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What Can CRM (Customer Relationship Management) Do for Your Business?

The focus of this article is how CRM (Customer relationship management) is being used by businesses like yours. From call center support to direct marketing, CRM is poised to become a major part of the business landscape.

CRM Supports Current Call Center Operations

The CRM vendors have many products that assist the Customer Service Representative (CSR) in their duties. The goal of these products is to give customers alternate channels of communication with the business.

For instance, CRM products may incorporate a sophisticated email response system where any incoming emails to a customer service email address (such as "info" or "customer_service") will be processed through a specific set of business rules to determine if an automated response can be immediately sent.

By doing this, the company may find that they can instantly handle at least 50 percent of requests using the automated email responses. These types of responses are best used for requests for additional information, requests to have a forgotten password emailed to the customer or for responses to an email that was sent by the marketing team.

In addition, the CRM product may incorporate chat or co-browsing functionality where a live CSR can interact directly with a customer over the Internet. These are usually less formal and are good for information distribution. They are usually not used for customer issues like complaints or non-functioning products.

CRM Enhances Current Call Centre Operations

There are two major enhancements that CRM products bring to the customer relationship operations. Each of these improvements may take information from multiple corporate resources in order to build a base profile from which the functionality can operate.

The first enhancement is the ability to queue or route customers based on their profile. For instance, when a customer calls a company and enters their customer ID and the reason they are calling (selected from those wonderful "phone menu" systems), the system can route the customer to the group of representatives who are best able to meet their needs.

The other enhancement is the compilation of a complete case history of the customer. This collection of information is then run through a series of "knowledge management" business rules that will help the CSR understand more about the customer's history with the company. Since this information is rapidly presented to the CSR, it becomes a major tool in the customer interaction.

CRM as a Direct Marketing Tool
But even more exciting than having CRM support call centre operations is the introduction of CRM as a tool in the company's marketing workshop. If you have heard the term permission-based marketing bantered around, then you have heard about the ways that companies are increasing the ante in their interactions with customers. Permission-Based Marketing is defined as the fact that a customer has given the company some type of permission to make contact. In some cases, this can be linked to a customer signing up to receive more information (sending in a postcard, requesting a brochure, etc.). But in most cases on the Internet, this is indicated with a tiny checkbox at the bottom of a form you have filled out on a web page.

Companies use all sorts of techniques to get the customer's permission. Sometimes the checkbox is left unchecked, but the statement next to it reads, "I do not want to be contacted", indicating an opt-out situation where the customer has to explicitly take action to remain off the contact list. Other times the company will make further contacts a condition of receiving free information from them, such as a report, with no opt-out available.

Once the company has the customer's permission, it will then use the capabilities of its CRM tools to do some "data mining" in order to extract intelligence from its databases. These details can then be used to provide a web site with real-time intelligence about the customer in order to produce a personalized marketing campaign.

The fact that the CRM tools can process the data quickly allows it to produce this functionality in real-time. This means that the customer can be presented with products or services that are dynamically packaged and pitched based on the customer's profile. In some cases, these tools can also be used to pre-qualify prospective buyers based on their interaction with the web pages they are presented -- and the person does not even know they are being evaluated!

The CRM Integration Challenge

Of course, the big questions are: resources and integration. It takes a commitment of resources (money, time and personnel) to acquire the right CRM package.

But the integration of the CRM tools into the company's existing resources (software, databases, computer systems) will make or break the deal. Since an effective CRM package needs to draw information from disparate resources in order to paint the whole picture, it will not only depend on receiving quality information from these sources, but it must also know how to interact with those sources. Integration requires people from both sides who have the knowledge and experience of the tools and the company's current infrastructure.

Concept Review

CRM tools will become an important part of business operations. These tools allow customers to interact with your company using additional channels that become available through the Internet. In addition, companies can use these tools to build a stronger relationship with their customers through comprehensive customer profiles, case histories and knowledge management tools.


Article by Paul Carney, Ishtot, Inc.