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Using the Right Technology for CRM Success

8 May, 2008 By: William K Pollock imageSource

Using the Right Technology for CRM Success

Technology isn't new - it's what evolves from it to make things new. It's
like that old BASF television commercial - "We don't make the products you buy;
we make the products you buy better." Well, for CRM (Customer Relationship
Management) and the services industry in particular, innovative technology is
the primary reason that makes the services you sell better - and more
profitable, too.

As most know, CRM is an integrated information system that is used to plan,
schedule and control the presales and post sales activities in an organization.
It embraces all aspects of dealing with prospects and customers, including the
sales force, marketing department, tech and service support. A primary goal of
CRM is to improve long-term growth and profitability through a better
understanding of customer behavior, with a strong focus on automating field
service operations.

One of the greatest opportunities we have in the services sector today is the
ability to use technology as an enabler to make our offerings better. R&D is
used all the time to make products more optimum, but for most product
manufacturers, R&D can take years, and costs tons of money, often involving a
great deal of re-branding and market re-positioning. The advantage we have in
the services sector is that we generally have a much faster turnaround, and it's
far easier to improve our existing service offerings than it is to, say,
reengineer a whole product line.

However, one of the greatest fallacies in the services business is that if
you simply embed technology, you'll be in a better position just for the sake of
having done so, that you’ll automatically be able to make your customers
happier, and you’ll make more money. But that isn't always true. If all you’ve
got is an old, archaic services–delivery model, and you apply the newest
technology to it, you’ll just end up with a quicker, more automated, archaic
system - but not necessarily a better one. What we have found is that only by
applying the right technology, to the right functions and applications, will you
be able to provide your customers with exactly what they want, when they want
it, and all while reducing your internal costs, and ultimately keeping both your
customers and your CFO happy!

Know What Works

There have been some stunning examples of the misapplication of CRM
technology over the years, involving businesses that have implemented "brand
name" technology just for the sake of implementing technology. They have built
some enormous infrastructures-state-of-the-art-but as impressive as they may
have initially appeared on paper, they generally end up being only anecdotal to
what the real mission of the business is in the marketplace. Even with all the
technology they have put into place, they’re still running blind! They didn’t
"get it" before they implemented the new technology, and they still don’t get
it–they’re just more automated than they were before.

The sad thing is, what should have been a tremendous business transformation
opportunity for them generally turns out instead, to be nothing more than an
expensive technology implementation with no real value-add to either the
organization’s business operations, or its competitive market position. And this
is sad, because in most cases, they’ve spent a great deal of time and money for
the technology, but without any plan for how to actually use it. So all of their
time and money spent ends up going for naught. That's why technology without a
purpose is just an expensive and disruptive toy. But technology with a plan will
undoubtedly yield some positive results for those who know what to do with it.

Tied to Technology

Each and every one of these needs at first blush may look to be
standalone–independent elements that all organizations face, but there is a
common thread that runs between and among all of them–and that is technology.
Technology is the great facilitator that ties everything together: the people,
the customers, the infrastructure, and the processes. And it is the one element
that most directly impacts all of the others. It impacts people, because it
empowers them to do things that they would not otherwise be able to do on their
own–that is, without the latest IT systems, communications or software
applications. It impacts customers because it allows the services providers to
deliver the levels of support that are required, and with the management and
accountability that go along with it. It impacts the infrastructure because it
ties together all of the otherwise separate and distinct components of the
business that now need to "communicate."

Technology enables us to do things we never dreamed we could do. Services
providers can now resolve equipment problems either remotely, on-site, by phone,
over the Web, or through any combination thereof. They can wait to hear from the
customer before initiating the "fix," or they can fix the problem before the
customer even knows there is a problem. They can fix the problem themselves, or
they can partner with others to get the job done. Services providers have many
alternatives to accommodate their customers' needs, and the only questions that
typically remain are "how quickly do we need to fix it?" and "how much is it
going to cost–both for us, and for them?"

It is the technology that empowers services organizations with the ability to
deliver the levels of service and support that their customers require, demand,
and expect. And it is the same technology that enables customers to make the
right choices for how they want their service and support to be delivered. The
technology that abounds today runs circles around yesterday's technology - and
it is almost frightening to think about what tomorrow’s technology will bring.
But what’s even more alarming, is where your organization will be if it doesn’t
evolve along with the demands of the marketplace.

The People Factor

But technology is not the only thing that a services organization needs in
order to succeed and thrive. It needs people, because without people, it has no
"face" to show its customers. However, in recent years, an organization's "face"
may no longer be merely visual. In fact, what has historically been the service
provider's "face" is increasingly being transformed into a "voice." 

Services organizations also need customers  for without customers, they've
got no one to sell their products and services to - no one to complete the
transaction. However, the days are long since gone for when manufacturers would
only support those customers that had purchased their products. Today, not only
do most service providers support multi-vendor products, but they also find
themselves selling services to completely different types of customers, such as
consortiums, group purchasing organizations, and other "new" types of buyers.

Services organizations also need infrastructure  both in terms of
organization and operations, in order to ensure that the transactions between
their people and their customers are executed and managed effectively. To run
their operations efficiently, services organizations must also have the right
mix of business processes, policies, and procedures to provide the levels of
support that are required - and expected - by customers.

William K. Pollock is president of Strategies For GrowthSM (SFGSM), the
Westtown, Pennsylvania-based services consulting firm specializing in strategic
business planning, services marketing, CRM consulting, market/survey research,
and customer satisfaction measurement and tracking programs. He may be reached
at 610-399-9717 or via e-mail at

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