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Alison Diana 5 Ways to Guarantee CRM ROI

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 By Alison Diana

Ensuring Your Customer Relationship Software Payback

There may not be many guarantees in life beyond death and taxes, but there are steps savvy executives and IT professionals can take to ensure their customer relationship management (CRM) investment pays off.

By turning some of the typical CRM software challenges into opportunities, organizations can further advance today's CRM solutions into powerhouses of information and customer relationship-building tools. Many indicators of CRM Return on Investment (ROI) exist today—such as the financial payback from growing customer share, improving customer retention rates and enhancing staff productivity. However, with increased CRM software functionality, automation and access to real-time information, businesses today have many more options to support strategic goals and ultimately forge new loyalties, communicate almost in real-time, and build long lasting and profitable relationships with customers.

Past success with CRM is no predictor of future results, as businesses must meet new challenges and changes in customer expectations, technologies, and conditions, experts warn.

"Most of us have been in the CRM race for the last 10 years or so and some of us think we're doing an excellent job at it. But actually things are changing," said Gartner research director Jim Davies during the Gartner CRM Summit in London earlier this year. "There are some tough decisions we need to make. There are some new trends and changes we need to face."

Here are five top capabilities to consider in order to guarantee ROI from your CRM implementation:

  1. Get Social
    Social networking is, perhaps, the biggest trend and change facing IT professionals and C-level executives, said Davies. Clients expect—actually, they demand—to directly communicate with their brands and vendors, and companies must quickly respond via the channels consumers most prefer, he said. "For years we have focused too much on the management of our customer relationships, and we now need to focus much more on the relationship part, we need to collaborate, we need to inject a sense of mutual benefit into everything we do with our customers," said Davies. Likewise, mobile has gathered momentum, as partners, suppliers, and end-customers use smartphones to shop, seek support, and communicate using voice, email, text, and the Internet, he said.

  2. Go Mobile
    "As the world goes mobile, CRM must follow. Everything we do at home we can now do outside of home. We have to think about it from our customer's point of view—what processes across sales, marketing and customer service are suitable for execution on a mobile device," Davies told the audience. Increasingly mobile employees must have access to the company CRM system, so secure and seamless software is vital. Even if a business has no branch offices, employees log-in from home, from client sites or when traveling, and no one is willing to suffer through or excuse slow or inaccessible data.

  3. Analyze This
    Organizations that implement CRM systems that integrate mobile and social networks not only satisfy customers' desire to communicate over multiple channels: They also generate structured and unstructured data that, if tied correctly to powerful analytics tools, gives businesses insight into their customers, trend information, and a wealth of invaluable research. These analytics tools can drill-down deep into the layers of consumers' information, either private information collected through interactions between company and client, or public data collected through the customer's postings on social media sites such as Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. Blended together, this information creates a fuller picture of the clients, their likes and dislikes, giving businesses a better ability to hone marketing, product-development, and support offerings to customers' specific needs.

  4. Get the Big Picture
    CRM software is not an accounting system, a word processing application, or a spreadsheet: When correctly designed, implemented, and used, CRM truly is a transformational solution that touches many employees within an organization. To get the most out of CRM solutions, businesses should look beyond the CRM software and see the full value they can reap, recommends research and consulting firm Info-Tech.

    "The end goal is to eliminate disparate departmental information systems, and have a 360-degree profile of each customer…in order to hone and personalize each customer interaction in the future," Info-Tech said. "CRM systems allow companies to make more meaningful contact with their customers, giving the customer access to the products and information they need when they need it." To accomplish this lofty but achievable goal, organizations need input from a variety of stakeholders, not just IT, and leadership from a top-level business executive, experts said.

  5. Keys to Success
    Since different departments share a common customer relationship management business system, it also is critical to include different metrics to measure success. The sales force, for example, may want to determine the number of new customers or increase in order size or volume from existing clients. Customer service, on the other hand, may measure decreased hold-time, the lessening volume of phone calls for support, and perhaps its ability to shift phone-line resources.

    The marketing team will need to track how well its campaigns and promotions are working, adding social media analytics to its traditional marketing metrics, and must look to reduce the amount it costs to acquire each new customer. Top management, of course, is constantly seeking to enhance the overall customer lifetime value of each client, and looks to every department's reports to help achieve these results.

Aim high with CRM: It is a time-consuming proposition that can tie up a company's resources for weeks, months or, in some cases, years. Yet when businesses correctly invest the right people and allot the appropriate budget, they will see a return on their investment that far outweighs the money and time spent. End

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For years we have focused too much on the management of our customer relationships, and we now need to focus much more on the relationship part, we need to collaborate, we need to inject a sense of mutual benefit into everything we do with our customers."

~ Jim Davies, Gartner

 

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