Friday, June 21, 2024

Controlling your CRM

When looking to integrate CRM into your infrastructure, the first thing most do is run to vendors to see whose solution best fits your needs. However, this is the worst possible way to began the program. If you allow vendors to establish your needs, then your results will be dependent on their software and their ability to read your company.
Your company, however, is much more capable of developing a CRM plan, which can then be implemented by the vendor of your choice. Brenda Moncla, of ThinkFast Consulting, gives these five tips for developing a plan for your CRM.

1. Define the business drivers for your CRM initiative. If you establish what you are trying to accomplish with your CRM first, by prioritizing your drivers and making sure they are measurable, it will be easier to focus your goals and come up with a realistic plan.

2. Define the business processes that will be created, modified, or deleted as a result of the business drivers. Decide up front what will be added, deleted, or modified, and make sure that you can compensate for the change.

3. Define the information required by, and information generated by, each of the business processes added in step #2.

4. Generate a set of CRM requirements from the process and information models created by steps 2 and 3. Decide how you want CRM implementation to implement your business drivers.

5. Define strategies for addressing the set of CRM requirements. Inventory your legacy systems, your database warehouse, and other IT equipment, and establish what you feel you can keep or modify, and what will have to be bought.

Once you have developed your own strategy, then listen to what vendors have to say. Compare previous work they have done with your situation. While all vendors say they can accomplish your goals, check to see who has done work in your field, or with companies with similar technologies.

The work is not done here, however. Although most vendors can provide a link between your OS’s and database warehouse, it is very advantageous to establish your own Enterprise Customer Data Store.

An Enterprise Customer Data Store (ECDS) can be the lynchpin of your CRM, and a key to your success. The basic idea is simple; the ECDS acts as a buffer between your CRM, OS’s, and database. The CRM suite should be used as an analytical tool, making discoveries from the history stored in the database warehouse. The ECDS can send current relevant information to the CRM so that it can take action on it; such as send out a newsletter, offer a warranty, etc.

The ECDS can also send information that is relevant back to the OS’s, which will provide employees on that end with the information they need to meet the needs of all customers. The ECDS should be designed so that customer’s information is wholly available to those who need it. For example, if someone calls in a purchase, then, in the future, has a complaint, criticism, or question, the log of the original conversation should be easily accessible. While this can be provided by the CRM suite, offering it in the ECDS offers flexibility and scalability only found at your level.

ECDS also provides a cushion for outgoing and incoming CRM apps. Although you are just installing your CRM, most apps have that pesky 5-year life cycle, so you’ll probably be upgrading every 5 years. Also, vendors could leave, giving you no support, or you may find a need for a new app. THE ECDS will provide a buffer between what you have and the new apps, so that production won’t suffer during installation.

While it is tempting to jump into the CRM world feet first, developing business drivers and a design showing your attributes, needs, and shortcomings will provide a basis for success. After you have selected the vendors, consider implementing your own ECDS, whether in house or from a consulting firm, to establish a company link to customer information. By having your own dynamic access to information, your company can develop a fully integrated connection for all OS’s and customers, and realize a ROI quickly and efficiently.

John Mark Kennedy is currently a Senior at the University of Kentucky pursuing a degree in Descision Sciences and Information Systems. His e commerce interests include eCRM and supply chain management infrastructure.

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