Edited by Geoffrey P. Lantos
Journal of Product and Brand Management
Vo. 18, No. 4, 2009
CRM in Real Time – Empowering Customer Relationships
Barton J. Goldenberg Information Today Medford, NJ
Keywords Customer relationship management, Customer centric, Business strategy, Information technology
Experience, preparation and teamwork – these are all the precepts for sailing. Why is the author discussing sailing? He suggests that they reflect the similarities with customer relationship management (CRM). CRM in Real Time provides an excellent guide for both those business professionals who want to learn about customer-centric strategies and those who are beginning on this contemporary business strategy. This book could be renamed From CRM in Real Time to CRM: Just in Time.
So why CRM? Is it hype or reality? The book provides a clear discussion on this question as well as the need for this approach in the current business environment. Are you a business professional who has been “given” the task of implementing or introducing customer-centric methodologies in your organization? The increasing focus on global competition, higher cost of direct selling marketing techniques, and the insatiable need for accurate and timely customer information has stimulated the popularity of CRM systems.
Chapter 1 provides a “primer” on CRM. The information conveyed in this chapter would be
contained in marketing consultant’s report for a business organization; probably worth several thousands of dollars. The author discusses all that will need to educate business professionals on the rationale and terminology associated with customer-centric techniques. The chapter further discusses the benefits and the eleven components of CRM systems in reasonable detail but in a comprehendible tone. In addition, the chapter provides a summary of pitfalls to avoid and challenges to anticipate; much in the same manner an experienced CRM consultant would present. As you read it, the simplicity of this CRM primer makes you wonder … “This is so common sense.” For example, the lack of proper training becomes a “no brainer” as you read it. However, as with many things that are simplistic, reinforcement and examples help to guide initiatives though these complicated jungles of corporate strategy, organizational behavior, and technology implementation.
Interestingly enough, after progressing through the next several chapters, the sailing metaphor quickly changes to a cookbook. The book organizes the topic into a basic recipe to build (or bake) a successful CRM implementation. However, it is important to note that its delivery is not insulting to an experienced business professional, but yet it is very well organized. The longest chapter is about 20 pages, with many chapters consisting of only three to five pages in a “how to” format with a targeted topic focus; similarly like the preparation of one of many recipe ingredients to complete a deliverable. These short chapters discuss one important component of CRM implementation success. The author presents these components using short industry case examples of best and “not so best” practices, concluded with a short, bulleted lessons-learned discussion.
The importance of the “mix” is threaded throughout the book. The success of any CRM initiative, as Goldenberg asserts, is determined
by the integration of people, process, and technology. One of the most common mistakes of CRM implementation is to project technology as the primary focus. He compiles a persuasive argument, bolstered by case examples, to assert that technology should possess only 20 percent of the integration mix.
However, the author does much more than just define the mix. The balance of the book is threading each of the components into a framework on CRM planning and implementation. For example, an entire chapter (early in the book) discusses putting the customer back into CRM.
Many of the foundations of successful project management are woven into the discussion. As in any strategic initiatives, executive ownership is crucial. Do not let the short length of Chapter 5 (three pages) fool you. The three “camps” are compiled as negative customer examples of executive alignment. Many people reading this chapter will probably think “yah, I have experienced that.” However, he continues to discuss how to manage the negative executive support. An entire chapter on user adoption, crucial to a successful implementation, is provided to help the CRM project leader through this jungle of issues.
The author digests several issues down to checklists, steps and outlines. For example, in Chapter 16, the important topic of data integrity is discussed. In some books, this issue is often bypassed for “more” important topics. Talking about data is boring. Consistent with other topics, Goldenberg conveys the topics in focused terms: bullet points, lessons learned, and a case study.
However, he expands this topic beyond the introductory level with eight points that include the definition and, more importantly, a recommendation. This “down-to- earth” approach extends to a definition and recommendation of each point. The first point, “Understand the data integrity requirements,” provides the recommendation to include
personnel from the beginning of the process so that trust will be cultivated.
Goldenberg’s CRM recipe also touches the boring but important points of a CRM strategy. Security and outsourcing are discussed in two chapters. These contemporary subjects, that influence all information technology projects, are included under the CRM context. The sheer nature of sales and marketing personnel accessing the data maintained by CRM systems provides the backdrop to this dialogue for the importance of security.
Consistently, this chapter was presented in both a technological and human context. Again, this chapter extended the thematic approach of people, process, and technology.
Important leading-edge topics of CRM are also discussed in the book. For example, the rapid adoption and integration of mobile technology is presented in Chapter
21. He forms the importance of this topic by conveying that 90 percent of the CRM software vendors integrate wireless technology into their application software. The savings and increased service associated with delivering CRM applications is framed through quick response of customer inquiries, instant access to order status, and inventory that provides the infrastructure of both customer service and timely, accurate data for strategic CRM purposes.
CRM techniques are not only for the Fortune 500 but for any organization which needs a bright, fresh approach to “customer is no. 1.” The framework of methodologies conveyed in this book can educate small business owners who often do not cultivate a strategic foundation of customer service and decisions from marketing information.
The audience for this book is business information technology, marketing, and management professionals who desire to have a basic knowledge and foundation of CRM techniques. However, do not mistake the basic nature of the book with its inability to assist and guide business professionals
through the sea of CRM success. The author’s writing style and organization of the concepts make this book a “quick read” coupled with the ability to leave the reader with valuable information on this topic. It is a must read for business professionals in organizations of any size. The information technology personnel gain a perspective that the process and people are important while executives understand the importance of their support and ownership. The book is written for the common person who truly needs to understand the issues associated with CRM, customer service, and strategic integration of customers into the business organization. Investing a few hours of your time … you will find yourself an expert on CRM and information system implementation. Read this, you will not regret it. It is a recipe for successful CRM initiatives.
Kenneth J. Sousa Bryant University, Milton, Massachusetts, USA