Uncovering the Hidden Jewels in Your CRM Data

Many organizations have made significant investments in their CRM systems over past five years. The perceived success or failure of these initiatives has, in large part, depended on the organizations' ability to clearly define appropriate success metrics at the start of the CRM implementation. When a company fails to clearly define its goals, there is no way to accurately measure the return on its CRM investment, and thus, no way to determine if the program was a success or failure. Many CRM implementations are challenged from this perspective. However, there is hope for those struggling with this problem: reporting applications, analytics tools, and workflow automation engines are now available at a fraction of what they cost only five years ago. These applications, tools, and engines are helping businesses discover the hidden jewels stored within their CRM databases. As CRM implementations move beyond just collecting customer information and reporting on it, a fundamental driver for many organizations is the desire to better understand their customers' needs and preferences. Companies want to transform the large amounts of data collected in their CRM databases into meaningful reports that different types of employees can use to do their jobs better. This desire is driving businesses to make better use of the reporting applications, analytics tools, and workflow engines that a few CRM applications now offer. To be useful these new applications, tools, and engines must also be easy-to-use, built-in or fully integrated, and reasonably priced. These business intelligence capabilities--once only included in the most expensive, high-end systems--are now more widely available, but few CRM vendors offer them for an affordable price. Because of the new, low price point, more businesses, and the users within these businesses, have the opportunity to implement these capabilities at a reasonable cost. Today's decisions get made at all levels within the organization. Cohesive decision-making is critical to the success of companies. This means more people stand to benefit from a well-planned CRM strategy as it raises the potential for even greater contribution from each employee to the top line. "To provide our sales and marketing team with fast and efficient reporting on our sales activity, we've integrated Crystal Reports with our Maximizer database," said Murray Munro, senior vice president of national sales, marketing, and government relations at GrowthWorks Capital Ltd. "Having access to this kind of information in a user-friendly presentation enables our sales staff to interact with their contacts at a deeper level and allows our marketing staff to analyze trends and make plans for the future armed with key information." Taking your customer relationships to the next level requires commitment from everyone within the organization. For companies that are considering a reporting, analytics, and workflow automation strategy, perhaps the best advice is a thorough evaluation of your strategic sales, marketing, and customer service and support processes. Then measure how the implementation of reporting, analytics, and workflow automation can positively impact your company's results. By conducting this analysis customers will be in a better position to leverage their existing CRM investment. When a CRM system is used to its highest potential, organizations will have a much better opportunity to drive more intimate, profitable customer relationships. After all, if a business cannot use its CRM information to learn about customers, gain insight into business practices and market trends, and make better-informed decisions, then why continue to invest in a CRM strategy at all? About the Author Peter Callaghan, vice president of sales and marketing for Maximizer Software Inc., is responsible for managing Maximizer's direct sales, channel sales, marketing and public relations activities in North America. Peter has more than 17 years of sales experience in the software industry and has held senior sales and marketing positions at Pivotal, Computer Associates, Cognos, and Sybase. Peter participated in Pivotal's successful NASDAQ IPO, and helped the company grow its revenues from US$1 million to US$100 million over 16 quarters. Peter has received numerous awards for superior sales performance. He holds a BS from the University of Waterloo, in Ontario, Canada.
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