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How companies can maximize the return on their CRM investments

For a variety of companies, one of the most important reasons today to collect and store consumer data is to improve their approach to customer service. If you have a large volume of patrons but they all have their own characteristics - different needs, communication tendencies and of course contact information - you have to have good strategies in place for gathering data.

One of the most important goals in business today is an improved approach to customer relationship management - having a strong approach to data quality and analytics can help companies manage their interactions with not only their current customers, but their future ones too.

The good news is that CRM is a rapidly growing field, which means all types of companies can soon expect to have an easier time working with customer data. According to Enterprise Apps Today, recent Gartner data shows a $23.9 billion market for CRM software that should emerge within "several years."

That's the good news. The bad news is that despite the staggering amount of money companies are investing in managing their customers, they're still often doing it wrong. Ann All, editor of Enterprise Apps Today and eSecurity Planet, described this problem.

"Given that level of investment, companies obviously want to get as much value as possible out of their systems," All stated. "It's unfortunate, then, that so many of them make mistakes in selecting and implementing CRM software. Much like Bill Murray's weatherman character in Groundhog Day, even companies with CRM experience seem to repeat their mistakes before finally getting it right."

There are a lot of steps that companies need to take in order to fix their problems with customer data. Here are four of them:

Putting IT people in charge
One of the most important things that companies need to reform CRM is strong leadership. In businesses that have gone astray, one of the common problems has been a lack of accountability for data. Everyone agrees that data is important, but no one actually wants to grab the reins and be in charge of organizing it and managing it. The best way to change this is to have IT leaders in the driver's seat - they're the ones with the most enlightened perspective on what to do with data.

Integrating CRM with ERP
In many cases, companies have two distinct silos of data floating around their systems - they have CRM, with customer information, and enterprise resource planning, or ERP, which includes internal data about operations and workflow. There's a real possibility to merge these two fields, as they should be intertwined in the real world. Having good data helps you look after both your customers and your own employees.

Adapting to all sorts of change
The old adage says that the customer is always right - and in an era of increased access to data, that's even more true. These days, consumers are able to change their taste at an extremely fast pace, and it's up to companies to respond quickly. Maybe a few years ago, people wanted to get in touch with their favorite brands by texting for customer service, but now, they prefer tweeting. Whatever the case may be, data management people among corporate ranks must be willing to adapt and give the people what they want, when they want it.

Staying aware of mobile
Enterprise Apps Today noted that when companies these days fail with CRM, it's often because they turned their mobile strategy into an afterthought rather than a vital cog in the machine. That is a common mistake - in 2014, mobile is king, and it affects everything from how consumers get in touch to the way companies collect and warehouse data.

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