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Having established a robust, reliable and expandable information and communications technology (ICT) infrastructure, the...

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Having established a robust, reliable and expandable information and communications technology (ICT) infrastructure, the challenge is on for your business to reap the benefits that such an infrastructure can support. Right at the top of any list of potential benefits is improved customer management.

 

No business of any size can afford to be complacent about its relationships with its customers, and there has never been a better time for you to investigate what a customer relationship management (CRM) system can offer. Even though there are many benefits from installing a CRM system, it would be a mistake to perceive it as the answer to all of your problems regarding customer management. Far from it. CRM systems will only ever become of use to your business once you have established clearly how you wish to relate to your customers using technology. You then need to figure how you plan to buy, implement and train your staff to use the technology.

According to research carried out by Computer Weekly in association with BT, one in two companies like yours doesn’t have an ICT strategy in place. If your business falls into this category, then it is almost inevitable that you will not be able to deploy effectively any CRM system, regardless of what technological functions it may offer. The fundamental message is that the usefulness of CRM of stands or falls on how you plan the technology to align itself with your business objectives.

Once you’re sure that you have such a strategy in place, the next task is to assess exactly how the CRM system can be slotted in with minimum disruption and downtime.

Another issue revealed by the Computer Weekly/BT research was a general indifference from companies such as yours to look at managed services. You should be aware though that a growing number of CRM technology vendors are offering CRM services hosted on their servers as part of a cost-effective overall managed service offering. Even though managed services might seem inappropriate right now, it could be the case that at some point in the future they may be of use to your business.

You may also want to look at extending this principle to its furthest extent; that is to outsource your entire customer management function to a third party. You may feel that such an approach is illogical, and that customer management is too important an activity for you to entrust to someone outside your company. Once again though, you may be surprised to learn that there are firms that already offer outsourced CRM services. In a similar vein, mobile CRM technology may be more relevant to your business than you first think. Your company could well benefit if your off-site representatives were equipped with technology that allowed them easy access to your customer information database.

Even if you have the right strategy and have selected the most appropriate technology that can deliver real benefits, the final stumbling block may be how you purchase your CRM system. You will need to know how to manage proficiently relations with your technology supplier and get the maximum return on your investment. Your conversations with suppliers have to address issues such as support and service level agreements and, perhaps most importantly, system training and education.

This supplement will address all of these issues. In addition to broadening your knowledge of CRM, it will offer guidelines you can use in the purchasing of technology that could transform your business.

Click here for SME supplement homepage >>

Click here for SME supplement homepage Part One >>

Click here for Part Two of the SME supplement >>

BT SME Month >>

This was last published in November 2003

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