It?s customers? behaviour that has changed. Whereas before they would seek insights and investment rationale from suppliers, today customers are embarking on a new type of “journey” where they start with their own research; they no longer consider salespeople as an expert source of information. So the importance of having an optimally functioning CRM solution that acts as a repository of information is critical. Why? Because an effective supplier today is one that supports customers and prospects through their self-educating journey?and provides helpful intelligence without an overt hard-sell. The information with which to intelligently support your buyer journey is contained in the CRM. In fact, CRM is becoming a?layer over the whole business ? accessed and employed by all functions of the business in order to use intelligence to deliver stand-out customer experience. Thus, businesses are re-thinking CRM strategies. Maximizer has an ongoing programme of research among a large sample base of SMEs?and this article shares a few insights from that research.?Current indications from our ongoing research show that a significant minority of SMEs (around one in every five) now put CRM at the heart of business. It is a strategic mechanism to drive growth, ensure customer satisfaction, encourage customer loyalty and increase revenues. In effect, these businesses are treating CRM as a central customer knowledge hub and use this for all business decisions ? tactical and strategic. This community of SME pioneers, however, is still the highly “mature” segment ? the “bleeding edge”?? of the community which have seen the new world of business for what it is, and harnessed the power of CRM to guarantee that every touch point is as informed as possible. Much more common is a tactical view of value and success, based on the capabilities that CRM delivers when positioned as a common “layer” across the business and its operating systems. The ability to centralise customer data is prised by an overwhelming majority of respondents. Why is this benefit currently taking poll position? In a nutshell, the centralisation of customer data helps to give a more comprehensive view of all the various interactions and experiences a customer is having with each part of the organisation. All functions in the business are given the ability to treat customers more appropriately at all ?touch points?, by accessing this master repository of customer intelligence. Customer profile, value, potential, credit status, satisfaction, and much more can be harnessed for payment management strategies, sales pitches, marketing initiatives, customer service levels, and more. In the old days of CRM, when the solution was regarded really as a siloed marketing function, lead-generation campaigns were one of the main reasons for investing in CRM. Feedback from our customers show that old wisdom has been turned on its head. Not that campaign management is not a key function still enabled by the CRM solution, but it is no longer a top criterion. “Campaign management” is currently ranked well below the top half dozen of priorities for obtaining value from CRM. This indicates how CRM has come out of its marketing and sales silo, becoming a more focal operating tool for the whole business. This kind of up-to-date insight about the ways in which SMEs are deploying CRM company-wide and gaining enhanced value as a result, is critical information for those desirous of reaching such a goal, but as yet unsure of how to do so. Certainly, the true leaders in CRM are no longer gaining competitive edge from a software features comparison, but are developing their customer support and consultancy services to make sure that their clients are obtaining optimal value ? in terms of hard business benefits ? from CRM. The more that SMEs share the quantum shift in value that they can now get from repositioned CRM, the better. It is a conversation that is (literally) profitable to take part in. Mike Richardson is managing director EMEA?of Maximizer SoftwareImage:Shutterstock
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