A plethora of organisations have invested in a form of customer relationship management (CRM), with the aim of better serving their customers as well as increasing business (profit and revenue) for their company. Measuring the value and success derived from CRM could not be more 'in the moment'. The time is now for businesses to re-think their growth and CRM strategy, especially given customers are increasingly educating themselves about products and services during the buying process.
Customers are embarking on a new type of ‘journey’ where they start with their own research; they are no longer interacting with salespeople as an expert source of information. This new buyer-seller relationship is putting increased pressure on businesses – people no longer want to be 'sold to'; a business that is seen as informative, expert and helpful as the customer progresses along their ‘journey’ towards purchase, puts itself in a leading position to be considered as a favoured supplier. CRM is becoming the layer over the whole business – accessed and employed by all functions of the organisation in order to use intelligence to deliver stand-out customer experience. Thus, businesses are re-thinking their CRM strategy and it is essential for them to see and understand the benefits that can be gained from their CRM investment.
Maximizer interviews a large sample base of SMEs each year to obtain hard evidence of the value that they are gaining from their CRM solutions. This short piece picks up on some of the trends emerging from this process.
Current indications from our ongoing research show that over a quarter of SMEs now say they are putting CRM at the heart of their business. They see it as a fundamental tool to drive growth, customer satisfaction, customer loyalty and revenues. It is clear that these businesses treat their CRM solution as a central customer knowledge hub and use this for all business decisions. This is a highly ‘mature’ segment of the SME community who have not just adapted to the new customer journey but have also harnessed the power of their CRM solution to guarantee that every touch point is as informed as possible.
Although this totally strategic approach is not reported by the whole research group, the fact that over a quarter of respondents have implemented this ‘mature’ position is an indicator of how rapidly the strategic use of CRM is taking hold among smaller and medium-sized enterprises.
When looking at specific operating benefits, centralisation of customer data is currently coming out on top, with nine in every ten respondents so far citing this as the top benefit achieved from CRM. Why is this benefit currently taking poll position? In short, centralising all customer data helps to give a more comprehensive view of all the various interactions and experiences a customer is having with the organisation. This offers all functions of a business – marketing, sales, finance, operations, new product development, service, and so on – the ability to treat customers more appropriately at all ‘touch points’. Customer status, value and potential can be recognised in sales propositions, marketing campaigns, customer service levels, financial arrangements, and more.
By putting centralising customer data top of the benefits table, our research respondents are already saying that they see CRM as a company-wide tool. In contrast, ‘campaign management’ which might have traditionally been expected to be a key function of a CRM solution, is currently ranking in eighth position of priorities for obtaining value from CRM. This indicates how CRM has come out of its marketing and sales silo, becoming a more focal operating tool for the whole business.
The current outputs from our research provide a clear understanding about how SMEs are deploying CRM company-wide and gaining enhanced value as a result. It is our intention that sharing this hard evidence, from real CRM users, will encourage a growing movement to disseminating SME experience of generating value from CRM.