Magazine article Information Management

Customer Connections: A RIM Opportunity: Customer Relationship Management Opens the Door to Greater Organizational Teamwork -- and Compelling Opportunities for RIM Professionals. (Business Matters)

Magazine article Information Management

Customer Connections: A RIM Opportunity: Customer Relationship Management Opens the Door to Greater Organizational Teamwork -- and Compelling Opportunities for RIM Professionals. (Business Matters)

Article excerpt

At the Core

This article:

* Dispels myths about customer relationship management (CRM)

* Shows how records and information management professionals can be a vital part of CRM initiatives

Recall the small-town merchants of yesteryear: the banker and barber who knew enough about their customers and their customers' families to know what products and services would likely make them happy. In today's era of automated call centers, online transactions, and grocery store express lanes, establishing a neighborly relationship with a customer has become more challenging -- if not impossible.

Enter customer relationship management (CRM). Also referred to as customer reengineering programs, customer care initiatives, or campaign management, CRM is an ongoing process of understanding customers -- how they spend money, what they like and don't like -- and using that information to develop better customer service and marketing initiatives.

According to Frederick F. Reichheld, director emeritus of Bain & Company and author of Loyalty Rules! How Leaders Build Lasting Relationships, a five-percent increase in customer retention results in a 25- to 95-percent increase in profits. Perhaps that is why research and advisory firm Gartner Inc. predicts that CRM will be one of the major areas of focus for the next five years.

Implementing a successful CRM program requires good research and planning. META Group, a research and consulting firm, reports that nearly 60 percent of all CRM project failures result from a lack of business buy-in and alignment. In other words, the projects failed because of inadequate business research prior to launching an initiative, insufficient upper management support, and improperly collected and utilized customer data.

With their expertise in managing information, records and information management (RIM) professionals have valuable skills to support CRM initiatives.

Dispelling Myths about Customer Relationship Management

Understanding how RIM relates to CRM means first defining exactly how CRM can benefit the company. Organizations must research what their customer relationships mean to them and set clear objectives for CRM implementation. However, these key components are often overlooked, says Jill Dyche, a partner and vice president of management consulting with Baseline Consulting Group.

"The term `customer relationship management' has become a `bucket' of often disparate efforts," suggests Dyche. "An alarming number of clients launch CRM without defining what it means to them. It's important to constantly re-ask the question, `What is the main business problem we're trying to solve with CRM?'"

Common misconceptions about CRM include:

* CRM is a project, not a process. Viewing CRM as a "project of the moment," as opposed to an ongoing process, has caused various organizations to be less effective with their customer-oriented programs than they might be. Because business needs change, identifying what these needs are is a continuous process. In addition to being collected, customer data must be integrated throughout key areas of the organization, notes Bill Chambers, a principal analyst with Doculabs. This could mean integrating a company's "data warehousing systems with CRM solutions. It involves integrating technology, people, and organizations." Often, companies underestimate the length of time it takes to implement any of these solutions. "They attempt to roll it out too quickly without testing it out with a small pilot group," Chambers says.

* Simply buying CRM software and hoping it will be compatible with the company's CRM initiative is enough. Not true, says Ronald S. Swift, vice president of strategic customer relationships with NCR Corp. Some companies buy CRM software without "sufficient information to segment or profile the customer being addressed," Swift says. …

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