Academic journal article Irish Journal of Management

CRM Best Practice: Getting It Right First Time at ESB International (ESBI)

Academic journal article Irish Journal of Management

CRM Best Practice: Getting It Right First Time at ESB International (ESBI)

Article excerpt


This study investigates the implementation of a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) initiative within ESB International1 (ESBI). During 2003, ESBI used the European Foundation for Quality Management (EFQM) Business Excellence framework2 to identify key business areas for improvement. CRM was one such area. Initially ESBI reorganised its business structure around customer key accounts, effectively implementing a customer-centric business model prior to the implementation of the CRM initiative in 2004. Qualitative research was conducted with senior management via in-depth interviews. Research findings suggest that the key success factors for CRM implementation in ESBI include senior management commitment and leadership, clear strategic planning and a coordinated and targeted programme which successfully combines organisational and process changes with the application of new technology.


Strategic, organisational and technological issues are all important in achieving CRM success (Roberts et al., 2005). Companies who have successfully implemented CRM initiatives develop a clear business case and implementation framework, with a targeted plan to make it happen (Almquist et al., 2002). Such companies adopt a pragmatic, disciplined approach to CRM implementation, launching highly focused projects that are relatively narrow in their scope and modest in their goals (Rigby and Ledingham, 2004). While both technology and business processes are critical to CRM implementation, successful firms view technology as a tool to help build profitable customer relationships while recognising that individual employees are the building blocks (Almquist et al., 2002; Chen and Popovich, 2003). Research supports the contention that CRM strategies that are clearly linked to business objectives have a much greater likelihood of success (Agrawal, 2004). Top management support and commitment is a key success factor for the implementation of CRM in organisations. Employee resistance is a risk associated with CRM implementation which can be overcome by involving end users in all stages of the CRM development process (Xu et al., 2002; Harding et al., 2004). The paper proceeds with a literature review, the qualitative research methodology is outlined and a case study of the central organisation ESBI is presented. A critique of CRM literature and the obstacles encountered in CRM implementation is beyond the scope of this particular paper which is focused on examining the criteria underpinning the successful implementation of CRM initiatives. These criteria are then analysed in the context of the ESBI case environment.


CRM can be seen to be firmly rooted in relationship marketing which is aimed at improving long-run profitability by shifting from transaction-based marketing to customer retention through effective management of customer relationships (Christopher et al., 1991). The philosophical bases of CRM are relationship marketing, customer profitability, lifetime value, retention and satisfaction created through business process management (Chen and Popovich, 2003). Relationship marketing is concerned with how organisations manage and improve their relationships with customers for long-term profitability. In turn CRM is concerned with using information technology (IT) in implementing relationship-marketing strategies (Ryals and Payne, 2001). This approach, coupled with CRM software, provides the functionality that enables a firm to make the customer the focal point of all organisational decisions (Nemati et al., 2003) with some practitioners suggesting that CRM can provide a platform for the operational manifestation of relationship marketing (Plakoyiannaki and Tzokas, 2002).

A difficulty with CRM is that it can mean different things to different people. Even the meaning of the abbreviation is contested (Buttle, 2004; Paas and Kuijlen, 2001). Most definitions however converge on two things: relationships and information technology. …

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