How to Become a CRM Guru

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Saying customer service is key is such a basic axiom, merely stating it probably prompts some eye rolling. When IT gets involved, though, serving the customer moves from basic to Byzantine.



For this reason, the goal of becoming a customer relationship management “guru” is an elaborate one. Among technologies, there’s not much available in the way of a comprehensive CRM solution. What’s out there is a lot of different specialties targeting functions in sales, marketing, e-commerce, support, tracking Web trafficking and the like, but you don’t see this all in one package.



An IT pro seeking to become a CRM guru likely will need to be a jack of all trades and, with any luck, a master of all of them to boot. In fact, the field might be too broad for attaining mastery of it to be feasible. But in surveying the topic, it will help to back up and consider the fundamental components of CRM to determine the best way to approach it from an IT perspective.



The first fundamental component of CRM architecture is the operational component. This involves automation of basic business processes such as marketing, sales and service. Using such automation, each interaction with a customer is added to a customer’s history, and information on customers can be retrieved from a database when needed or for analytical purposes.



This brings us to the second fundamental component of a CRM architecture: the analytical component. In this component of CRM, data, which might or might not be gathered within CRM, is analyzed in an attempt to improve a company’s relationship with a particular client or with its customer base in general. The results of these analyses will assist in the retention of customers, as well as provide guidance in developing new products and services, setting prices and directing marketing efforts, among other things. This should be viewed as a continual process.



The third fundamental component of CRM architecture is the collaborative component. This focuses on interactions with customers, which can be conducted in person, by telephone or over the Internet.



When aligning these components with IT processes begins, there are certain technical factors to consider. Obviously, a database needs to be established, and that database needs to have a healthy amount of scalability to give it the ability to increase or decrease in size or capability with minimal impact on cost to the business.



CRM architecture needs to be able to interface with a variety of different communication channels such as telecommunications, Internet, personal interfacing and postal mail. And this needs to be done with ample consideration of customers’ privacy, although this requirement is becoming less challenging as the CRM process becomes more interactive.



“If you’re doing CRM appropriately, the customer is managing their own experience with you, meaning that clear privacy policies are part of what you do,” said Paul Greenberg, chief customer officer and managing partner of BPT Partners LLC, as well as author of the book “CRM At The Speed Of Light.” “A lot of it involves you actually being more transparent as a business. Ultimately, the foundational principle of a relationship between a customer and a company is trust and authenticity. Those are the two features that are mission-critical now, and they weren’t a few years ago, and a lot of that’s due to broad business climate changes, but it’s also due to the fact that the customer is in the driver’s seat.”



Greenberg said CRM is a process that is massively in flux.



“CRM’s undergoing a major transition in terms of what it is and how to approach it because in terms of its classic sense, it was focused around systems and technologies that were associated with sales, marketing, support and customer service,” Greenberg said. “Now, it’s much bigger than that, and that’s partly because the business ecosystem shifted toward the customer. So now you’re dealing with corporate strategy as customer strategy, and, within that context, transformation of business from the standpoint of culture, process and technology.”



He also said the customer is now primary, rather than the products and services that are being pushed toward the customer. Greenberg defines CRM as a philosophy and business strategy supported by a system and a technology designed to improve human interactions in the business environment.



“That’s meant to encompass the idea that you’re dealing with vision, mission, strategy, process, technology and culture in collaboration with customers now, which is the newer element of it,” he said, identifying one particular trend as perhaps the purest path to this goal.



“The Web 2.0 stuff is fully integrated into the right CRM perspective,” he said.

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