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Issue of May 2005 

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CRM concepts

CRM: beyond technology

Although CRM was supposed to transform business, its impact in India has been mixed. Let’s look at how CRM can help the Indian enterprise and how CIOs can craft an enterprise-wide strategy to get the most out of these solutions. by Soutiman Das Gupta

Executive Summary

Building CRM sense
Having an enterprise-wide CRM implementation involves more than just buying a modular solution and implementing it. A guide to understanding the multiple CRM technologies and how enterprises can use them effectively.

Power pill
Understanding the nuances of business processes along with how technology can help streamline each process is essential for a complete CRM implementation. An enterprise-wide CRM strategy comes first.

Much has been written about customer relationship management (CRM). It has been called a strategic tool that combines business processes, technology, employees and information across an enterprise to attract and retain profitable customers. Despite this, the jury is still out on whether CRM has fulfilled its promises.

Banks and telcos still create silos of information with little scope for sharing information. All of us have received unsolicited calls and mail from financial companies and telcos asking us to buy products that we don’t need and sometimes already have!

Companies, especially those focussed on retail such as banks, insurance providers and telcos, have suffered because of a lack of understanding of their clientele in terms of behaviour, spending patterns, needs, and causes of dissatisfaction. Rivals, sometimes even fledgling organisations with better planned systems and processes, have grabbed some of their customers.

Has CRM in India been reduced to an empty buzzword that’s tossed around so that a company appears to be keeping up with the industry? Not entirely, because organisations like Standard Chartered Bank, ICICI Lombard, BPL Telecom and Air-India have successfully used these tools—and benefited. The difference lies in the way CRM has been deployed at these organisations. It is a combination of technology and process change that has worked.

We will explore the answers to the knotty question of what makes one company successful and the other fail to get substantial returns from a CRM initiative in this issue’s cover stories.

The mantra for CRM success

For companies that use CRM and those that plan to, it is important to understand that CRM technology has developed, evolved and matured over the years. It is now a reliable process that combines business and technology to power a customer-focussed organisation.

To create successful customer-centric organisations, CIOs and even CEOs are asked to repeat this mantra: “CRM is a business initiative and is not about technology.”

Three months is about how long it takes on the average to learn from others’ successes and then create a set of policies and guidelines for an organisation

CRM is a management strategy that enables an organisation to become customer-focussed and develop stronger relationships with its clientele. It helps piece together information about customers, sales, marketing effectiveness, responsiveness and market trends.

Technology can play a significant role in CRM being an enabler, but thinking about CRM solely in technological terms is wrong. It is not about solving a technology problem, it is a process that aligns your business around your customers’ needs. Software is only one component of this process.

Explains Krishna Kumar, Head of Technology Management at iSeva Systems, a BPO services firm, “The role of technology in CRM strategy is part-evangelism and part-procedural. Technology assists the cause by facilitating customer interaction and transaction management, and at the same time helps set up processes that result in more efficiency and effectiveness in customer-facing teams.”

In the next article we will cover the ways in which a company can get to know and understand its customers, and get optimum returns from a CRM initiative; we will also take a look at the reasons why CRM initiatives fail.

Before we get there, let us look at what CRM means to an enterprise and the scope of the various types of CRM.

To create a CRM strategy in your organisation, the CIO needs to understand what CRM can do, and ask why he needs to be customer-centric Frederic Moraillon,
Director, Marketing, Business Objects, APAC

Know thy CRM

How many CEOs will deny that they need to understand their customers better in order to survive in the marketplace and stay profitable?

Despite deploying CRM tools companies may fail to exploit the business potential of the customer pool. When this happens technology leaders and business leaders blame each other or a sluggish market.

Since CRM is about business and not technology, it is imperative to know your customer to grow your business. To do that you must know what CRM can really do for you.

Customer-facing applications

“Operational CRM is the customer-facing application of CRM and is like the ERP of CRM,” explains Frederic Moraillon, Director, Marketing, Business Objects, APAC. It includes typical business functions such as sales force automation, call centre automation, customer service, order management, invoice/billing, and front-office suites.

This has been the basic and primary use of CRM in most enterprises, but when integrated with the database and financial modules of an ERP, it has considerable scope for generating sales leads.

Collaborative CRM reaches across various customer touch points such as e-mail, phone calls, fax, the Web portal, and even snail mail. This facet of CRM concerns channel management strategies and the integration of various legacy and advanced systems at every customer touch point.

When BI meets CRM

A milestone in the evolution of CRM is the inclusion of analytics within the technology. The concept of analytics comes from the world of business intelligence; it is a real-time tool for converting raw data into something that can be used to support business decisions.

The short- and long-term benefits of CRM can be felt to a large extent with a combination of customer-facing technologies and analytic techniques such as collaborative filtering, predictive modelling, business rules and state-based decision making.

Analytical CRM blends historical data with predictive science to produce forward-looking views of customer behaviour.

An example of a successful deployment of this form of CRM can be seen at Standard Chartered Bank. The analytical CRM solution allows the bank to effectively manage and optimise the profitability of all products that constitute its retail portfolio. The bank finds it easier to run targeted campaigns and elicit substantially higher returns since the solution can perform profit modelling for each account.

“The solution also enables micro-segmentation. Using analytics and a test-and-learn culture, we know the probability of customers adopting a new product. We now know which card member is more likely to take an auto loan. This has resulted in more focussed marketing campaigns and reduced costs, with improved customer satisfaction,” says Sedjwick John Joseph, Head, Business Intelligence Unit, Standard Chartered Bank.

Customer Managed Relationship

Customer Managed Relationship (CMR) is a new concept under study by business professionals, and first mentioned to us by C Kajwadkar, VP-IT, NSE.IT.

CMR aims to exploit the data from existing as well as potential customers from several channels to offer them the best service and support. It also aims to increase the effectiveness of marketing.

Its principle is to have the company concentrate its efforts and money on allowing the customer to manage and control information related to his characteristics and wishes. In other words, the complexity of the data management is offloaded to the customer. CMR thus functions as a mechanism of valuation of customers, and can select the ones that are advantageous, potential and unlikely. The company can then refrain from directing efforts towards the unlikely ones.


“A CRM solution can exist by itself in an enterprise and doesn't need to be an add-on to an existing application. It can interoperate with ERP and databases”
Nandu Bhat,
GM, IT, Zip Telecom

All by itself

A CRM solution does not need the support of an enterprise application (such as ERP) or financial applications. That said, it works well when there is a database in place. Irrespective of the size of the company and the industry vertical to which it belongs, the benefits of CRM in optimising revenue and providing customer satisfaction can be realised with the aid of a self-reliant solution.

Depending on an organisation’s requirements, CRM can integrate with back-end systems and serve as the system of
record in the absence of other applications.

“A CRM solution can exist by itself in an enterprise and doesn’t need to be an add-on to an existing enterprise application. It can interoperate with ERP and databases to help refer to customer information in areas such as customer ledger, bill status, and product status,” points out Nandu Bhat, GM, IT, Zip Telecom.

CRM strategy

Driving a business initiative without strategy behind it is like trying to drive a car without a steering wheel. The car may be fitted with the most advanced engine and a plush interior, but does not serve the purpose of taking you from point A to point B because it cannot be directed to move along the chosen path.

An enterprise-wide CRM strategy is a comprehensive and detailed definition of the scope of the CRM programme towards organisational goals. “The strategy is needed to keep businesses customer-centric and to help the company constantly evolve internal processes and technology to acquire and retain customers,” explains Krishna Kumar.

A CRM strategy is especially useful for large organisations spread across different locations.

“Instead of duplicating CRM in different business units, the organisation centralises a CRM strategy practice which will ensure standardised fulfilment of customers’ needs irrespective of the location,” adds Bhat.

Crafting a strategy

An enterprise-wide CRM strategy has to put in place systems, processes and technology to align business functions such as sales, service and marketing to build a coordinated effort to serve the customer and thus contribute to the top-line or bottom-line of an organisation.

“To create a CRM strategy in your organisation, the CIO needs to understand what CRM can do, and ask why he needs to be customer-centric. The CIO should develop the ability to put the right questions to business units, make benchmarks of what the best companies are doing with CRM, and create a business case for his company,” explains Moraillon.

Chats with consultants and CIOs of companies that have successfully deployed CRM help in this process, as do books on the subject.

Three months is about how long it takes on the average to learn from others’ successes and then create a set of policies and guidelines for an organisation.

Kumar of iSeva suggests that “Organisations should work backwards, begin with the customer perspective, and align the customer needs to the business goals to create a CRM strategy.”

Cases in point

It is hard to believe how far the market for hosted or on-demand CRM solutions has come. Robust overall growth in this segment will continue in 2005 at rates exceeding 20 percent
Girish Krishnamurthy,
General Manager, India, Talisma Corporation

Zip Telecom has adopted a two-pronged CRM strategy. Its CRM initiative is focussed on incremental sales derived by adding customers every month. Secondly, the focus is on service quality and control where it is important to build a relationship with the customer. Software plays a significant role in the strategy.

iSeva provides BPO services such as inbound customer care, outbound customer acquisition, and transaction and data processing to the mortgage, banking, and high-technology industries. CRM is therefore a key application for managing the business. The major factors dictating iSeva’s CRM strategy are:

  • Closely integrated channels. The CRM initiatives should ensure that channels such as e-mail and the knowledge base are integrated to build efficiency in the service teams. They also help identify and service the customer each time without asking too many basic questions.
  • Scalability of the CRM infrastructure. The CRM infrastructure should allow the company to serve the rapidly increasing requirements of clients.
  • Reporting capabilities. The CRM infrastructure should have robust reporting capabilities on operations for better management of resources.
  • One view. There should be a single, unified view of the customer.

Upcoming technology

CRM has evolved over the last couple of years. This year we can look forward to a number of technology trends. Girish Krishnamurthy, General Manager, India, Talisma Corporation, mentions these few:

Corporate Performance Manag-ement (CPM). This will involve the use of a set of objectives and supporting metrics that will keep the organisation on track. CPM provides the strategic links to the business, along with tools to analyse customer-related metrics and disseminate these throughout the organisation.

Customer Interaction Management (CIM). This is a new hybrid of the traditional CRM technologies that have been adapted to the Internet and the growing number of personal communication devices. CIM comprises parts of the previous generation of CRM solutions with the addition of Web-based interaction solutions and wireless device transaction management.

These new communication or interaction channels help companies add customer-facing touch points to create a 360-degree interaction capability and enhance customer communication.

On-Demand CRM. It is hard to believe how far the market for hosted or on-demand CRM solutions has come. Robust overall growth in this segment will continue in 2005 at rates exceeding 20 percent.

The CRM solution has resulted in more focussed marketing campaigns and reduced costs, with improved customer satisfaction
Sedjwick John Joseph,
Head, Business Intelligence Unit, Standard Chartered Bank

Strategy and processes

Beyond the technical aspect, there are trends in the way CRM will be used strategically by organisations.

Rapid growth of customer analytics. Now that the operational and collaborative CRM modules have successfully gathered a glut of customer information, it is time for companies to harness the power of analytical CRM. These tools will help them go up the business productivity value chain by letting them discover aspects such as the correct business channels, balancing customer satisfaction, forecasting revenue and cost, and calculating risk.

Customer intelligence applications will help figure out customer profitability, optimise response to marketing campaigns, and help customer call-agents deliver real-time offers that truly benefit the customer.

True leaders will emerge in the fragmented mid-market CRM. The SMB market is slowly consolidating. In 2005, for the first time, we will see long-term industry leaders emerge for the mid-market. (There’s more about CRM for SMBs in the next article.)

Hosted CRM will be reconsidered. Faced with steady benefits but potentially increasing licence and subscription fees without clear additional benefit, companies will reconsider the ongoing cost of hosted CRM agreements and look at hybrid and other models that they can use in maturity without paying for in perpetuity.

Outsourcing CRM back offices. India is growing to be the back office of the world, and many Indian companies are managing CRM operations for Fortune 500 and medium-sized companies in USA and Europe. Now that the outsourcing market is mature, Indian companies may also begin to outsource for cost reduction.

Soutiman Das Gupta can be reached at

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