Businesses need to work hard at keeping or attracting new customers to stay profitable and CRM tools help by using technology to organise, automate and synchronise business processes.
Principally, these processes are sales activities but also marketing, customer service and even technical support.
The main global players in the CRM space include SAP, Oracle, Microsoft and Salesforce.com, supplemented by suppliers such as StayinFront.
Fred de Jong, general manager of StayinFront New Zealand, says CRM is essentially about selling more and managing customers better.
“Great CRM is using an information asset combined with technology to continually improve ‘customer’ processes. In terms of a business case, from the moment of your first sale you have made a commitment and created an asset that will be with you as long as you are in business,” de Jong says. “You have created a customer base – it is the most important asset you have. But remember it is only an asset if you leverage it — that’s where CRM can help.”
And due to the economic downturn, CRM vendors report growing interest in their products.
“Businesses are trying to do more with less resource and access to integrated levels of information can make revenue generation easier and faster. New Zealand business took the opportunity to step back and objectively look at their organisation to see where inefficiencies could be streamlined, as well as identifying ways to lay the foundations for future growth,” says CRM Solutions account manager Adam Johnson of Oracle CRM On Demand distributor Fusion 5.
“There is definitely a trend towards hosted CRM systems, and increased interest in the concept of ‘Social CRM’, which can be a minefield of wasted time if not approached properly and supported by the appropriate functionality in CRM,” he says.
“In New Zealand we are seeing an interest in on-demand solutions and the use of mobile devices to access CRM information,” says De Jong.
“In addition, the use of CRM is maturing so companies are collecting more data and as a result are not just interested in CRM but the combination of CRM, analytics and KPIs to gain valuable insights from the data they have.”
Microsoft New Zealand’s general manager of business solutions, Stewart Gibbs, adds ‘hot topics’ in the CRM space include Line of Business applications, online digital marketing and tightly integrated back and front-office solutions.
Social CRM is also fashionable with social networking sites like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn allowing marketing professionals, service managers and salespeople to develop higher quality relationships with their customers.
Systems integrator Gen-i believes the term CRM is a misnomer, claiming xRM (extended relationship management) is more applicable.
“This refers to the management of relationships between just about any entity not just customers. For instance employees and their rosters, contracts and the deliverables, or clients and the services they are subscribed to,” says Patrick Kouwenhoven, Gen-i’s head of Software Solutions.
“We are seeing dramatic movement now to deployments that encompass far more of the business than simply the customer knowledge point, with core business processes being mapped, controlled, orchestrated and monitored through Microsoft Dynamics CRM solutions,” he says.
And CRM has not been ignored by the cloud computing buzz, adds Salesforce.com.
“Enterprise collaboration is a new trend we are seeing pick up pace in New Zealand. Businesses are now using social media to create better customer support systems, and are integrating these discussions into their CRM systems,” says New Zealand country manager Aden Forrest.
“New Zealand businesses are using salesforce.com technologies like Service Cloud to interact with customers via social media beyond marketing and brand
management,” he says.
This means a company can monitor Twitter conversations that mention its product.
The Trends 2010: Customer Relationship Management report by Forrester Research notes that SaaS solutions are becoming the default solution, mobile CRM is becoming a must-have capability, and that price and value are trumping functionality in purchasing decisions.
Demand for social CRM is growing, but it has yet to prove its worth, notes the author of the Forrester report, William Band.
Stewart Gibbs, Microsoft Dynamics lead at Microsoft NZ, claims the familiar look and feel of Microsoft helped Microsoft Dynamics CRM become so popular. A new Social Networking Accelerator also allows organisations to engage in real-time dialogue across social networks like Twitter.
StayinFront stresses its systems Key Performance Indicators and user configurable dashboards places the most important information at user fingertips.
Salesforce.com offers Sales Cloud, which it says is a highly customisable off-the-shelf product encompassing integration and enterprise collaboration.
“The Sales Cloud is unique because it is delivered in the cloud, which brings a range of benefits to the end-user,” says Aden Forrest.
“Cloud computing CRM applications allow companies to completely eliminate the hardware and software required to run on-premise systems – all companies need is a computer and an internet connection. Cloud applications allow CIOs to use technology to better manage customer relationships in a way that radically improves sales success and drives adoption without the cost and risk of failure,” Forrest says.
Cloud computing also allows mobile access without expensive hardware.
Oracle partner Fusion 5 offers Oracle CRM on Demand, which it says differs from other products due to its rapid innovation cycle with 17 releases in five years.
“A key differentiator of CRM on Demand to the other CRM tools we provide is in how it is deployed – which is to say through the web. The value proposition of SaaS obviously is around the ease and speed with which it can be implemented, whilst not becoming an additional burden on IT personnel. There is an ability to access from anywhere including in an ‘offline’ mode,” says Adam Johnson of Fusion 5.
So what should IT managers consider if implementing a CRM solution?
Microsoft likens CRM to a journey and says senior management buy-in is essential to drive and support the project. You should take a company-wide view and ensure the systems integrate with the tools staff use.
“Lead with strategy not technology and find a partner who truly understands CRM and has a track record of delivering them successfully with strong reference sites,” says Johnson.
StayinFront says the business case must be established and not be a ‘leap of faith.’
For a successful implementation, the software solution must be well managed and planned with effective training for end users. The vendor must also offer effective ongoing support services.
This is why Gen-i stresses the importance of vendor selection, saying it is a CRM specialist “who has walked the path on numerous occasions”.
Gen-i also warns users must develop strategies to accelerate user adoption and uptake.
Salesforce.com also sees user adoption as critical, adding that cloud computing offers a user experience similar to most consumer websites, allowing easy adoption.
Either way, whichever system is chosen, the impact of CRM on an organisation will be significant.
“Customer Relationship Management is not just the implementation of a software programme, but a holistic business philosophy,” concludes Fred de Jong.