Choosing a new customer relationship management (CRM) solution can be onerous for anyone saddled with this task. But the process of choosing a solution doesn't have to be time-consuming and tedious. Nor should it cause major upheaval in an enterprise's operations, creating significant inconvenience for users. The last thing any manager wants is apathy--or even mutiny--from disgruntled employees "forced" to use an application that doesn't suit their needs or that is too complex to be adopted quickly.
Instead, a CRM solution should be implemented so that users are fully supported and feel that the tools at hand are helping them to get the job done, not adding an extra element of responsibility to their workdays. What you don't want is hand-to-hand combat when trying to encourage employees to use new applications, as lack of user buy-in is one of the most common reasons for CRM project failure.
The application you choose should, in fact, increase efficiency. And hand in hand with efficiency, you expect either a reduction in costs, or an increase in profit. Ideally, you'll get a quantifiable return on what can be a significant investment.
CRM is a process of improving a business's relationships with its customers, using software applications that target the requirements of the business's processes. CRM can strengthen these relationships in a number of ways. Typically, CRM applications fulfill one of three key functionalities related to managing customer information: marketing, sales, or service. Software modules are generally broken down into four functional areas: sales automation, marketing automation, customer service and support, and a reporting and analysis tool. Some CRM packages are comprehensive, meaning that they incorporate aspects of all four functions.
So how do you know if you need a comprehensive package? This partly depends on whether your enterprise is small-to-medium, or whether it is a huge national industry or multinational corporation. It also depends on how many aspects of your customer relationships you think could do with a little revolutionizing--or "evolutionizing." And finally, it depends on your company's budget.
In order for CRM to effect positive change in your company, its features should speak to all activities involving customer interactions. But don't stop at thinking this means only face-to-face interactions. CRM should include features that take into account all ways the customer comes in contact with the company--before, during, and after a sale. Therefore, advertising campaigns and customer complaints are just as important as that friendly smile offered to customers when they take their purchases and walk out of the store. All activities should emphasize to customers how much the company values them--and, for a more personalized experience, how well the company knows them. So that when you thank customers and invite them to "come again," there's a much better chance that they will.
CRM can include any of the following features:
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