5 Tips for Making CRM an Enterprise Portal

Customer data is a powerful resource that can be shared across corporate departments to improve selling effectiveness and operational efficiency. With direct access to ERP data, customer satisfaction surveys, product shipments, and payment histories, salespeople can nurture strong relationships, exploiting every upsell opportunity and even assisting with support issues and collections. More important, by not having to search for customer information, sales teams have more time to focus on what they do best: close business.

However, the promise of CRM to deliver a 360-degree view of the customer often sets up unprepared implementers for failure. Making CRM an enterprise portal is not easy, as it requires integrating systems and processes of all the departments involved: sales, marketing, accounting, ERP, customer support, and logistics. Like all large system integration projects, there may be challenges, including political conflicts and technical hurdles with the implementation of enterprise mobility, cloud solutions, and other advanced technologies. CRM portals should present diverse customer-related information in a uniform way within the context of each specific CRM user.

Follow these five tips to enhance your users' CRM portal experience and avoid unmet expectations in your CRM implementation:

Bridge processes and data. Define an infrastructure that can profile, cleanse, parse, and standardize information across disparate data sources, applications, systems, and platforms. Create automated flows of information from CRM to ERP, call center, e-commerce, and other enterprise systems to ensure a full and complete view of customer histories, orders, credit status, service issues, and more. Remember to include the customer's world too: e-commerce interactions, social site interaction, Web site visits, email, messaging, etc.

Provide multichannel access. While your goal may be to drive CRM adoption and use by achieving a portal status within the enterprise, do not forget that other systems remain important and need access too. Let authorized users of systems such as your collaboration platform see CRM information as well. Make mobile part of your strategy, including providing direct customer access where possible; using innovative technologies is another way to build customer loyalty and brand value.

"Show me the money." A great CRM portal may "complete you," but management may simply cry, "Show me the money." Keep the project focused on revenue optimization and let this priority drive project objectives; work toward renewals and repeat business, service low-profit customers more cost effectively, etc. Include dashboards that summarize key metrics aided by CRM. Automate processes, such as the reporting of opportunities discovered during a service process directly to the salesperson who will actually close the deal.

Listen to the voice of the customer and the voice of the process. The real purpose of CRM is to enhance customer experiences and thereby improve business performance. Listen to what your customers and internal stakeholders are saying when setting up CRM portal processes. Define all the business processes related to the customer, gain consensus among departments on who does what, and then optimize for operational efficiency; there are often disconnects than can be solved through system integration.

Make information "actionable." Make sure users can write to records and not just view them. If people feel that they can provide input and get real work done, it increases enthusiasm for the system and increases its impact on improving customer service and productivity.

Depending on your CRM system, different characteristics may lend themselves to an improved portal experience for your users. Newsfeeds or social status feeds such as Salesforce Chatter provide a corporate social dimension to the CRM portal experience. The CRM knowledge base can act as a document repository. Dashboarding and reports provide summarized information on CRM data. Web Parts can mash up Web interaction such as shipment tracking, maps, and weather reports within the user's current view.CRM analytics are leveraged in a portal to deliver the right information to the right user at the right time. Not all portal views are or should be equal. The Application Programming Interface enables integration platforms or point-to-point programs to bring relevant data from customers, social sites, and other enterprise systems into the purview of CRM processes and portals.

An optimized CRM experience depends on your understanding of the extent to which these capabilities can be leveraged to create a positive experience for your customers and users. Creating a portal experience requires an attitude shift that gives a CRM implementation true portal status. You know you've won the user adoption and portal challenge when your CRM system becomes the first and last application checked by your users every day.

Glenn Johnson is senior vice president Americas, Magic Software Enterprises.


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