It has been said for many a year that your businesses needs CRM systems to be successful. The article “CRM “in denial” that businesses find it ineffective”, shows the dissatisfaction of businesses to invest in CRM systems. Businesses are going back to using spreadsheets for forecasts and reports, they are using the likes of Exchange server to hold the contact details, and they are setting up applications such as SharePoint to manage collaboration and storage of documents.
One of the reasons might be that CRM systems are based on the functionality of contact management systems. The likes of ACT!, Maximizer, and Goldmine were the pioneers in this area. New features were added to help with sales opportunities, marketing campaigns, and customer service. The focus was on managing the internal activities of the business. As technology made new inroads in the communication sector, portals were introduced to allow the customer access to forums, e-commerce, etc.
A revolution took place when salesforce.com led the way in giving the world the ability to use CRM without the massive IT headaches in having to maintain systems. But even this did not satisfy the needs of many businesses as they required applications to extend the effectiveness of salesforce.com, and this was achieved through AppExchange.
I have to mention, before some might react to what I have written so far, that there are successful CRM implementations especially in big businesses, but how much resource is required in maintaining the system? How much investment has been poured into the CRM project? How much has the business had to change its processes to adapt to the systems it is using?
The other factor that seems to be evident with successful CRM implementations is the absolute need for the drive to be from senior management to make it happen. Therefore we cannot put all the blame on systems, as it is only one of the components required in having a successful CRM implementation.
I believe the next generation of systems will not only be looking at the internal activities of the business, but also more strongly on the activities of the potential and actual customers and the interaction between the two parties.
The systems will have to be easy to use both for the employees and the outside users. The flexibility of the systems will have to allow the business to set up different processes and procedures for different customers whilst maintaining compliance with regulations and legislation. The look and feel will have to be flexible so that each customer has an environment that he or she feels belongs to them and yet it is operating from one system. The system will have to cope with the different facets of the business at the same time minimising the need for the use of other applications. In sales, the ability for the sales person to qualify, quantify, produce all the documentation with regard to a sales opportunity, whilst maintaining compliance with the company’s procedures should be the minimum functionality expected. The same information from the same system will be used to order from the various suppliers. At the same time the same functionality in a different layout could be used by potential customers to help themselves allowing for the internal procedures to take over at some stage and complete the process. The implementation and maintenance of such systems will not require large amounts of resources and will be cost effective.
The key to this is ‘processes’. We are all using processes, but many of us do not acknowledge it. The analogy is that an experienced driver would find it hard to teach a learner to drive, because the process of driving is second nature to him, and he does not have to think about it. It is the same in business, we all use processes, but we do not think about them. The trick is to get them mapped out and see how we interact with our colleagues and our clients.
Maybe what is needed is a Business Process Optimisation, BPO, system that incorporates CRM functionality, delivers what is required by both parties in a transaction, and also builds up a wealth of knowledge that can be used on a continual basis to refine the processes in use.