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e-CRM: Relationships: Description, Dynamics

E-CRM, or Electronic Customer Relationship Management, is an integrated online sales, marketing and service strategy that is used to identify, attract and retain an organisation’s customers. It describes improved and increased communication between an organisation and its clients by creating and enhancing customer interaction through innovative technology. E-CRM software provides profiles and histories of each interaction the organisation has with its customers, making it an important tool for all small and medium businesses.

E-CRM software systems may contain a selection of the following features:

(I) Customer management:

Provides access to all customer information including enquiry status and Correspondence

(II) Knowledge management:

A centralised knowledge base that handles and shares customer Information

(III) Account management:

Access to customer information and history, allowing sales teams and customer service teams to function efficiently

(IV) Case management:

Captures enquiries, escalates priority cases and notifies management of unresolved issues

(V) Back-end integration:

Blends with other systems such as billing, inventory and logistics through relevant customer contact points such as websites and call centres

(VI) Reporting and analysis:

Report generation on customer behaviour and business criteria

Evolutions of E-CRM:

Customer Support – A Historical Perspective:

The Customer is King. This mantra, although used for a long time, has not been put into practice until recently. Forget the notion of royal treatment, customers were not even treated with dignity by most organizations.

As recently as the 1970s and 80s, the concept of customer support meant that organizations were doing a favor by answering a few questions for the customer on the phone – after putting them on hold for an hour! Standing in line to buy something was common and expected. Remember when the customers had to go to the airports to buy tickets only because the airlines kept them there? Organizations simply lost touch with the realization – that they existed because of these customers.

Evolution of Customer Relationship:

The 1990s brought two new concepts that challenged the prevailing business landscape: deregulation and the Internet. These forces brought down the barriers of entry resulting in an environment of intense competition.

Stores faced competition from on-line start-ups. Traditional bricks-and-mortar banks fought for customers with online or virtual banks. Airline tickets were increasingly purchased from the convenience of your home. The explosion in information allowed consumers to compare features, and prices across multiple providers. Products became commodities and prices could not be lowered further to ensure survival.

Customer service became the only major differentiator in many cases. Customers received what they have always deserved – respect. The customer was now truly the king. Business customers, although always treated with more respect than individual consumers, were more or less ignored in the early stages of the Internet boom.

The emphasis focused on expanding the consumer base regardless of positive cash flow, revenues, and margins. The demise of many dot-coms brought an epiphany. Companies realized that they needed to focus on their enterprise customers. The advent of e-CRM applications was the first big step toward providing better support to the strategic business customers. Although these solutions provided automated self-service to customers, they still treated all customers the same.

Evolution of Customer Relationship Management:

The genesis of CRM (Customer Relationship Management) lies in Sales Force Automation (SFA) tools. Companies like Siebel and Vantive (now part of PeopleSoft) took the early lead by introducing tools to help the sales personnel become more efficient in tracking their customers.

There were also a few problem-tracking tools for help desk such as Remedy. As companies focused more on customer relationships, additional applications emerged in areas of customer support, field support, and marketing automation. Most CRM companies today a retrying to address these four areas usually by partnering with other companies. Most of the ERP players are also expanding their solutions to include CRM. There are a number of niche players focused only on certain pieces of CRM such as e-mail management, sales force automation, technical support, marketing campaigns, among others.

Current CRM and E-Support Environment:

There are currently over 200 CRM software vendors and the number continues to grow. Although, there are various types of applications included in CRM suites, as described earlier, the core application within the CRM landscape that truly builds customer relationships is the customer service application. Other pieces, though useful, are focused on helping the vendor rather than the customer.

Many of these applications were initially focused on providing an environment to improve the productivity of call-centers. In addition, some of these applications integrated message queuing functionality to provide a common environment for all channels. So, whether the customer was trying to reach the call-center by making a call, via e-mail, by fax, or through the Web site, their query is prioritized and channeled through the same mechanism. Most customer service applications now provide Web-based self-service features for companies to offer their customers.

Customers can look up their basic information like billing ,order status, etcetera by logging in to the vendor’s Web site. While this solution works for a B2Cmodel, for enterprise customers with hundreds of users and hundreds of products to support, this simply doesn’t work.

Enterprise customers demand personalized support in order to access their information quickly and easily. In the era of information-glut, they want specific and relevant information. Companies are trying to manage relationships with their customers, partners, and suppliers in a personalized and automated manner. True personalization is not easy as each customer has its own needs and requirements. The issue is further complicated by the fact that

Business Benefits of E-CRM:

Implementation of an E-CRM system enables an organisation to streamline processes and provide sales, marketing and service personnel with better, more complete customer information. The result is that E-CRM allows organisations to build more profitable customer relationships and decrease operating costs.

Direct benefits of an E-CRM system include:

(I) Service level improvements:

Using an integrated database to deliver consistent and improved customer responses

(II) Revenue growth:

Decreasing costs by focusing on retaining customers and using interactive service tools to sell additional products

(III) Productivity:

Consistent sales and service procedures to create efficient work processes

(IV) Customer satisfaction:

Automatic customer tracking and detection will ensure enquiries are met and issues are managed. This will improve the customer’s overall experience in dealing with the organisation.

(V) Automation:

E-CRM software helps automate campaigns including:

(i) Telemarketing

(ii) Telesales

(iii) Direct mail

(iv) Lead tracking and response

(v) Opportunity management

(vi) Quotes and order configuration

Across every sector and industry, effective CRM is a strategic imperative for corporate growth and survival:

  1. Sales organisations can shorten the sales cycle and increase key sales-performance metrics such as revenue per sales representative, average order size and revenue per customer.
  2. Marketing organisations can increase campaign response rates and marketing driven revenue while simultaneously decreasing lead generation and customer acquisition costs.
  3. Customer service organisations can increase service agent productivity and customer retention while decreasing service costs, response times and request-resolution times.

Working of E-CRM:

In today’s world, customers interact with an organisation via multiple communication channels—the World Wide Web, call centres, field salespeople, dealers and partner networks. Many organisations also have multiple lines of business that interact with the same customers.

E-CRM systems enable customers to do business with the organisation the way the customer wants – any time, via any channel, in any language or currency—and to make customers feel that they are dealing with a single, unified organisation that recognises them every step of the way.

The E-CRM system does this by creating a central repository for customer records and providing a portal on each employee’s computer system allowing access to customer information by any member of the organisation at any time. Through this system, E-CRM gives you the ability to know more about customers, products and performance results using real time information across your business.

Implementation of an E-CRM System:

When approaching the development and implementation of E-CRM there are important considerations to keep in mind:

(I) Define customer relationships:

Generate a list of key aspects of your customer relation­ships and the importance of these relationships to your business.

(II) Develop a plan:

Create a broad Relationship Management program that can be customized to smaller customer segments. A suitable software solution will help deliver this goal.

(III) Focus on customers:

The focus should be on the customer, not the technology. Any technology should have specific benefits in making customers’ lives easier by improving support, lowering their administrative costs, or giving them reasons to shift more business to your company.

(IV) Save money:

Focus on aspects of your business that can contribute to the bottom line. Whether it is through cutting costs or increasing revenue, every capability you implement should have a direct measurable impact on the bottom line.

(V) Service and support:

By tracking and measuring the dimensions of the relationship, organisations can identify their strengths and weaknesses in the relationship management program and continually fine tune it based on ongoing feedback from customers.

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