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Article : CRM - Addressing The Realities

Many types of systems are being repositioned as CRM, even though they play only a part in successful customer relationship management. In some ways it is easier to describe what CRM is not. CRM isnothandling advertising response; CRM is not sales contact management; CRM is not the segmentation of customers for sales campaigns; customer service centres also do not deliver true CRM. Rather, it is managing the customer life cycle to reduce the risk of defection. It is a method of dealing with customers so that they buy more from you, or, at worst, they do not buy less.

Focusing Organisation Structure On The Customer
Successfully integrating CRM into an organisation involves more than just buying the systems and training staff to use them. There needs to be a change in the way that the whole company is organised, with a shift in focus from products and services to the customer. A recent report from the Economist Intelligence Unit, produced in co-operation with Andersen Consulting, shows that at the moment only 18% of those companies surveyed are organised around the customer. Of the rest, 44% of all organisations' base structure are around products or services, 20% are organised around geographic lines, and 17% around processes. The survey forecasts a change in these percentages over the next 5 years, with 49% of companies focusing their structure on to the customer by the year 2004.

This change must happen in order for CRM to work effectively. The database must be organised around the customer rather than product, and the customer must become the focus of all sales contact, in fact of every point of the organisation which has any contact with customers. Customer contact includes the front end of sales through to fulfilment; how businesses deal with the environment of the company site and those that live around it; even the way customers respond to the advertising of company products and services.

The Call Centre As Front End Of CRM
So where can we start? Where does most customer contact take place? Possibly the most important point of direct contact between an organisation and its customers today is the telephone. Consumers will now use the telephone for store information, availability, complaints, queries, sales and requests. For this reason call centres have become a burgeoning industry - it is growing to a very significant size, and call centres are expected to be employing 1% of the UK workforce by the year 2000.

Customer Relationship Management(CRM) systems are hailed as the answer - systems which will allow organisations to foster loyalty as effectively as possible. Though the term CRM is not new, confusion over what it means still reigns.

Until fairly recently, call centres have been used mostly for picking up advertising response or, at their most sophisticated level, as customer service lines. Call centres, whether in-house or outsourced, must be enabled to become customer relationship or customer contact management centres, using the increasingly powerful call centre systems which are on the market.

New CRM Systems
The most important new development which facilitates this change in the organisation of the call centre is the development of systems which can effectively apply data from powerful underlying databases to customer contact. Call centre systems which can integrate with legacy databases and call up customer information have existed for some time. However, these systems still rely on agents to search through the available information themselves to find the relevant data. Now there are systems on the market which are capable of using data effectively, making the information dynamic and pulling relevant details into appropriate points of the customer conversation - important in order to allow agents to sound both knowledgeable and intelligent.

Using information from the underlying databases, different information and prompts are presented to the call agent depending on the caller's profile, rather than on what products are being pushed at that time, or which products the customer has not yet bought. In fact the process is even more interactive now - the caller's live answers will dynamically steer the path of the call. Today's systems will prompt different suggestions, offers or simply remarks that the operator should make to the caller, depending on an instant reappraisal of that caller's profile.

In other words, technology is making it possible to put the most up-to-date and relevant information on the call handler's screen, at the moment they need it, and in the form they need it. This is true, even if that piece of information has had to be retrieved as a result of information given by the caller a few seconds previously. As a consequence, call centres no longer need to treat callers as unknown entities. Instead, each enquirer should feel they are being treated as a known and valued customer, appropriate offers and messages are put in front of that customer each time they ring, and customer relationships are thereby better managed.

Tracking And Fulfilment
This is the front end of CRM; but it is as important that the rest of the organisation is equally customer focused. Contact, be it a sales enquiry, a general enquiry or a complaint, must be tracked to its satisfactory conclusion - follow up outbound calls can be made, if necessary, to ensure this satisfaction. This is especially important for complaints, since a resolved complaint often engenders loyalty.

In order for this to work, every person involved in the process is made to take responsibility for their role in processing the enquiry. This ranges from the agent who takes the in-bound call, to the fulfilment of the requirement, to the agent who makes the subsequent outbound customer service call. Standards and objectives are set, such as answering every call within 5 rings, or responding to a complaint within a week. If a query becomes 'stuck in the pipe line', automatic escalation triggers ensure it is flagged for special attention to prevent it growing into a serious problem. Using this workflow, difficult queries or complaints will not circulate around organisations for weeks - instead, those with the responsibility for each stage have to make sure it has been completed satisfactorily.

In order for this model to work well, it is worth investing in people skills at all levels of the organisation. Only when every link in the chain is working toward their customer service requirement can CRM work successfully. At the micro level, each customer interaction should be managed from first contact to its conclusion. On a macro-scale, the life cycle of a customer's long-term relationship with the organisation will become more measurable, controllable and potentially profitable.

Cost Efficiency
Customer Relationship Management is the implementation of systems and business practices which reduce the risk of customer defection, improve retention rates, and, if successful, profitability. CRM systems are the facilitators of this process but it is the organisation which must embrace the customer focus before any relationships can be managed at all, let alone with any effectiveness.

CRM is here to stay as a concept. And it is a concept which can deliver tangible benefits both large and small. However, before launching into a CRM systems choice, some basic first moves should be made. Most critical is to analyse where you interact or communicate with the customer, and how complex or straightforward those interactions are. Only by following this method can a suitable CRM strategy be built, objectives set, and a CRM system chosen to fulfil those objectives.

About Noetica:
Company LogoNoetica is a software development company specialising in intuitive, user friendly software for contact centres. Our software platform, Synthesys, is a comprehensive package that provides almost everything you will ever need in order to run and manage a successful, effective and efficient call centre operation. Developed over many years and incorporating a wealth of knowledge and experience of the call centre market, Synthesys is designed to reduce reliance on IT and empower the business functions to become autonomous and extremely agile by delivering integrated applications to the agents’ desktop intelligently and in record time.
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Today's Tip of the Day - Feasibility Of An IP Contact Center

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Published: Friday, January 17, 2003

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2024 Buyers Guide SaaS Solutions


CrankWheel Screen Sharing
CrankWheel is an easy and simple screen sharing solution, made for the needs of salespeople and customer service agents.

CrankWheel complements voice calls by adding visuals to ongoing calls. There is no need to get the customer off the phone, onto another platform.

Agents share their screens by directing clients to a link that can be sent via SMS, email or simply spelled out.

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