Finding Diamonds in the Rough

At the Frost & Sullivan Sales & Marketing Executive Summit, I moderated the SuperPowers of CRM panel and asked the panelists, Do companies that use CRM have a distinct advantage over companies that don't use CRM in uncovering who their most valuable customers are and then retaining them? Brett Queener, vice president, field operations, Salesforce.com: Those that understand whom they're actually selling to [will have an advantage] over those that don't--whether they have a complex lifetime-value model or not. It's the equivalent of turning all the lights off in my house and deciding to walk across my kid's room with toys across the [floor] and expecting not to stub my toe. So, let's turn the dimmer back on, [because] those that actually use CRM are obviously going to have a distinct advantage over those that don't. Companies that focus on customer satisfaction or have initiatives focused on customer satisfaction, their return on assets and return on equity are about two to three times [those of their] peers that have very low quality. Barbry McGann, vice president of product management, PeopleSoft Enterprise CRM, PeopleSoft:
There's a strong caveat: If you don't have a strategy and clear business objectives in front of that [CRM strategy], then a CRM solution is not going to help you. It is a tool and a mechanism to help you differentiate in the marketplace and, if you've set a clear strategy, it can be a very powerful tool. It's important that people look at CRM not as a transactional system--it isn't just to get leads in, it's not just to get opportunities in--it's a strategic solution to help you grow your business. Jeff Pulver, vice president, worldwide marketing, Siebel Systems: A lot of people are using a CRM system, but they're not necessarily reaping the benefits. So make it a company strategy or a strategy within the business unit you're in and invest in making sure the data quality is right. Make sure that the data that's going in is high quality, so you're actually able to analyze customers. The insights can be dramatic, like being able to truly understand which customers are most profitable, truly understand their buying habits, and being able to be proactive about how you service those customers or how you market to those customers. When you see a company that has this working well, the results you can get are pretty dramatic. Robb Ecklund, vice president, CRM product marketing, Oracle: CRM has more value and is more important to an organization as a strategy than as a product that any of us sell. And if you take that approach, CRM is not just something that's occurring in sales and marketing and service, it's something that's occurring in every part of your company: fulfillment, accounts receivable. And being able to coordinate customer information across all the business, to take the customer's perspective in business processes is what's going to put you ahead of the game. Jon Wurfl, director, global CRM communications, SAP AG: The company that practices CRM [as a strategy] will be superior. But if you just talk about the technology by itself, it will not be an enabler of what you're trying to get to, which is creating a customer experience that's memorable, that keeps them coming back for more.
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