantifiable returns. Look to a hosted solution for a specific customer-facing function like e-mail marketing, and you can get a lot of bang for your buck.

Get the most out of what you've already got. Most companies still aren't getting as much as they should out of existing CRM systems. Now's not the time to skimp on training. And think about adjusting employee compensation to encourage continued great
customer service.

Visit our Web site, destinationCRM.com, for up-to-date information on how the CRM industry is responding to economic fluctuations, and share your war stories with fellow users.

Larry Tuck, Editor

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