Businesses thrive on customers, and in today's turbulent economy, maintaining good customer relationships is integral to a company's success. A slumping economy causes businesses to curb spending-making retaining and gaining new customers a challenge. That's why organizations need to look at their business from a customer's perspective.
Successful companies put the customer at the center of their business. They strive to become fully customer-driven organizations and deliver superior customer value, tailoring offerings and services in response to customer needs. They build long-term relationships and recognize that it is more profitable to retain existing customers than continuously invest in new business. Essentially, this is the driving purpose and primary business benefit offered by customer relationship management (CRM) tools.
Now, many small-to-midsize enterprises (SMEs) have taken notice. The rise in sales of CRM technology to SMEs means that CRM is no longer the domain of large companies. According to "The Customer Management Market Sizing Report, 2007-2012," AMR Research projects a market size of more than $22 billion in 2012, up from $14 billion in 2007. As demand for CRM solutions grows, SMEs will make up a greater percentage of this market as they realize the challenge of finding a CRM solution that does not drain business resources.
A single source of truth
Successful companies realize that integration along the entire process chain is the only way improvements such as sales efficiency and marketing effectiveness can be made-creating a lasting competitive advantage and simply closing more deals.
Working with various individual systems that do not easily integrate with other solutions often results in poor information quality based on data that is duplicated, conflicting or missing. By integrating CRM with the existing business processes and back-office systems, companies can plan and execute while making decisions based upon a single, reliable source of information. The solution should help drive integrated end-to-end business processes, from creating a business opportunity and developing an offering, to pricing and delivery. Entire business processes need to be customer-driven, seamlessly connected to other critical business functions, and designed to meet customer expectations regarding quality, speed, convenience, and reliability.
Dedicated to demands of midsize companies
SMEs require CRM solutions that address their specific needs and are easy and fast to adopt, increase productivity immediately and reduce technological and business risks. In order to retain existing customers and forge new relationships, SMEs need the right CRM technology to help them scale their core competencies to their overall growth. They require processes that help them to capitalize on customer insight, improve front-line efficiency and effectiveness, streamline critical business processes across customer touch points, and quickly adapt to changing business and customer needs.
An integrated CRM solution that is specifically dedicated to the demands of midsize organizations can solve many of the typical challenges companies face. It also delivers a quick return on investment while increasing profitability through fast implementation achieved through a high degree of pre-configuration, ease of use, flexibility as well as low total cost of ownership. A modular concept also allows companies to easily assemble their solution and implement what they need when they need it-without disruption to their daily work.
Supporting a flexible workforce
SMEs face fierce competition due to globalization that is forcing improvements in overall efficiency. As they often lack the financial and professional resources of larger competitors, getting the proper customer information to the right employees at the right time is a key challenge. As SMEs increasingly have customers, subsidiaries, and vendors located worldwide, they must integrate key people and resources-when they need them.
CRM technology can improve responsiveness and make relevant customer experiences possible by automating processes, alerting managers to problem areas and reducing manual work. When all service operations are integrated, a company's resources can be optimally utilized to address the customers' needs in order to offer profitable products as well as acquire and retain lucrative relationships.
CRM that works the way midsize companies do
SMEs consistently seek flexible solutions that support growth and can adapt as needed. These solutions must be scalable to accommodate future changes to the business model and allow for implementation in a phased manner to ensure minimal disruption to the current business. A modular solution concept allows them to easily assemble their solutions while they develop their IT according to specific market requirements.
Solutions that include pre-configured processes developed for specific industries help to shorten the implementation process and reduce the amount of adaptation needed. Thus, industry-specific processes are another key requirement for SMEs.
CRM's expanding horizon
As SMEs continue to grow, yet lack the integrated technology to support this growth, CRM solutions will increasingly become crucial to a company's ability to keep its business operating efficiently and profitably. CRM tools that are dedicated to the demands of midsize enterprises, easy to use, and integrated with an enterprise resource planning (ERP) solution allow SMEs to grow while remaining flexible and maintaining close customer relationships. Overall, CRM is about transforming businesses into truly customer-driven, synergistic ecosystems with employees, customers, and partners that consistently promotes customer value.
About the Author
Robert Vetter is the senior vice president of SME business development at SAP AG. For information, visit www.sap.com.
Please note that the Viewpoints listed in CRM magazine and appearing on destinationCRM.com represent the perspective of the authors, and not necessarily those of the magazine or its editors. If you would like to submit a Viewpoint for consideration on a topic related to customer relationship management, please email viewpoints@destinationCRM.com.