A 360 degree view of your customers
CRM systems designed to help businesses manage customer relationships are evolving fast. But how do you choose between the many CRM vendors? And which CRM model is right for your business? Vikki Bland sheds some light.
As a business process aided by technology, CRM is growing up. Most small businesses realise customer relationship management is about more than simply tracking customer contacts, and most CRM vendors now know a ‘one-size-fits-all’ CRM system usually doesn’t deliver what businesses need. Businesses usually find they require customisation early on, typically because they want the CRM system to integrate with other business systems so customer information is available in one ‘360-degree’ view. Additionally, the industry the business operates within may have specific information to track and respond to. Greg Innes, chief executive for The Edge, which manages Auckland entertainment venues Aotea Centre, the Civic Theatre and the Town Hall, says the CRM needs of the performing arts and entertainment industry are certainly unique. The Edge is preparing to launch its new CRM system, Tessitura, an entertainment industry specific CRM package also used by New York Met and the Sydney Opera House. “Our issues are around identifying and engaging with new audiences and developing our relationship with existing audiences. We need a single view of every single interaction to understand the totality of buying and giving patterns,” says Innes. He gives the example of a CRM campaign in which an entertainment venue and an opera company used Tessitura to identify 1000 people who had not previously purchased opera tickets, but whose demographic suggested they had much in common with people who had. Those identified were then offered a free ticket to the opera, with a take-up rate of around 75 percent. “So you have introduced 750 people and their partners to opera. It’s one example of what [CRM] and a rich database offers and we are excited by it,” says Innes. Information services company Unisys says 2008 will see many businesses re-establish personal relationships with their customers because satisfied customers are not necessarily loyal customers. A Unisys study of New Zealand banking customers found that while 72 percent were satisfied with their banks, only 21 percent felt loyal. The same study found customers want to be rewarded for the size and length of their business, prefer a customised experience that matches their specific needs and want a consistent customer experience regardless of what channel (including face to face, Internet and phone) they use. “A number of businesses have already successfully reinvented themselves around the customer. McDonald’s introduced a healthy food menu and café-style coffee to attract mothers with children. BNZ and Westpac announced customers would not be left out of pocket if they were innocent victims of online fraud. [Airports] have self-service check-in kiosks to provide a faster check-in process. I predict we will see this trend increase in 2008,” says Brett Hodgson, managing director of Unisys New Zealand. Motivational speaker and customer relationship guru Debbie Mayo-Smith says small businesses need to be careful not to be blindsided by technological “wizzies” and instead ensure a new CRM system meets fundamental business needs. “CRM systems are where you put information to sleep at night…but your processes are equally important. Great service, added value, saved time, that wonderful smile – this can’t be pulled from your software purchase,” says Mayo-Smith. She says “sheer stupidity and short-sightedness” causes small businesses to neglect CRM processes. “[True] CRM is almost non-existent in New Zealand or is in the very least egocentric. Sure Pizza Hutt recognizes me when I call or Vodafone can see my account details when we speak – but for who’s benefit is that? When I take my shoes in for a new heel, the friendly smile of the proprietor and ‘hello Mrs Mayo-Smith, how’s the kids?’ is as close as it gets. What about all the other people and businesses I buy from? What a void.” She suggests putting the customer’s shoes on and asking ‘What would I want that would make me feel a lot warmer about this company I’m doing business with? “And of course, ask your customers the same thing. They might not value what you think they will.” Web-enabled and accessed CRM systems these days need to be closely integrated with the online channels of the business and ideally communications systems including telephony and email. Innes says The Edge often sees online sales swing to more than 80 percent of ticket sales for high demand events and “unquestionably the online world is where it’s headed. The biggest challenge [with online sales and marketing] is that the transactional elements take precedence over from the CRM elements and we felt that is a fundamentally wrong proposition; both needed to be implemented at the same time. We wanted to distinguish ourselves, so our system allows online buyers to select their own seat and see the view from that seat online,” he says. Improvements to mobile broadband speeds and gradually lowering mobile data pricing is also driving some businesses to consider accessing CRM systems using smart phones, laptops and PDAs. Leanne Graham, managing director for Enprise Global Products, a CRM implementation partner for the SAP and Exonet brands, says some businesses want mobile job management or sales management for people in the field and Enprise helps the business to decide whether handheld devices will work and whether customers and suppliers need to be enabled into the mobile solution. Brad Wilson, general manager of Microsoft CRM for Microsoft Corporation in the US, says when CRM systems are integrated with mobile technologies decisions need to be made as to which CRM views to present on the mobile platform – for example a choice between rich or light graphics affects the speed of information upload to a mobile device, as well as mobile data costs. “Successful CRM is more a matter of process design than technology stuff,” says Wilson. There is also burgeoning interest in investing in a fully hosted CRM service managed by a provider. Commonly known as Software as a Service (SaaS), hosted CRM services are a less complex alternative to purchasing and installing a CRM system, web enabling it, and then having to manage and secure it. As such, several major CRM vendors have launched SaaS solutions, with others solely providing CRM via SaaS. Mike Lorge, managing director for Sage Business Solutions Australia and New Zealand says Sage has developed a SaaS offering and is keenly aware of the demand for easily accessed, web-enabled systems that deliver information from all parts of the business. “We do believe SaaS has its place. According to research from Gartner and IDC around 30 percent of the CRM market is interested in SaaS and on-demand type CRM services. That’s a strong trend which we recognise. At the same time, around 70 percent of the market indicates they prefer an on-premise system. So we offer both, allowing businesses to swap from one to the other,” says Lorge. Graham Bloxham is project sponsor for sales-focused SaaS-only CRM solution Salesworks. He says while small business broadband connections support SaaS solutions, there’s room for improvement. “I was in Foxton yesterday with a guy who wanted our product, but couldn’t use it because he couldn’t get the broadband performance he needed. The service is largely text based and will work at dial-up speeds, but it is much slower and you have time lags,” says Bloxham. He says Salesworks has built its product to ensure it integrates with Outlook and location based mapping products, and understands businesses need to be able to import and export data between the service and in-house systems. “A big problem with the sales process is follow up – the time it takes to data mine and progress a customer through the pipeline. We have fixed that big time – small businesses will be able to update 50 customers in five minutes,” says Bloxham. At the same time he says it’s difficult to ensure a hosted CRM solution integrates with all the internal systems and processes of a wide range of businesses. “We will provide the 20 percent of CRM features people want; ours is a simpler, more sales-focused product; we won’t be trying to be everything to everybody. A lot of CRM systems are too bloated and overwhelming.” Which CRM and partner? Lorge says CRM software developers have learnt what works and what doesn’t when it comes to installed systems – Sage CRM lets users configure their CRM system view so they don’t have too much information in one view. “It’s very easy to throw lots of information at the user, but that information needs to be particular to each role,” he says. Wilson says Microsoft is “excited” about the integration of communications systems like email, telephony and even video with CRM systems, and sees that CRM applications use the strengths of all underlying applications and systems and are therefore platform technologies. He says CRM systems used to be complex, requiring expensive customisation and experienced users, which is why small businesses used simple contact management tools as a ‘workaround’ for years. “One of the biggest things small businesses need to think about is how to get a 360 degree view of how customers are interacting with [them] – that’s where CRM differs from contact management, and other non-integrated applications,” says Wilson, He says he advises CRM consultants and channel partners to take CRM implementations in short, small steps. “Many CRM initiatives fail because the business or implementation partner tries to build a ‘Death Star’ and people lose focus or interest,” says Wilson. Enprise’s Graham says another expensive implementation issue is when customers want to keep tweaking and changing a CRM solution to exactly reflect and suit their businesses.” “That’s why we think it is important to focus by industry; in our case the wider services industry,” she says. Vikki Bland is an Auckland-based It writer. Email [email protected]