'Information at Your Fingertips'

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For approximately 20 years CRM strategic advisory, software, and implementation companies have helped grow CRM into a multibillion-dollar global industry. While the dot.bomb crisis in the early 2000s had led to a contraction in the number of companies offering these CRM services, those companies remaining are busy at work developing CRM's future. We have seen CRM grow into a best practice: It's no longer an option to optimize your customer relationships. Given today's more knowledgeable and less loyal customer base, particularly the www generation, no organization can risk securing anything short of outstanding customer relationships. That means having up-to-the-minute customer knowledge and providing support from anywhere and at any time, which nicely defines CRM's future, namely, real-time CRM solutions. Real-time CRM solutions result from the explosion in Web services and hosted applications, wireless expansion, and businesses accepting the Web as their primary platform for engaging customers. As the CRM industry continues to develop increasingly sophisticated real-time CRM solutions, organizations will have the opportunity to revolutionize their customer relationships using valuable real-time CRM tools and techniques. You'll need to stay abreast of key developments in people, process, and technologies related to real-time CRM solutions. Top management teams of best-in-class companies have already reached this conclusion, including several from our own customer base. At AAA Mid-Atlantic, for example, we have worked closely with top management for a number of years to help deliver a world-class CRM initiative. Real-time CRM solutions have meant putting new business processes into place for creating and using real-time customer profiles, for performing real-time customer service, and for performing real-time cross- and upselling. At a global financial services company we have worked to help sales and marketing develop a technical infrastructure and execute business functionality that supports working in real time, at all times. At the core of these improvements is a real-time, Web-based, world-class customer self-service capability. Real-time CRM solutions are being propelled by key business drivers that will expand in importance over the next decade:
  • the need to be increasingly customer focused, especially the ability to understand the strong demands of the www generation
  • increased competition and the need to maintain long-term differentiation through real-time customer service excellence
  • an increased emphasis on better market segmentation and on understanding the growing real-time expectations from leading, attitudinal-based market segments
  • the need for tighter links between front- and back-office processes and technology systems to ensure a real-time understanding of your customers
  • the need for improved business analytics and metrics (e.g., customer balance scorecards), so that decision makers can be quickly alerted to key marketplace and buyer developments Several years ago, Bill Gates spoke about "information at your fingertips anytime and anywhere." The future of CRM, namely real-time CRM solutions, has already begun to deliver on this vision. 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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