What's Hot in CRM

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The CRM industry has been hotter than an August day in Arizona, and the recent DCI CRM Conference & Expo was overflowing with industry buzz. From the standing-room-only demos at the Microsoft CRM booth to the banter at the panel on trends in mid-market CRM, the show offered a plethora of news, advice, and trends. Addressing a packed house, Phillip Kotler, Ph.D., professor of international marketing at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, began his keynote by declaring that there is a need for more marketing accountability and precision. "Marketers have been negligent by not being financial," he said. He suggested that companies appoint someone from accounting to be a "marketing comptroller," responsible for reviewing marketing budgets and expenses. With today's strategies and technology tools, he added, there is no reason to accept the abysmal direct mail response rates and new-product failure rates of the past. "We need to move to targeting the right customer at the right time with the right message and the right offer," he said. By taking this approach companies can maximize customer relationships, Kotler said. He advised attendees to use what he has dubbed precision marketing: "building a customer-centric organization and aligning hardware, software, and analytics to run the marketing process." "If your company is not customer-centric, you'll lose to the companies that are," he warned. Speaker Mark Ambrose, chief architect of CitiCards, discussed understanding customers and customer value as a way to achieve customer centricity. "You need to understand the perception of the individual," he said. "The difference between value-added and intrusive is the customer's, not the company's." Companies also need to understand total customer value, he said. Total customer value should include each customer's current value; their future value, including a decline in value if they're in a segment that has a propensity to leave; and associated value, such as whether their family members are also customers. "Total customer value is at the heart of CRM," Ambrose said. "The promise of CRM is to help keep the balance between business value and customer value." To deliver better value to its customers and to break down the silos between such systems as sales and billing, Cable & Wireless implemented Siebel Systems, said Kunal Malik, director, business systems. "The delay between systems is time, money, and customer satisfaction," Malik said. "These systems are now integrated through Siebel, and the entire organization can now see all the data." This allows Cable & Wireless to have one company-wide, quote-to-case process, he said. What's more, Malik said, such tools as decision trees and business rules allow for less training time and more selling time. This is also the case in the Cable & Wireless call center, where a Siebel/CTI implementation provides screen pops to agents that give them the ability to spend less time on finding out who the customer is, and more time solving their problem. These benefits, and the cost savings of maintaining only one CRM system, has delivered "excellent ROI," Malik said. Return on investment was of course a recurring theme throughout the conference, including a keynote panel discussion on the mid-market. Speakers Robb Eklund, vice president of CRM product marketing for Oracle, Bill Parsons, vice president of CRM sales for PeopleSoft, Zach Nelson, CEO of NetLedger, and Mike Doyle, chairman and CEO of Salesnet, agreed that success in the form of ROI means different things to every company. But there are common ways to get ROI, they said. While Nelson suggested looking for ease-of-implementation and starting with a controlled pilot, Doyle advised attendees to work equally toward achieving costs savings and revenue growth. Parsons added that to get a full picture of ROI, companies should look at it across the enterprise, for example, CRM and supply chain together. "You can generate ROI from any part of a CRM solution," he said. "It all goes back to internal discovery." Eklund added that to get ROI, "decide what you need before you talk to vendors." And be sure to "hold those vendors accountable for your success," Parsons added. Referring to the old story that the Boston road system is so bad because there was no planning (the city just paved the cow paths to make roads), Nelson said, "Don't just pave the cow paths. Look at what is the ideal process and then automate that process."
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