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Issue of May 2005 

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Keeping customers satisfied

The customer is the immediate jewel of our souls. Him we flatter, him we feast, compliment, vote for, and will not contradict.

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

If the noted American poet and philosopher could have seen the state of customer service that exists in this country today, he probably would have wept. In this scenario, customer relationship management (CRM), a much-misunderstood and maligned concept that entails managing relationships with customers, shows promise.

Simply put, CRM tools give an organisation a clear picture of how satisfied (or not) its customers are. It lets marketing teams craft campaigns that, provided they are backed by business processes, encourage the customer to buy more or, if not that, complain less.

Why has CRM got a bad rap? 70 percent of CRM deployments fail and even when they are putative successes, no technology is a magic wand.

Still, CRM can make a substantial change to the efficiency with which customer interactions are handled. Operational CRM can help companies clean up their data, find out what’s going wrong and where and how they can fix it. Better yet, CRM has become cheaper and smarter. Companies can buy off-the-shelf software or build their own systems using industry-standard components. Going by the popularity of ASP offerings such as abroad, an ASP model might become popular in India in the not-too-distant future. With analytical CRM, firms can go so far as to start figuring out what new product or service their customer is likely to want before he knows it.

The ground reality is that India Inc. is still busy rolling out ERP and without that as a foundation you can’t have CRM.

CRM is best suited to organisations that deal directly with end-users. While an automobile manufacturer could conceivably use CRM tools to manage its dealer interactions, the impact would not be anywhere even close to what a bank could get by using the technology to manage its retail banking operations. Telcos are another group of companies that can benefit enormously and they are avid users of this software.

Companies that use CRM effectively will be able to avoid the plight of the salesman, in the Paul Simon song, who sang “Everywhere I go, I get slandered, Libeled, I hear words I never heard in the Bible, And I’m one step ahead of the shoe shine, Two steps away from the county line, Just trying to keep my customers satisfied, Satisfied.”

This time around Soutiman Das Gupta takes a crack at answering the knotty question of why CRM implementations fail and how they don’t have to and examines the variants of this technology. We chronicle a couple of success stories at Refco-Sify Securities India and iSeva. To provide a counterpoint, the VP of FoodWorld tells Deepali Gupta why his company does not have a CRM system in place.

Prashant L Rao
Head of Editorial Operations

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Indian Express - Business Publications Division

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