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CRM provides for customer knowledge as a strategic tool for business excellence. The rise of knowledge-intensive work has brought about fundamental changes in how knowledge workers perform their duties, what they produce and how their products impact the bottom line. Successful companies will be distinguished by the ways they integrate information and applications into their intranet and the tools they provide for employees to leverage information through faster, easier collaboration, better decision-making and improved service. Competitive advantage now and in the foreseeable future will come from the value employees add to the enterprise and empowered decision-making (Dick & Basu, 1994, p. 38).
Strategic planning has demonstrated the importance of aligning a firm's strategy with the environment in order to improve organizational performance and insure survival ("Benefits of E-CRM, 1999, p. 72).
For a company to become and to remain customer-centered requires a balanced holistic approach. To begin this effort, as with other major changes, requires a vision of a desired to-be state, which is clearly defined and easily communicated and understood. To be successful, a business vision must include a logical set of elements that are aligned, linked and managed holistically to accomplish the desired outcome (Laberis, 1999, p. 181).
A mature and robust decision engine technology that is based on the data mining techniques and applications is a prerequisite for an effective CRM. Many traditional CRM players, as well as enterprise resource planning vendors, will engage in focused development and/or acquisition to solidify their position in this growing market.
Customer retention is of particular importance in intensely competitive markets. Knowledge of the profit impact of a given improvement in retention rate, by customer segment, is essential so that managers can decide on the relative emphasis to be placed on retention and acquisition strategies. The argument for improving retention rates is a compelling one based on the profit impact of small percentage improvements in these retention rates (Frow, Payne, "Services Relationship Marketing: A Sector Case Study") (Jenkins, 1999, pp. 313-314).
Several other important research areas that relate to the interface between IT and CRM include:
speeding up customer adoption of new IT-based relationship marketing
mechanisms for sharing new value created
the development of authenticity in relationship marketing
extent to which strong customer relationships can translate into the provision of unrelated products
creation of shared infrastructures to enable relationship marketing in a cost-effective manner (Iacobucci & Ostrom, 1995, p. 561)
Recognizing the actual customer or focus is an important part of any CRM effort. Not everyone is a current or future desirable, high-value customer whose opinions and view points should drive business design and investments. Therefore, identifying and focusing on a targeted set of customers whose views count become the critical step in developing and implementing CRM solutions. This should be accompanied by scope (selecting highest-leverage customer interaction), value (identification of actionable high-leverage customer needs), prioritization (making investment decisions based on buying behavior), design (envisioning ideal customer-defined business capabilities) and implementation of CRM solutions that would allow for balancing actions, strategy and holistic change (Laberis, 1999).
One of the greatest obstacles to CRM successes is cultural issues, not technological issues. As businesses automate the customer lifecycle from marketing to shipping products, they "fail to capture gaps based on tribal knowledge." In addition to cultural issues, the great technical challenge to the process is data quality, or the implementation of tools to clean up and rationalize data in disparate DWH or DMs such as names and addresses. There is very little evidence on improving data quality efforts (Day, 1969, p. 3).
Progress in CRM is being hampered by confusion over both strategic and tactical issues. Many large companies are purchasing disparate products and services that don't play well together. In addition to determining market segmentation, decision-making patterns, feature differentiators and ROI metrics, the study attempts to identify best practices in CRM implementation. Critical success factors include effective models in moving from tactical to strategic implications. Based on the purpose of CRM the target areas for investment in CRM will include customer profiling, customer-behavior modeling, sales reporting, campaign planning and measurement (Dille, p. 30).
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