Face-off: Can CRM win and retain loyal, repeat customers?

By P.J. Connolly, InfoWorld |  Networking

But our survey revealed that 59.2 percent of readers are unlikely to implement wireless CRM in the next year, mainly due to the immaturity of wireless technologies. Companies that make progress with wireless CRM do so in spite of the cost, but they may not be willing to indefinitely underwrite the expenses in an increasingly chilly business climate.


Business-automation projects founder on two unavoidable rocks: the complexity of business processes and plain old human cussedness. Although it's relatively simple to create an inventory tracking system for a single-site warehouse, it's a whole 'nother critter to automate processes across cultures and continents. The problem with automated systems is that they don't handle exceptions well. After all, if you anticipated and programmed for a scenario, it's not really an exception, is it?


When you dive into these numbers, you find that much of the CRM effort that companies put forth goes into call centers and similar customer service operations. The problem is, most people won't navigate through more than a couple layers of an automated call attendant before they either hang up or punch 0 and * and # in a frantic attempt to find a human being. The same thing goes on the Web; if your system is too clumsy, people won't use it.


When you look at the obstacles to implementing CRM, it's no surprise that the price tag scares off some budget-conscious executives. It's also no surprise that our survey respondents feel that budget can be an easy problem to overcome. What's a little scarier is the number of readers who said that their infrastructure was inadequate -- 20.8 percent -- or that they lacked IT staff with the appropriate skills -- 39.8 percent. If you're going into a CRM project without a budget commitment for the bodies and the boxes, you're in for a painful experience.


Let's face it, the secret to retaining your customers isn't an around-the-clock call center or a slick Web interface. It's solving your customers' problems before they call your competition. All of the consultants and all of the software can't help you if you forget that point. Don't implement CRM with a halfhearted commitment, and don't believe much of the hype you hear, or you're in for a huge disappointment.



Tom:
Sadly, the era of personal service is behind us. Staffing crunches are creating long waits in telephone queues, and shifting customer service to e-mail is only a stopgap. It can reduce the time spent on each issue, but a human must still read messages and process customers' requests. Dwindling profit margins create pressure to cut or outsource service staff, moves that compound customer frustration. Businesses face an impossible situation.


The only long-term solution to the customer service crisis is information. Companies know this.

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