For companies embarking on a CRM project, it's best to have strong leadership and clear metrics from the beginning, says DMR Consulting, a Fujitsu company. It's also smart to integrate CRM across sales, marketing and customer service rather than just one or two of these functions -- companies that tackle CRM across all three functions will sell more to current customers and create new revenue streams.

At least these were the key findings in a report by DMR Consulting, whose results were released this week. DMR Consulting surveyed mostly IT directors and CIOs in nearly 220 companies, ranging from manufacturing to financial services and government.

Every respondent who implemented a cross-functional CRM solution reported at least some success. Such encompassing projects are difficult to manage, and thus companies should put a single person in charge of CRM initiatives -- also called a "CRM czar" -- DMR advises. Companies with a CRM czar are often further advanced in developing an enterprise-wide technology architecture; however, only 34 percent of respondents reported having a CRM czar in charge of their CRM activities.

Despite signs of success, many respondents also complained about the lack of measurable returns on their CRM investments. The problem, though, is that few companies have a metrics system in place: Fifty-six percent of companies said they had no CRM metrics in place, while 22 percent had only some metrics.

"Understanding whether you are actually achieving the measurable benefits you targeted when planning your CRM program enables you to make informed, proactive changes to that program over time," said David Yamashita, CRM practice director at DMR Consulting, in a statement. "If an organization truly wants to take a strategic approach to CRM, it will develop a set of strong metrics when planning the CRM program."

It's also important for companies to adopt a customer-centric view -- that is, companies should have a history of understanding customers and of creating consistent customer-experiences across all functions, divisions and communication channels. Simply buying and implementing CRM software doesn't cut it, says DMR Consulting. Companies with a customer-centric culture met 71 percent of their CRM implementation goals, while non-customer-centric companies met only 53 percent of their stated goals.

Tom Kaneshige also writes for

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