Before you invest in CRM software, assess your needs

By David Taber, CIO |  IT Management, CRM

What does this cost? Sophisticated CRM systems are assembled, not bought. This means making a serious investment, mainly in the form of custom code and deep data stewardship. But the benefits-off-the-charts improvements in profitability, predictability and competitive impact-are well worth it.

The Design Target for Support and Service Systems

More than 25 years ago, customer support and service organizations pioneered CRM. Today almost all companies adopt some level of automation in service and support functions.

Simple systems capture the basic information of companies, contacts and cases, and help manage the flow of customer requests across the organization. This is cool; you'll be able to lower costs and improve metrics for customer response time. If you view customer support and service as a simple cost center, that may be enough for you. In that case, it may be hard to justify more.

However, in those simple CRM systems, you can improve only costs, not business outcomes. Depending on your business, customer service engagements may be one of those Moments of Truth that define your competitive advantage.

Think about it: Your customer support people may be on the phone with a customer more often than your sales reps. If you can move a frustrated customer into an enthusiastic supporter you get two effects-a powerful marketing asset and one of those aforementioned repeat customers that drive up profitability. This goes double if your company has professional services, as those consultants may be your best informants and pre-salesmen. Best of all, the customer, through his or her purchases, is footing the bill for most of your sales expenses.

To make that happen, your service and support system must be thoroughly integrated with the sales side of the house. It also needs to project itself into your user community via customer and service-partner portals, links to your online forums and social media outlets.

Commentary: 5 Reasons to Use Social CRM for Support and Services Analysis: How Social Customer Support Brings Social Media Beyond Marketing

It also needs to have deep analytics to correlate user questions with changes you've made to your products and services, as well as to monitor your customer base to warn about changes in sentiment and loyalty. Of course, the system needs to be integrated with your phone system and chat mechanisms to capture the data and metadata of every customer conversation.

Costly? Sure. A good investment? Absolutely-when your organization is ready. There's the rub.

Buy the CRM System You Can Drive


Originally published on CIO |  Click here to read the original story.
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