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CRM Still a Driving Force for Business Success

If the customer is “at the center of everything,” so, too, should be a company’s system for managing customer relationships, according to a recently published white paper.

In other words, customer relationship management software (CRM) needs to be more than just a way to handle queries about products or fielding feedback from clients. It needs to be used as a central platform for connecting people, processes and data, as well as a means of identifying opportunities to increase efficiency, improve service, optimize social media conversations and generate new leads.

“To keep ahead, organizations need to change the way they collect, analyze and use data to make more informed decisions about how to engage with their customers and demonstrate how they can adapt to this dynamic environment,” according to the whitepaper just released by ConsultCRM, an arm of Advanced Business Solutions. A Microsoft partner, Advanced Business Solutions that company’s Dynamics CRM application.

The pressure to change in that way stems from new technologies that enable customers to access much more information about products and services than ever before. Between social media, Web sites, ever-smarter search engines, blogs, whitepapers and 24/7 mobile Internet access, customers have a plethora of data at their fingertips before they ever make their purchasing decisions.

But all those resources can also help sales and marketing professionals better stay on top of customers’ wants, needs and preferences — if they make the most of their CRM tools, ConsultCRM noted.

CRM ‘A Connecting Tool’

Customer relationship management software should act as a hub for everything a company does, according to the white paper, “The digital face of your organization: How CRM can drive business transformation in the digital age.”

Applications for managing customer relationships should also be used as connecting tools for data, people and processes, according to the white paper. CRM apps should also be used to better help personalize customer services; automate processes to improve service and efficiency; track and generate leads; monitor conversations on social media; and provide anywhere, anytime secure and mobile access to important business data, the report noted.

“Although often referred to as ‘disruptive,’ digital transformation impacts all areas of the business . . . it involves connecting traditional data silos to create a seamless customer experience,” according to ConsultCRM. “If they’re to drive their business forward and differentiate themselves from their competitors, organizations need to build on this wealth of customer data, tailoring their marketing and services to improve customer engagement and satisfaction, increase loyalty and improve retention.”

‘Dramatically Changing Buying and Selling’

The information provided through all the various ways a customer interacts with a company is “dramatically changing the way B2B companies and their customers approach buying and selling,” an article in the Harvard Business Review noted last month.

“Information technology and digital channels can help sellers become more effective and efficient, but they can also be a source of disharmony and confusion if implemented without thought,” said Andris Zoltners, P.K. Sinha and Sally Lorimer. “Too many sellers have wasted millions of dollars on sales technologies such as CRM systems and data warehouses that never lived up to their potential.”

The power of the data provided by CRM shouldn’t be overlooked, according to Microsoft. In fact, insights about customer preferences should guide decisions at the very highest levels of a company, Matt Kresch, Dynamics CRM director of product marketing for service, said in a blog post yesterday.

“Today, fewer than half of companies rate their customer experience as exceptional, but two-thirds ‘expect it to be’ in two years,” Kresch said. “If the top brass is already convinced that providing exceptional customer experience is the best way forward, she or he can make it a priority throughout the organization and make that two-year goal a reality.”

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