Customer Relationship Management

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The success of an enterprise’ efforts in keeping its customer base satisfied and continually selling to them is ever reliant on good customer relationship management today. The growth in the awareness and regard for customer relationship management from just a kind of computer based program to a strategic and focused concept affecting overall business success is not surprising. This is because businesses have gradually come to realize that understanding and keeping their customer bases is key to key objectives as well as the business bottom-line. This realization has resulted in the evolution of a market segment for the practice, one which is projected to attract a spending of above $11 billion by companies by 2010 according to a research conducted by Forrester Research.

Customer Relationship Management is a concerted program aimed at generating actionable customer data and using such data to foster and manage a mutually beneficial relationship between a company’s customers as well as its sales prospects. Customer Relationship Management today relies a lot on technology as its application is enterprise-wide and seeks to give all relevant departments access to the customer data with which they can synchronize all customer related activities including technical support, marketing, sales and customer service.

There are different variations of Customer Relationship Management programs and the differences are based primarily on the area in which it primarily operates although it is an integrated effort. These include the following amongst others:

i. Sales Force Automation: This takes care of all processes right from the initial contact to the closing of the sales deal with the customer.

ii. Marketing: This deals with the generation effective sales information for the sales team leading to prospects likely make purchase.

iii. Customer Service and Support: This deals with implementation of processes to enhance the relationship with existing customers.

The benefits of good Customer Relationship Management are reflected both in individual and company productivity:

i. Individual: The individual employee in the company who has to make contact with various customers or other people can access a dairy from which with a single mouse click, he generates a history of contact, documentations and activities with that person. He is better informed and updated. He can also avoid the cumbersomeness associated with spreadsheet programs and just generate a specific list of customer based on criteria of his choice. It also makes it possible to make forecast based on the customer’s history of dealings.

ii. Company:
Access by customers or partners is one way a good Customer Relationship Management program can benefit a company. This access by-passes the challenges of the telephone system and allows the customer or partner lodge an inquiry directly online. Surveys can also be conducted via e-mails sent directly to customers in the database.

Customer Relationship Management however, also faces its own challenges both in terms of planning and execution. As mentioned above, the practice today is heavily reliant on technology and specifically the internet as the concepts of cloud computing and SaaS (software as service) have taken root. However on-site installations have also suffered as a result of apathy by staff as well as complexities in workflows or incompatibility with existing software.

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