Real-Time CRM: A Business Revolution in the Making

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CRM tools and techniques have been around for two decades. They have been successfully applied within all kinds of organizations to help improve customer-facing business processes and to drive efficiencies into the way organizations implement their customer relationships. While CRM as a management buzzword peaked in the late 1990s, the need for perennial customer relationship management remains stronger than ever. Given that customers are more knowledgeable and less loyal, what organization--private or public--can risk offering suboptimal customer relationships in the future? From the mid-1980s to the mid-1990s the CRM industry overpromoted technology--software in particular--at the expense of people and process issues. During the past decade, however, there has been a growing appreciation for the need to put excellent customer-facing business processes into place, and to secure user buy-in for these processes prior to turning to CRM software to optimize them. The increased focus on getting the people, process, and technology mix right is directly responsible for the impressive growth in the number of successful CRM initiatives and has pushed CRM industry revenues well beyond the $20 billion mark. There have also been three new and exciting developments that have blossomed during the past two years that will continue to propel the CRM industry to another new height over the next five years: real-time CRM. The first trend is Web services and hosted applications. Salesforce.com, Siebel's CRM OnDemand, and many other hosted applications are helping to redefine how CRM solutions will be delivered in the future. The second trend that is helping to mold the next generation of CRM technologies is the broader acceptance of the Internet as a communication, content, and application medium. Businesses of all types are increasingly relying on the Internet for managing their ongoing customer relationships. And the third technology trend is the wireless revolution, which includes the explosion in Wi-Fi hot spots and 3G wide area networks. The convergence and broader availability of these three key technologies will fuel the next major growth in CRM and help organizations respond to customers' needs in real time. People will be able to access any type of information anytime and anywhere, via hundreds of devices that are tied to wired or wireless high-speed networks. The impact in private and public organizations from this convergence will be profound, and will significantly improve the way in which these organizations conduct business. When it comes to real-time CRM, the future couldn't be rosier. Barton Goldenberg is president and founder of ISM Inc., a CRM real-time enterprise consulting firm in Bethesda, MD. He is the author of CRM Automation and the publisher of
The Guide to CRM Automation. Contact him at bgoldenberg@ismguide.com
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