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Can CRM improve good existing customer relationships?

What things must be kept in mind while designing a CRM model for a company that has very few customers and with whom most of the sales and service engineers already have good personal relationships?
The key in any CRM effort is to understand your customers better, and to find ways to deliver a better customer experience. While your relationships with your customers may be fine today, rest assured your competition is working to try to do it better, and your best defense is using CRM to drive ongoing improvement. You want the entire orgainzation to be focused on the customer, not just the engineers on the front line.

Enterprises have traditionally developed around product- and function-based structures. This makes it extremely difficult to have a customer-centric view of the world. Enterprises need to organize around customer segments (high wealth, least profitable or highest potential value) and customer life cycle processes (target, acquire, develop and retain). Within each process, there must be a mix of sales, finance, customer service, HR and other skills. CRM is not just about "sorting out" sales, marketing and customer service. Customers feel they are dealing with the enterprise as a whole and its associated value propositions - not its departments. It doesn't matter that the call center has a customer-focused manner if the finance department sends an incorrect invoice. For customers, the enterprise, not the department, has failed to deliver the expected customer experience. If the enterprise's value proposition to the customer partly depends on its suppliers and business partners, they must also be included in CRM programs. Identify processes and the roles directly or indirectly affecting the customer experience. Separate employees with jobs that are part of customer-facing processes from those that are not.

Many enterprises have processes that are functionally fragmented, internal tasks and activity focused. CRM calls for re-engineering these business processes into more customer-centric processes. The standards by which old processes are measured will be tossed out; new processes will be deployed based on their contribution to customer value.

Leading enterprises will ensure that such processes provide competitive advantage; duplicating a competitor's process will not make a leader. Each process requires an owner whose authority spans departments and traditional functions. Metrics for each process (things like lead follow-up, "quote to cash" and customer service intervention) are established and managed for continuous improvement. As customer loyalty builds due to sound process management, enterprises benefit from more efficient and effective operations and fewer impediments to customer satisfaction in achieving desired business outcomes.
This was last published in May 2003

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