Tuesday, September 30, 2008

CRM Systems for Serving the Customer as 'King'

CRM is becoming less one-size-fits all and more customized apps and delivery methods to meet specific needs. To that end SugarCRM has come out with the Sugar Data Center Edition, which is comprised of systems management, provisioning and monitoring tools that enable centralized deployment and managing distinct Sugar CRM versions.

The saying "the Customer is King" is no longer just a clich? This time customers really are in charge. The Internet has given them vast powers to research and compare products and services and to spread the word on them, good and bad. Buyers expect you to be at their service at their convenience and when they summon you, which can be through a variety of means, none predictable, you have to be there immediately. They also decide whether, when, and how you can contact them, backed up by stronger laws that could have you punished in the public eye.
Your appeals and past service to these new monarchs mean nothing. If you don't have what they want at the price they wish to pay, you are heaved out of the castle. Yet you'll be invited back should your offering meets their requirements at what they are willing to spend.

So is it worth it to provide royal service via customer relationship management a.k.a. CRM? Obtaining a complete view of customers' interactions and analyzing what they want is a costly proposition. The solutions can cost as much as $1,500 to $2,000 per seat for enterprise customer premises software (CPS). Deployment can take two to three years, with a return on investment (ROI) in as long as three to five years.

Finding customers to have relationships with often requires prospecting, especially in B2B, which can be arduous, time-consuming and sometimes frustrating, but done right is ultimately rewarding. New tools such as Oracle Sales Prospector give salespeople a head start by finding qualified leads faster by identifying what to sell to which potential prospects based on buying patterns of customers with similar attributes. Sales reps are then focused on the best deals that could lead to customer relationships.

Newer hosted or software-as-a-service (SaaS) solutions have improved CRM viability as they can be up to 25 percent less expensive than their CPS counterparts, depending on the applications, while their deployments and ROI can be measured in months. The offsets are fewer features and less customization. Even with SaaS CRM still requires a considerable resource commitment.

Not surprisingly, many enterprises are thinking twice about adopting CRM. Dimension Data, a specialist IT services and solution provider, reports that in 1997 39 percent of contact centers said they had a single view of the customer, a key CRM indicator, with 45 percent planning to create it in two years. That has dropped to 34 percent having that view in 2007. (continued...)


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