CRM: A business imperative during uncertain economic times

Navigating through turbulent times is never easy, but today’s economic conditions are certainly challenging. The instinctive reaction is switch to defensive mode; cut all strategic projects and then wait until things improve. But retreating behind the bailey could actually prove to be more detrimental in the long term. Indeed, simple cost reduction on its own will not steer a business safely through the economic downturn. Businesses also need to examine how they can safeguard revenues and profitability, and particularly within their own customer base. Otherwise, they are just delaying the inevitable: more painful cost reductions and the very real possibility of sliding into an irrevocable decline.

Organisations can look for practical solutions that will help them to drive productivity and increase effectiveness across their operations. Increasingly, companies are turning to business software and Customer Relationship Management (CRM) applications in particular, to drive through the kind of operational improvements needed to survive and accelerate out of the downturn.

How CRM can help your organisation?

Lowering costs and driving productivity within your sales operations
Easy-to-use analytical tools within a CRM solution help your sales team to identify latent sales opportunities which exist within your customer database, and then create cross-sell and up-sell propositions accordingly. Automated workflow and pipeline management tools also eliminate unnecessary paperwork and ensure that sales teams are optimising their sales processes and adhering to company-specific sales stages. This means that opportunities will be progressed as quickly and as efficiently as possible.

In addition, integration with back-office applications provides sales staff with access to both financial and non-financial data, for a complete 360-degree view of their customers. Information and capabilities from on-demand services can be added with ease, allowing users to leverage even further productivity benefits and insight. Mobile and offline solutions provide sales teams with access to the information and services that they need to do their jobs effectively; regardless of their location, device or connection, and ensuring that they are as productive in the field as they are in the office.

Lowering costs and driving productivity within your marketing operations
A CRM solution should allow you to develop a deep understanding of your customers’ needs enabling you to create a tailored proposition that can be communicated to them through their preferred marketing channels. Marketing analytics and reporting also ensure absolute accountability at all stages in the cycle, which means that the return-on-programme investment can be calculated with ease and marketing budget is optimised at all times.

Lowering costs and driving productivity within your customer service operations
A CRM solution should enable your company to roll-out web-based customer self-service quickly and cost effectively. From here, users can service their own information needs, track data and update the system without the requirement for customer service assistance and at the time and place of their choice. Additionally, you can maximise the synchronisation between your service agents and your customers, ensuring that cases are progressed in a timely manner and in accordance with service level agreements.  Knowledge management capabilities make it easier to capture remedies related to specific issues which may recur over time; making sure that agents are not duplicating effort.

Enhancing command and control over the entire organisation for your senior executives
Reporting and dashboards provide instant insight into business performance across multiple criteria. Senior managers have the ability to validate forecast data with full drill-down to the underlying opportunities. Real-time visibility on revenue and budget variance ensures that decisions are based on accurate information, and corrective action can be taken earlier in the cycle when it has maximum impact. Integrated with your back-office applications, CRM provides a complete view of the business and streamlined end-to-end business management capabilities.

Selling more to existing customers may be the first priority during uncertain times but the important task of acquiring new customers cannot be overlooked. Without growth in customer numbers, any business runs the risk of exhausting its revenue base over the medium term. Selling to new prospects, however, is generally regarded as being five to ten times more costly than selling to an existing customer, so improving sales and marketing efficiency will be vital for growing your customer numbers during the downturn. CRM solutions have an important role to play in this regard – they allow you to extend the reach and effectiveness of your new business sales and marketing programmes through on-going process improvements, productivity enhancements and significant cost savings.

If you’d like to get practical, email me Charles.Pludthura@sage.com