--> MAKING SENSE OF eCRM Electronic Customer Relationship Management

















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MAKING SENSE OF eCRM
Electronic Customer Relationship Management

Author: Glen Petersen
Contributed by One Inc.

 

 

In today’s world of business and technology we are constantly barraged with a never-ending series of acronyms; a relative recent addition is eCRM. Like many of its predecessors, eCRM which stands for electronic customer relationship management, is a term that is tied to a great deal of hype and confusing messages, this article will attempt to provide a framework for understanding but moreover also establish a framework for success.

CRM, customer relationship management, is a concept that evolved from sales automation; sales automation evolved into customer asset management and then into CRM. Since this terminology tends to be the invention of the industry, it takes on many features and there is no universally accepted definition. Most practitioners would agree that CRM implies an organizational focus on the customer with an emphasis on building a long-term relationship with the customer; therein lies the meaning of relationship management. After this point, definitions start to differ as people try to integrate technology (their spin of capabilities) into the equation. It is generally agreed however that the applicable technologies are those that impact the processes that touch prospects and customers. So this would include marketing, sales, customer service (call center), and field service related activities. Thus, the industry provides an array of technology-based capabilities that address the operational needs of these functions; typically these tools are positioned as automation.

A commitment to true CRM implies the ability to analyze customer data and to use a combination of financial and customer based metrics for decision-making. These are database (data warehouse) and analytic type capabilities that are not unique to CRM; back office applications such as ERP and MRP require the same types of tools. Although some CRM vendors bundle these capabilities into their packages, this aspect of CRM tends to get overshadowed by the other capabilities; this is unfortunate because the decision support element of this technology is an essential component for success.

Lastly, there is the small e in eCRM that seems to get attached to everything in the CRM space. The e stands for electronic or web based technology and architecture. It is truly sad that the industry has tended to confuse and virtually trivialize the impact of these capabilities by slapping an e in front of everything. In reality, this little e should be a gigantic E because this technology, when properly used, can have a significant impact on industries and the structure of businesses. Essentially, the e enables an organization to extend its infrastructure to customers and partners in ways that offer new opportunities to learn customer needs, add value, gain new economies, reach new customers, and do all of this in real time. Given these capabilities, one begins to comprehend the power of this technology to transform the competitive landscape.

History has demonstrated that leveraging these capabilities is certainly not automatic and definitely disruptive from a change management standpoint. The reality is that eCRM is all about strategy and therefore requires the direction and engagement of senior management to be successful. Senior management must have a broad understanding of the capabilities of these technologies and then translate them into specific opportunities that leverage competitive advantage. Unfortunately many organizations launch into these initiatives without a roadmap or a clear set of objectives; the result is always the same disillusionment and frustration. It is possible to move quickly without ignoring the strategic course setting. Therein lies the key; no organization can afford to ignore these technologies or the establishment of a solid business strategy.

As this description suggests, eCRM is far too important to the future of the organization to approach these decisions as being solely a technology or operational purchase. To be successful means to make sense of eCRM from a strategic, operational, and technological perspective. Those who have done this have reaped substantial benefits while those who have treated these decisions as technology or cost based decisions have found themselves to be a victim of lost opportunity. 


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