CRM Integration is Integral

Everyone will have to integrate
"If there’s an enterprise-level strategy in place, then there is going to be integration," Greenberg says. The only alternative is throwing out everything, which is highly unlikely given the money companies have invested in legacy systems.

Integration is necessary whenever a newer system is fed data from these older systems — in other words, almost all the time. It may come as a surprise to some, but even sales force automation requires integration because its success can be dependent on data from financials, inventory management, billing and procurement applications.

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Five Key Steps to Increase CRM User Adoption

The best-designed CRM system in the world is useless if you can’t get your employees to actually use it. And yet companies routinely underestimate the time and expense that this crucial step to CRM success requires. In fact, AMR Research senior analyst Louis Columbus says that if you broke out a pie chart for the average CRM effort, you’d see that at least 70% is spent on change management and 30% is spent on software.

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Hosted or On Premise CRM? (Part I)

Traditional CRM comes with hardware, software and, oftentimes, the headaches associated with protracted installations and integration snafus. Hosted CRM offers an alternative: buy access to software on a subscription basis and log on to the apps via the Internet. Sounds simpler, right? But the hosted model presents its own separate set of challenges, not the least of which is wrapping your head around a different approach to getting software. 
"It’s a newer model, and it requires people to think outside the box," says Denis Pombriant, vice president and managing director of CRM at Boston-based Aberdeen Group.

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4 Steps to Prevent CRM Failure

A Butler Group report found that 70 percent of CRM implementations fail. A Gartner study found that approximately 55 percent of all CRM projects failed to meet software customers’ expectations. In a Bain & Company survey of 451 senior executives last year, CRM ranked in the bottom three categories among 25 popular tools evaluated for customer satisfaction.

You get the picture. Many people believe that these "failures" are the result of the tools themselves–which is usually not the case. Another complication is that many of the reports define success based on management’s impressions, rather than evidence of ROI.

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The ROI of CRM

With C-level executives, CFOs in particular, taking a greater interest in their organizations’ investments, pressure for return on investment (ROI) numbers hits the usual functions — production, sales, human resources and information technology — and marketing, which is being held to greater accountability for its spending.

Because of this executive involvement in decision making and a lingering distrust of CRM (thanks to the the well-publicized failures of early implementations), CRM solutions need to show a measurable, if not quick, ROI.

"It is an issue we’re seeing more in the industry, particularly for an organization that’s been struggling to prove its CRM business case," says Kim Collins, a Gartner  research director.

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New Rules for Better Customer Relationships

The bloodletting in call centers, CRM and Web-based customer self-service has shown that a CTO can’t simply install a piece of software and expect it to start improving things; Web applications and call center automation will grow smart enough to improve a business’ value proposition only when they work in concert.

Customer self-service  Web applications built without regard for other contact channels have placed many companies in the position of showing customers internal inconsistencies and inefficiencies. One service channel often doesn’t synch with the other, and neither takes full advantage of data in back-room systems.
Companies trying to improve customer relationships through Web-based self-service and other channels should consider business rules management technology as a means to resolving their technical issues. Newer technology such as Web services can help integrate numerous applications to give business managers control of customer- facing information technology (I.T.).

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Measuring ROI of CRM Systems

Assessing ROI for CRM initiatives can be a daunting task and attempts to offer a framework for helping a business manager measure ROI of CRM systems is difficult to do.

Part I – Challenges, notes that there are many reasons why CRM systems defy easy ROI calculation, most of them stemming from just how vast and far-reaching the benefits of CRM are; and goes on to discuss six key reasons why assessing ROI is so challenging

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Choosing a CRM Solution

Choosing a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) technology has often been a daunting task for companies in all industries. Whether in financial services, telecommunications, retail, high tech or any other area, companies know that in order to be successful, they need to better service their customer and partners. How to do this can appear to be a monumental task particularly for Small to Medium-sized businesses. However, the approach for a multi-billon dollar empire or a small startup company just coming into the CRM game should be the same.

Anyone evaluating a CRM technology must consider the same 10 points to make it successful. In determining an approach on the first – Company Goals and Strategy – the others may no longer apply, but if questions remain, considering these 10 points will remove any doubts:

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Microsoft CRM: Buy Now or Wait?

Microsoft’s announcement that the 2.0 release of its CRM package will be delayed another few months has created a dilemma for many small to mid-size businesses (SMBs).

Some had put off their purchase of CRM software, waiting for Microsoft’s new version. Now, they are wondering whether they should go ahead and buy it or pursue another product.

It all depends on what the company seeks from CRM software, according to Forrester Research’s Liz Herbert. The fact that Microsoft has pushed off the release of version 2.0 does not necessarily mean that companies should avoid it altogether.

First Come, First Served

Companies that already own Microsoft CRM 1.2 will be first in line when 2.0 hits the streets, said Herbert. That may be reason enough to go ahead with a purchase. The new version will include long-awaited reporting improvements that allow users to slice-and-dice CRM data in Microsoft Excel.

In addition, the current version of Microsoft’s CRM application has a very friendly user interface and strong support for Web services, Herbert adds. What makes Microsoft’s other products so easy to use — their interface — means that both front-office and back-office staffers have little trouble learning the package.

Now for the Bad News

The current Microsoft CRM package has "very little marketing functionality," said Ben Holtz, CEO of SMB tech consultancy Green Beacon Solutions. Many of his clients are waiting impatiently for marketing automation to be rolled into the package, and now they must wait a while longer.

Many have been forced to turn to third-party add-on products to support necessary marketing processes, Herbert notes.

In fact, any customization of Microsoft CRM requires substantial involvement from I.T. personnel, Herbert says. That can be prohibitive for smaller companies whose technical employees already are overburdened.

In addition, getting information out of version 1.2 and into other systems — for sophisticated analytics, for example — requires either batch transfer or transaction-triggered export. Microsoft has provided good integration with its own Great Plains business software for SMBs. But it has failed to do so for other frequently used accounting and planning packages.

CRM And Customer Life Cycle

Customer Relationship Management or CRM is a combination of enterprise strategies, business processes and information technologies used to learn more about customers’ needs and behaviors in order to develop stronger relationships with them. CRM software systems automate many customer-related business tasks. CRM applications are traditionally developed as client-server software which incurs higher initial cost of ownership. The proliferation of the Internet and the Web has fueled the rapid growth of Web-based CRM or online CRM applications ( ). Web CRM systems are widely deployed for web based call center, contact management, trouble ticket, personal information manager and scheduling.

The life cycle of CRM consists of three phases – customer acquisition, customer relationship enhancements and customer retention. CRM software streamlines CRM activities at each phase of customer relationship management.

Customer Acquisition

Contact management module and direct marketing module of CRM allow companies to effectively promote and market their products and services to prospects. Those modules help speed up the acquiring processes and reduce the cost of acquiring new customers.

Customer Relationship Enhancements

CRM helps companies better understand existing customers’ needs and behaviors and enhance the profitability from existing customers by cross-selling. They can customize their products and services to individual customers’ needs and preferences.

Customer Retention

Customer service module of CRM system gives the organizations the edge in customer support ( ). They can increase customer satisfaction while reducing the cost of support. Customer retention is critical to the overall profitability of an organization. A customer you spend hundreds of dollars and months to acquire may leave you in seconds as a result of poor customer services.