Article: Customer Relationship Management, E-CRM

Do you really know who your customers are and what they want?

The Internet, as both a marketing and sales channel is redefining well-known customer shopping patterns and behaviours. As technology and manufacturing fast become commodities with little difference in product pricing and margins, the customer relationship is the only area where real competitive advantage is still possible.

Yet, even on web sites that are well designed and usable, it’s difficult to get quality customer service when you need it. If you send an email request, do you receive a quick and helpful reply? How easy is it to find a phone number to call? If you call the help line, do the customer service representatives answering the phone understand how you spent the last hour on their company’s Web site? Will you ever visit or shop online there again?

When you consider that the cost of making a new customer is nearly five times that of retaining an existing one. No wonder that in today’s world of decreasing margins, increasing competition and ever changing business environment, corporate success depends on an organization’s ability to build and maintain loyal and valued customer relationships. But that is easier said than done.

Every visitor to your Web site provides important information, from what they look at to how long they stay on your site. But online behaviour is not your only source of information. It’s likely that your company already has relevant data sitting idle or underutilized in databases or filing cabinets within your company. However, this data is often difficult to combine into a unified picture, when today more than ever you need a single, unified customer view.

The key to meeting today’s customer’s expectations is ‘Electronic Customer Relationship Management’ (eCRM) an approach that integrates all of your customer information and makes it available for each customer contact, so you can provide the kind of consistent and effective personalized service customers want. It need not be expensive for a small to midsized company as it not primarily a single technology, but a refocusing of an organizations collection and use of customer data using existing technologies. Although companies selling unified e-CRM solutions may dispute this point.

The goal of e-CRM is to serve the same essential purpose of customer service in any business. That is, understand who your customers are and what they want. The challenge for e-business is to quickly merge your information from a variety of diverse sources into a sales face that can provide your customer with the comforts of shopping environments with which they are already familiar.

e-CRM integration supplies a familiar contact point that remembers them personally and has knowledge of their likes and dislikes, their history with your company and their details and credit status. However many contact points your online business has, such as, e-mail, instant messaging, voice-over Internet, Web chat, voice mail or live help desks, e-CRM provides a solution that brings them all together for each and every customer contact.

e-CRM will enable your companies marketing department to identify and target your best customers, manage marketing campaigns with clear goals and objectives, improve telesales, account, and sales management, generate quality leads for the sales team identifying the most profitable customers and providing them the highest level of service.

The question you must ask about e-CRM is, “Are my competitor’s implementing e-CRM?” Well, some of them must be, as Dataquest predicted that the global CRM services market will total $25.3 billion in 2002, up from $22 billion in 2001 and $19.9 billion in 2000. By 2006, the worldwide CRM services market will reach $47 billion.

It would appear that if you are not selling e-CRM solutions you should be implementing one. – John Shenton – April 30, 2002