Customer relationship management (CRM) is an approach to manage a business’s relations with both its current and potential customers. In the previous study, it has been discussed that companies go through five different phases to improve their customer relations. Having built the CRM project foundations, the next phase involves the specification of needs for the CRM and selecting the right suitable partner in conduction of CRM (Buttle, 2013). The importance of this phase lies in the fact that it involves activities such as process data review and gap analysis, initial technology specification and request for proposals.
The process of mapping and refinement
Process mapping is the method of designing how the complete business operation will work to deliver customer needs and retaining them. After risk planning, the step by step processes needs following for achieving performance and mitigating the perceived risks. This step actually involves practical application and is usually said ‘trial run’. However, Buttle, (2013) theorized that businesses use three forms of business mapping;
- The vertical and horizontal process
- Front and back-office process
- Primary and secondary process
These processes, however, differ from one business to another on the basis of the objectives and operations of the business. The business processes comprise of activities performed by people and technology in order to achieve the desired outcome. Exploring the best modes of process mapping helps in better operational performance. Better performance remains indicated by increased sales, increased requests by customers and fewer customer complaints. Now, the question is how do the businesses use these processes or decide which process to use and make the choice of a suitable partner.
Identifying the processes of business operations
Vertical processes remain situated entirely within a business function. A business that handles all the processes right from resource acquisition to sale of final products usually uses the vertical process (Wangler and Paheerathan, 2000). For instance, Walmart and Tesco use vertical process mapping, whereby they plan the business operations right from the top of the supply chain to market sales. On the other hand, businesses that work only on one dimension of business like sales and marketing or financial consulting use the horizontal as they focus on a single process.
Similarly, businesses also use front-office and back-office where the process remains focused on one objective rather than mapping the complete business operations (Buttle, 2013). A business uses front office process to accept the requests of customers and gather data from customers. The data or the complaints gathered by the front office stay processed by the back office. The back office, therefore, works on the process of providing backup information to the business process as to what new steps needed to maximize its performance.
For instance, a customer with an order related complaint will either mail or call customer care. The customer care here acts as the front office, where using a set of steps data will be gathered with respect to the complaint and will provide a solution to the client. Now the data gathered will remain used by the back office process where the business will evaluate the order related process. They make sure a similar mistake or complaints remain mitigated. Once these processes get determined, the business may move forward to identifying customer data availability and therefore need a suitable partner.
Interestingly, front-office and back-office are subparts of the vertical and horizontal process in process mapping.
Reviewing the existing data to identify the CRM process needs
It has been identified that different CRM types need different forms of data. Therefore, this process of identifying the needs of CRM with respect to data changes from one business to another. For instance, strategic CRM type will use customer-related data only, whereas, analytical CRM will use both financial, operational, and customer based data (Kumar and Reinartz, 2006). Usually, the businesses use the existing data to find the gaps in the data and what variables are needed to implement the CRM strategy. Businesses also see that the data requirements meet the needs of the newly updated CRM.
The existing data helps to identify the behaviour of its existing customers to plan the pitfalls and bridge the gap to target potential customers. However, this process is usually the populating step of database formation. Therefore, this step needs an effective database formation to help gather a larger base of data for operations (Kumar and Reinartz, 2006). Database formation for CRM implementation has various steps. The businesses may, therefore, need the help of third parties or partners that specialize in database management and formation.
A business following the collaborative CRM needs to employ and gather data to target their communications as precisely as possible mainly on complaints and queries. In this case, the businesses need the help of business partners who would help in gathering query and complaint-based data. Thus, this step is imperative for businesses to address how to use the data for strategic, operational, analytical and collaborative purposes and improve the business operations. The process of partnering is usually done with the help of request for proposals to help in a suitable partner selection.
Suitable partner selection helps the adoption of the right CRM technology
Technology adoption is the process of finding the right tool or software to manage the objectives and operations of CRM in an efficient way (Frank, 2019). Most common CRM based software includes HubSpot, Salesforce CRM Essentials, Pipedrive, Zoho, InfoFlo, AmoCRM and SAP CRM. However, choosing the CRM tool is not an easy task. In some cases, businesses choose more than one CRM tool based on their functions and objectives.
HubSpot is an online solution that streamlines sales processes regardless of the channel. It tracks and organizes every stage of sales and manages an unlimited number of contacts. It also helps in customization regardless of team sizes, specifications and target customers. These features and readiness make it one of the most popular software that companies employ (Frank, 2019). So the decisions of choosing a new CRM tool depend on the applications features and the rate of returns.
Hosted and on-premise CRM tools
Most businesses opt for either hosted (on-demand) or standalone (on-premise) solutions (Buttle, 2013). On-premise CRM can be installed on a user’s personal computers. It is also known as offline CRM. However, the hosted option has become more popular among smaller enterprises.
Online or cloud-hosted CRM applications comprises of web-services based out of the ASP (Application Service Provider) model. An application service provider (ASP) offers individuals or enterprises access to applications and related services over the internet. Similar to premium online tools, they are also cloud-based CRM and provide free email support, multiuser, sales automation and customer database management (Frank, 2019).
Big companies like Coca Cola and Amazon use both types of CRM applications to manage their sales, marketing and customer management across various regions they operate.
Request for proposals (RFP)
Request for proposals (RFP) is an important part of the vendor or suitable partner selection. They act as a standard against which vendors’ proposals remain evaluated (Buttle, 2013). As mentioned earlier, to adopt technology or people to run the technology and integrate CRM operations. A suitable partner is chosen for helping in several business processes, human capital and technology partners. With hundreds of CRM applications to choose from, a business faces difficulties in choosing the right vendors for their operations. Therefore, businesses use unweighted and weighted scoring systems to evaluate a suitable partner based on their proposals.
Unweighted systems help businesses make assessments on different variables like costs, time of completion and assistance. However, the weighted system divides the operational variables according to the importance (Buttle, 2013). Businesses using weighted will equally give a score to project management services and customer interaction mapping.
- Buttle, F. 2013. Customer Relationship Management Concepts and Technologies. 2nd edn. Burlington: Elsevier.
- Frank M. 2019. Choosing a CRM: How to Compare and Evaluate CRM Software Vendors. MasonFrank International
- Kumar, V. and Reinartz, W.J., 2006. Customer relationship management: A databased approach. Hoboken: Wiley.
- Markos, S. and Sridevi, M.S., 2010. Employee engagement: The key to improving performance. International journal of business and management, 5(12), p.89.
- Wangler, B. and Paheerathan, S.J., 2000. Horizontal and vertical integration of organizational IT systems. Information Systems Engineering.