CRM: Putting customer experience at the heart of business

According to recent figures from the CSO’s ‘Information Society Statistics’ report for enterprise, just 32 per cent of organisations are currently using Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tools to manage client activity. Given the relative maturity of the technology – CRM has been around in one guise or another since the 1980s – this is perhaps a surprisingly low figure.

But is the current economic downturn prompting organisations to take a fresh look at how they manage customer contact?

Gary Cullen, sales and marketing director with Provident CRM is seeing a buoyant funnel of CRM opportunities in the Irish market following a period of slow sales activity. He believes that the whole point of CRM is to deliver an individual customer experience and what he calls “the consumerisation of business”.

“CRM is not about the business acquiring a tool. It’s about empowering the user and making sure that when your customer calls, and they’re speaking to someone in your organisation, that someone has everything they need to deliver the best possible customer experience.

“We deal with companies online as individuals but we also deal with them as businesses and we expect the same level of service in a business-to-business relationship. We expect them to know who we are, understand the problem we’re having and to be able to resolve it quickly. Customers are very fickle now. If they’re not getting that as a business, they move,” he said.

Daryn Mason, Senior Director, CRM & CX pre-sales, Western Europe with Oracle agrees and believes that customer experience is “fundamental to business success”.

Customer experience really comes down to one thing: understanding the ‘magic moments’ in the customer story – those perfect opportunities for engaging with the customer. The right customer experience solution will at a stroke improve revenues, drive sales effectiveness and reduce costs for businesses,” he said.

Recent research from Oracle reveals that businesses can lose 18 per cent of revenue from poor customer experiences. Furthermore, 94 per cent of executives in European businesses agree that delivering a great customer experience is critical to business advantage and their results.

And this renewed interest in CRM is supported by accelerating global market growth as organisations start to appreciate the value it can deliver across the business.

Market analyst, Gartner predicts the CRM market to increase to $36.5 billion by 2017, a CAGR of over 15 per cent, representing one of the strongest performing categories of the enterprise software market.

These figures are sure to provide a boon to CRM vendors such as Sage. David Beard, CRM principal with the company is also struck by the more customer-centric approach to business by organisations of all sizes and across all industry sectors.

“We’re seeing many more businesses waking up to CRM, particularly in an age where customer-centricity is the first thing on every strategic play,” he said.

“People are recognising that CRM is far more than a sales management system. It’s end-to-end customer lifecycle management. Obviously people want to keep customers as long as they can rather than just servicing them once. They’re asking themselves: ‘What’s the lifetime value of that customer’?”

And this issue of customer retention is also critical for Coman Burke, pre-sales technical consultant with Ergo. He believes that employees need to be aligned in their approach to dealing with customers, which includes the technology they use to do this.

“A good CRM solution will provide companies with the ability to see all the touch points with a customer, be it account and contacts, all existing or past sales opportunities, all service issues or when the customer has last been included in a marketing campaign and the return on investment for each campaign.

“By integrating into other line of business applications, e.g. a financial management system, you can gain a full 360 degree view of the customer in one central location. This all contributes to increased sales and increased customer retention through the quality of service you can provide,” he said.

For Cullen of Provident CRM, reseller of the Sugar CRM platform, it’s all about putting the “i” for “individual” into a CRM philosophy.

“We have a customer and we have a user and both are individuals talking to each other. Unless we give them the tools that they need to have the best possible conversation, we’re failing.

“Deploying a CRM just to give management stats and real time numbers, is there by default but now it should really be more about the customer,” he said.

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