How to Make the e-CRM Dream Real

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An online marketer's dream is for every interaction with a customer or prospect to be a positive and profitable experience that can be tracked, reported on, and analyzed through sophisticated electronic-CRM (e-CRM) technology. This dream includes visions of online chat (where the customer or prospect clicks a button on the Web site and can talk to a live customer service agent), co-browsing (so the agent can see the same Web pages as the customer), Web page personalization to offer unique and customized content to each visitor, and of course, email management so the service center is not drowning in their inboxes and emails can be routed efficiently to the most appropriate representative. The outcome of this vision is happier customers, better customer relationships, increased sales, and a more effective service center. So why doesn't every online marketer have the opportunity to implement their dream? Because in today's business environment, there is a large disconnect between the dream and reality. No one will argue that sophisticated e-CRM technology doesn't make sense and most likely leads to better customer relationships, improved service center metrics and higher profits. But implementing e-CRM technology is a large investment in resources, time, and money. In the current business environment, projects like this are often "wait-listed" as in: Let's see if business picks up, let's see if application prices come down, and let's first see if other companies can show some success with the technology. What is needed is a compelling argument for your dream that will put e-CRM technology on the fast path, not the wait-and-see list. To create that compelling argument, you need to create an e-CRM strategy. The challenge lies in tying the corporate vision to a tangible e-CRM vision and then developing a solid business case to support the technology investment. The first step in creating an e-CRM strategy is to determine how your e-CRM initiatives can support your company's corporate vision and mission. In addition, there should be specific corporate goals and objectives that your e-CRM efforts will support (if not, then the wait list is the right place for your dream). For example, your company may have a vision of being the best service provider in the industry. Using this as your basis, you can create an e-CRM vision that directly supports that corporate vision, such as "Our vision is to provide the best online experience in the industry." Or if your company's vision is to harness technology to increase profits, then your vision might look like the following: "Our vision is to utilize technology to increase revenues and decrease expenses within the online division." Next, you can create e-CRM goals and objectives that relate directly to your company's existing goals and objectives. For example, your company may have a stated goal of improving customer satisfaction scores by 5 percent. You can translate that into a specific e-CRM goal of improving online customer satisfaction by 5 percent, improving call handling by responding to 95 percent of calls within 30 seconds, or increasing positive online survey responses by 5 percent. To support your company's financial goals, include specific revenue and expense goals such as increase online sales by 12 percent or reducing call center expenses by 5 percent. Using the corporate vision, mission, and related goals to develop your e-CRM strategy ensures that when presenting your business case, all of the stakeholders clearly understand how your efforts will support corporate objectives and help the company meet its revenue and expense projections. Once you have a solid e-CRM vision with supportive goals and objectives, the next step is to identify how your e-CRM initiatives and related technology will meet those goals. This means defining specifically how the technology you dream of implementing will make a significant difference in the areas most important to the company. For example, to realize the vision of providing the best online experience, an email management system might improve customer communications, ensure proper responses are sent to customers, enable the center to handle high-value customers before others, identify problem areas to address, and reduce the number of agents needed. Online chat and co-browsing might enable your customers to more quickly make a decision, receive more complete information more quickly, and reduce abandonment rates. Intelligent routing might improve your cross-sell and up-sell ratios while providing priority high-level service to key customers. Once you have identified how e-CRM technology can help support company objectives, you are ready to create a business case that defines the financial benefits of implementing your dream. Your goal here is to take your quantifiable objectives and turn them into revenue and expense equivalents. For example, what will that 5 percent improvement in customer satisfaction do to bottom-line results? What amount of revenue boost will your increased cross-sell and up-sell activities provide? Don't forget reduced abandonment, especially within the Web site--you might see a significant lift in online sales once you are able to provide online chat and co-browsing capabilities. Expense reductions, usually in staffing head count within the service center can support a decrease in expenses. To develop and support your projections, there are a variety of case studies and metrics available on the Web that you can use as benchmarks and for comparison purposes. Search on e-CRM, email management, and call center for starters. Another option is found on vendor Web sites as many furnish client studies that include specific ROI results. However, don't take the vendor's information as the final word--consider contacting the client profiled to verify results and spend a few minutes discussing how they were able to make a convincing argument to support their investment. You may even find that they have more successful results to share or can provide some unexpected benefits of the technology. Now that you have a plan to follow, stop reading and get strategizing! About the Author Jennifer Rigley is with Fair, Isaac & Company
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