Terminologies in information
technology tend to put off most people -- ERP, Y2K, data warehousing. What next? It has to
be CRM, expanded customer relationship management.
What does CRM do?
For that, we have to go one step back and
look at what ERP does. ERP, or Enterprise Resources Planning, integrates and streamlines
different business processes, provides a seamless flow of information internally and
externally and helps companies plan, monitor and control all business processes. ERP
looked basically inward out, starting from the inside of the organisation. But now the
company has to look downstream, at the customer, and try to integrate him/her into its
processes. What is essentially customer relationship now assumes a new dimension because
of the immense possibilities. Besides, there is limited competitive advantage to be had if
a company has implemented ERP solutions, because its competitor may well have done so too.
Customer Relationship Management packages
automate and integrate all the customer-related activities like marketing, sales and
service activities of a company. Each customer record is maintained in a database. This
integrated database will give a one-shot picture of the customer. It can record
transactions with a customer interactively, over the telephone or the web and give
customised service. It essentially helps in reducing the time and effort in marketing and
gives a comprehensive picture of a customer. In future, it can even customise the web
interface and the advertising on the website can be oriented specifically to the customer
who has logged on to a website, based on his preferences, which are recorded in the
In India, these packages would seem to be
more relevant in the service industry since the manufacturing industry is not yet tuned to
making customised products on demand. For example, Oracle's CRM package is aimed at the
financial sector. It is actually not a new product. It was built out of a core model of a
salesforce automation package and similar modular packages for various functions are
available in the market.
CRM has become 'top of the mind', but then
whether it rules the mind and the market will be a matter of time.