The Importance of CRM Technology in Today's Contact Center - Exclusive Interview
How has CRM technology advanced over the last 5 years and how will it progress in the next 5?
www.contactcenterworld.com - May 12, 2008 - CRM has evolved significantly from simply gathering customer data to driving force in how companies manage the entire relationship with their customers. For example, companies have begun to use CRM to improve customer service and to increase customer loyalty. With the enhancement of the ubiquitous frequent flyer programs, bonus points on credit cards and loyalty points at many retailers, a host of data points can be retrieved based on CRM tracking of customer activity and spending patterns.
However, todayÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚Â¬ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¾Ã‚Â¢s CRM is not simply a repository of information; instead, it is now used to understand customer needs and behavior.
Over the next five years, CRM systems will become more sophisticated. There will be more real-time integration of data across the organization, which will further result in CRM functionality being embedded in core business applications. CRM is no longer just a part of sales and marketing, the data collected in the CRM system will be available across all functions in the company.
CRM solutions have a very bright future with large companies and additionally, this technology will prove to be extremely beneficial to small and mid-sized organizations which will use these tools to inexpensively communicate with customers and prospects from a two-way perspective.
What impact has self-service technologies had on CRM - either positively or negatively?
Self-service technologies have had a positive impact on CRM. These services enable customers to complete their purchase or account interaction by themselves, thus adding convenience in resolving issues on their own, resulting in increased customer satisfaction. Also, in such cases, a customer may require a live agent only in those rare cases where the inquiry is not answerable online or via the IVR, thus resulting in cost reduction for contact centers.
What are some of the biggest mistakes companies make when deploying CRM technologies in their contact center?
The most common mistakes during deployment of CRM technologies are:
- Building the CRM piecemeal and not taking into account all the potential applications
- Not using customer data effectively. Simply gathering customer data does not help in utilizing the CRM tool effectively. Data should be leveraged to improve marketing and customer satisfaction.
What 3 tips would you give to a contact center manager who is looking at CRM technology solutions from a number of different vendors?
The following points should be considered:
- Ensure that the CRM implementation objectives are clearly and well understood by the vendors.
- Ascertain the offered CRM solution is scalable and will be able to mature in accordance with business growth plans.
- Vendors with a reliable and well established support and maintenance infrastructure would have an edge over the others.
What are the common misconceptions that executives have about CRM?
One of the most common misconceptions held by executives is that a CRM as a product is purely focused towards enabling customer service only and no other organizational functions could benefit or be influenced by a CRM program. A CRM tool can drive efficiencies across all organizational functions and levels, while also allowing an effective customer support service.
What is your definition of CRM?
CRM is more than a software tool. It is a business strategy designed to bring together information from all data sources within an organization to give one, holistic view of each customer in real-time. This ensures that the customer service agents make quick, yet informed decisions during each customer interaction. It helps companies reduce costs and increase profitability by solidifying customer loyalty.
Some would argue that CRM is strictly technology, and others say itÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚Â¬ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¾Ã‚Â¢s a process. What are you views on this?
CRM is a business strategy employing technology. Technology is the vehicle. CRM, when used effectively, can be pivotal in the growth of an organization.
CRM seems to be an industry buzzword, what are its origins and, in reality, have companies been focusing on CRM before it became a buzzword?
The genesis of CRM dates back to 1980s with the emergence of database marketing and its evolution by a few companies into CRM type products focused towards providing database driven customer services. Undoubtedly, the real concept of CRM swept away the global businesses in the late 1990s when global competition drove companies to treat their customers with not only improved services, but also with incentives, gifts and other perks in order to maintain customer loyalty. Now, CRM vendors are offering advanced, scalable, customizable CRM solutions, which have significantly enhanced the customer service experience.
Which industry sectors are leading the field in deploying CRM?
CRM today is used extensively across all industries. Thus, itÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚Â¬ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¾Ã‚Â¢s hard to distinguish which industry is leading in deploying CRM. However, as the trend indicates, CRM is proving extremely beneficial for Small and Medium Businesses (SMBs). With the ever increasing competition in today's business environment, there is pressure on these small and midsize companies to monitor business processes more closely. Therefore, a CRM solution has become essential for growth, scalability and competitiveness for these companies as CRM solutions are affordable, easy to implement and highly customizable.
Do you feel that enough attention and expenditure is directed on training frontline agents/reps in the value of developing and maintaining customer relationships?
This is organization specific, as budget allocations for any technology implementation or training clearly resides on the focus and emphasis detailed by the organizationÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚Â¬ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¾Ã‚Â¢s management. As some of our analysis indicates, it could be rational to state that most companies do not prefer investing on CRM training for their agents/representatives. Conversely, they simply force the technology on employees and this could be one of the primary reasons as to why companies fail in deriving benefits of their CRM deployments.
Over the last 12 months, do you feel companies you are a customer of have provided better or worse customer service?
Customer Service is becoming increasingly challenging as customer expectations are rising as the customer is becoming more accustomed to the company having the latest technology to assist in the call. Thus, while the underlying service may not be changing much, the overall perception is the level of customer service is declining.