Smart CRM

Published: November 21st, 2006

Customer relationship management (CRM) systems are good at capturing a lot of information about your clients, whether sales or service-related, allowing you to manage those relationships in an ordered manner.

Unfortunately, it’s not always easy for the average user of a CRM system to actually get that data out. It’s also tough for them to present it in a way that makes sense to them so they can take swift, informed action.

But BI will certainly inform your CRM, saving you some serious headaches. If you have customers that are perpetually late in paying you, for example, these may be people that you don’t want to be encouraging to buy your products. They will most certainly tie up your cash flow. Such information can be used to make your CRM initiatives far more potent.

Linking a business intelligence (BI) solution to your CRM application can bring your CRM system to life by allowing users to note trends, improve customer service and plan things like marketing campaigns more intelligently. The integration will mean that decisions related to customers can be based on sound numbers.

Here are five advantages of plugging BI into your CRM application:

  • Move on it: The primary benefit of using BI to do CRM is the increased decision-making productivity your employees will see. Adding BI will allow sales representatives to get more complete information about the accounts they are responsible for, as well as any other initiatives they are working on. “It’s much easier for them to get that insight and be able to track their performance,” says Jaylene Crick, group product marketing manager at Business Objects.
  • Leave the IT department alone: BI also empowers your end users to get the insight or information they need themselves, from right within the CRM application. This decreases the burden on your IT department, which no longer has to provide that requested information in the form of reports on an ad hoc basis. Besides, it’s much faster if users can just get information themselves at their convenience. “Traditionally within CRM systems the IT involvement and the burden on the IT department to have to create that content for the end users to consume have been very high,” says Crick.
  • Let others see: BI/CRM integration also helps make more pervasive any information captured in the CRM system. Now, instead of managers being the only ones who can access and act on the trends they see, any number of salespeople and managers can find out what they need to know to make better customer-related decisions. As, well, many organizations are opening up certain non-proprietary information captured in their CRM systems to their partners or customers themselves. Perhaps you could allow customers to see which products they’ve ordered from you over the last five years, or let partners see how many times they’ve been late getting their supplies to you. Both moves could encourage more efficiency — or maybe more sales.
  • Use your new crystal ball: Another of BI’s advantages is the way it can help you read into the future. Dashboards, visualizations and what-if modeling, very hot features of BI solutions today, allow managers to plug in certain numbers or conditions and predict results, Crick explains. “If I know my team’s performance is this, or I know my quarter is unfolding this way, what if I changed the following three factors? How would that impact my performance? Would it allow me to close my quarter earlier? And so on.”
  • Pay in small bites: Finally, SMBs may want to consider the software-as-a-service or on-demand models. One of these Web-accessed applications might be a better fit for an organization with a very small IT department or a limited software budget, says Steve Williams, group product marketing manager at BI vendor Business Objects. “In the past, traditionally we had a lot of partnerships with CRM vendors, so we’ve worked with Siebel in the past. We’re using salesforce.com today.” You’re still combining BI with CRM, but with less overhead and potentially less risk, he says.

Jaylene Crick and Steve Williams are group product marketing managers at BI vendor Business Objects.

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