Many midsize companies use a variety of applications to manage their sales, marketing, customer service, and engineering departments. Although these applications initially worked well for each group, they often are not the best choice for the entire organization. Because every department accesses a separate application with a different database and a unique business process, islands of information are created that hinder productivity, increase operating costs, and limit visibility company-wide. An integrated CRM solution eliminates the challenges associated with separate applications, enhancing productivity, improving customer satisfaction, and increasing profitability.
An integrated system provides each department with a complete view of the customer. With this information at their fingertips, employees quickly access all relevant information about the customer and communicate more effectively with each other to resolve issues and alert others to the status of each customer. Productivity increases because information is readily available.
For example, many sales and marketing applications are not integrated with the help desk. If a customer has an issue, the last thing a salesperson wants to do is contact that customer to buy more products. With an integrated system, sales can monitor the situation and call the customer at the perfect time--immediately after an issue has been expertly resolved.
Improve customer satisfaction
Integrated CRM solutions usually improve customer satisfaction by speeding problem response and resolution. For example, an integrated system allows customer support to easily communicate a defect issue to product development. Problem resolution occurs faster, because the information is efficiently communicated to the appropriate department.
Another example may involve an email survey distributed by your marketing department. Perhaps a customer is frustrated regarding an issue, but has not contacted the help desk. However, the customer replies to the marketing survey, saying he won't consider expanding their relationship unless the problem is fixed. Typically, marketing would not take the time or effort to forward this valuable information. Yet an integrated CRM solution could automatically analyze the reply and post a ticket for customer service. Imagine the customer's delight when customer support contacts him with a resolution to a problem that was not officially reported!
An integrated CRM solution can increase your business and profitability by increasing customer satisfaction. Studies have shown that it costs considerably less to do business with existing customers compared to acquiring new ones. Additionally, repeat customers typically spend 67 percent more than new customers. On the other hand, the unhappy customer typically tells 10 others of his dissatisfaction. Clearly, the value of customer loyalty and repeat business is just too compelling to ignore.
Profitability can also increase by using an integrated solution to improve the effectiveness of many activities you are already pursuing. For example, if marketing sends out a survey using an external application, the data is not associated with the contact record. If marketing wants to use the information, they must import the data to update their CRM system. Many CRM systems are not very effective at this kind of "import to update" function. And since it takes time and effort, sales opportunities may be lost, especially for "hot" opportunities. In contrast, an integrated system would update the contact record automatically, saving time and allowing the results of the survey to be implemented and used immediately.
In addition, an integrated system improves the allocation of resources. Basic software costs are reduced because fewer software packages need to be supported. Costs are further reduced by eliminating the need to enter duplicate information into different systems.
Selecting an integrated CRM solution
When looking for an integrated CRM solution, consider four important factors: The solution should be complete, adaptable, stable, and affordable.
Make certain that the system meets your current and future needs. You would expect the system to cover sales and customer support, but it should also provide tools for marketing, engineering, asset management, knowledge management, order desk, accounts receivable, and portals for partners, customers, and sales.
As a CRM consultant I was continually asked when a CRM system would be "finished." Any system in use is never finished; a CRM system must be easy to modify so it can continually adapt to constantly changing business needs.
A CRM system is a long-term business tool that helps you execute your core business. It is important to find a successful supplier that is profitable and has a history of serving businesses like your own. These factors should indicate that the vendor is stable and will probably be around in the future.
High-priced integrated CRM solutions promise results, but often are unaffordable by all but the top tier of companies. Today's Web-enabled CRM solutions provide more affordability, yet still offer all the power needed by most midsize companies.
About the Author
Richard Clarke is the regional sales manager at Soffront Software. Please visit www.soffront.com
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