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In the present scenario, the clear understanding of the fact that “Customer is king” is the major differentiating factor between a successful brand and its competitors. Many companies have implemented a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) strategy in order to cope with the ever increasing demands of the customers. The competing firms are in a race to outdo each other in terms of developing new strategies and technologies that enable the management of customers, their information and the business as a whole.

The CRM strategies should aim beyond the fundamentals like 360 degree view of the customer, automate sales processes, increasing customer satisfaction, improving sales cycle, reaching to new customers, retaining the previous customers etc in order to reflect rapidly changing business conditions and technological advancements. The benefits of CRM could be more measurable when the individuals interacting with the customer directly are able to access valuable customer information. This would help in better understanding of the customers and effectively building relations with them in the long run.

Marketing Automation applications help the marketer in creating, planning and executing their campaigns optimally. By the effective use of CRM, marketers can access the necessary information which, in turn, shall enable them to analyze which campaigns shall work and which segment is to be targeted for a particular offer, with minimal wastage of money and time. Sales Force Automation (SFA) helps the reps to understand the buying behavior of the customer. It also helps in optimizing sales across all sales channels. Customer Service applications help in providing superior customer service through multiple channels like the Web, sales reps, field service etc. These channels could be used to add value, reduce costs and effectively build customer relations.

Generally, different departments within an organization refrain from sharing customer data. This leads to loss of efficiency. Hence, an organization must understand the importance of integrated customer information, which shall ensure that the data is reliable and complete. Global companies must additionally ensure that the customer files from different countries are all integrated. It is important to know the revenue generated by a campaign and the channels that are working successfully. The integration of customer information helps in genuine flow of information to the marketers.

Component approach and Package approach are the two strategies used to achieve data integration for a successful CRM implementation. The component approach connects the data of individual departments into a single system. The data is then shared across all the platforms which is accessed by different departments from multiple sources using the appropriate software and various applications. On the other hand, a package approach uses a single database for the entire data which is referred to by every department using the same application. The latter approach is generally preferred for its convenience.

An integrated CRM strategy can be implemented in stages after focusing on the key Business processes that are either of highest priority or causing maximum problems. This helps in addressing the problems of interacting with other departments and sharing information across the teams.

Most importantly, the success of an Integrated CRM strategy depends on transformations at four different levels. Firstly, the departments should be restructured and should no longer exist as independent entities. Secondly, these departments should discover more effective ways of interaction when they begin to work together. Thirdly, the work culture must undergo a major change. Employees should change their styles of thinking and should begin to work with other divisions and departments around the world. Lastly, the company must be aware of all the technological changes and must be updated in order to help the employees in fulfilling their tasks. The ever increasing usage of social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter etc is an indication of the fact that CRM can be done through online communities of customers in the near future. Companies can set up their accounts on various websites and understand how the users interact with each other and their perceptions of a brand.

In short, CRM is all about change. It is necessary for an organization to move from a product centric approach to a customer centric one. It is of utmost importance to address the organizational issues which hinder the process of serving the customer. Also, CRM strategies should be well aligned with the mission of the organization for fruitful achievement of business objectives and better customer relations. CRM is a reiterative process. Regular assessment and adjustments of the strategies is necessary to ensure its long term success. Improved customer segmentation, service strategies and customer satisfaction should be the long term goals of any successful CRM strategy. Executive sponsorship is most important for the success of a CRM strategy. The investments made on these strategies have lower probability of success if CRM initiatives are not in the agenda of senior executives. Hence, it is essential to ensure their active participation during the development of these strategies. Since CRM is a continuous process, it is also necessary to develop a long term strategic plan which shall also contain solutions to several ups and downs of the business cycle.

The conclusions drawn from CRM can act as the base of future decisions. For instance, a fair understanding of past customer sales, their levels of satisfaction and service requests would help the marketer in designing the new promotional activities catering to the highest profit providers of the organization. When marketing campaigns are designed with the help of adequate customer knowledge and have the ability to deliver keeping individual preferences in mind, they deepen the levels of customer loyalty to a greater extent.

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