Richard Snow writing for Intelligent Enterprise Magazine in his article titled The Changing Face of Customer Relationship Management makes the following Assessment,
Assessment
The CRM world is changing, from both process and technology points of view. Customer contact and customer satisfaction are no longer seen as just the responsibility of the call center. A company needs to identify all its customer touch points, what process changes have to be made and how to handle all the points of contact consistently and cohesively, no matter where or when they occur or through what channel they arrive. Correspondingly, Ventana Research believes that CRM technology should no longer be viewed as a single application but rather as an integrated family of applications that in aggregate can support the handling of any customer interaction. We believe that some new technologies, such as speech recognition and analytics, can help drive process change to bring about much improved customer relationship management. Ventana Research therefore recommends that companies that truly want to become customer-centric take a careful look at some of the newer and more innovative products coming onto the market.”

I encourage readers interested in the good and bad of customer relationship management to view his article as it walks through both the history but also the issues and benifts along the way.

Through my experiences with CRM tools and organizations, I’ve seen many organizations that throw money into the processes of capturing CRM data. However, they do very little to capitalize on the valuable information they have taken. They struggle to find a way to leverage the information and integrate it with their ERP systems. Their key managers are often left unaware of how to use the information and mine it for trends whether they be a customer complaint or a request for a slight variation on a product.

Similarly, many sales organizations pay the tool lip service, partly because they get caught up in meetings and travels, and don’t take the time to document thoroughly the progress or information they have achieved or gained.

This is also partly to blame on the era of the PC. Professionals have very powerful computing tools that allow them to keep just enough information readily available at their fingertips. However, there is no reason or incentive for them to make extra effort to share the information, post it online or a number of other options. Salesforce.com has helped push this along, however even Salesforce.com one of the largest online CRM tools, provides a product that is a little to two dimensional in look, feel and navigation. This creates a learning curve that is rather long and tedious and decreases the likelihood of a successful implementation as a given group starts to get lost, stalled or rebel against the tool.

Newer tools are starting to offer a more generic way to stay in touch. It provides users from multiple organizations to post contact information to websites, where paid subscribers from other organizations might gain access to the information. Individuals can alos update their own contact information online.

This is very good for keeping the tedium of contact details limited, but many of these services don’t include the integration of scoping out projects, accounts, sales, tasks and more.

As Microsoft SQL server 2005 rolls out and as more companies start harnessing the power of Data cubes or OLAP’s the potential to tie a CRM tool together with an ERP system and a logistics system and create a truly useful Business Intelligence roll up becomes more practical.

The touches to the customer gained through solid CRM packages are only as good as the nervous system utilizing its senses. So as we see an improvement in nervous system capability, the brains, boards, and business leaders will be able to start evaluating what the organism or ogranization is doing. This might drive a top down emphasis on CRM with more kick as the results as the leaders start living for the benefits received from new Business Intelligence.

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