Many CRM systems fall short when it comes to achieving genuine organizational focus on the customer. Why is this? Could it be due to these applications focusing largely on sales and marketing alone? After all, don’t other people within the business also interact with customers?

CRM systems normally aim to automate routine tasks in the marketing and sales departments. Think operational based functionality – campaign management, sales cycle and opportunity management and lead generation, among others. Analytical functionality and data mining within the systems then help companies sift through the information, pulling out the details that can support good decision making.

However, many businesses are now facing an increasing demand for a third area of support from their CRM. Success increasingly demands that the customer is placed right at the heart of a company’s processes. It’s becoming the key driver for creating genuine customer loyalty. For a system to really support a company in achieving its goals, it needs to also enable genuine collaboration across the business.

Traditional systems
It’s something you hear on a regular basis from software vendors. CRM is more than an information system. It’s the key tool for a management philosophy focused on customer orientation. An attractive claim, but in the vast majority of cases the systems themselves fail to deliver.

Gearing all company processes and personnel towards the customer is not easy. Beyond the sales and marketing teams, a tangible relationship between operational activities and the customer can be harder to pin down. CRM is not usually perceived as being universally relevant for all departments.

Sadly this failure to achieve genuine collaboration leaves a lot of relevant people out in the cold. Let’s not forget that professionals outside of sales and marketing also interact with customers on a regular basis. They, however, do not usually have access to a single common system that also serves their needs with regard to customer information. The idea of one source of truth that supports everyone is often far from the reality.

Furthermore, these traditional CRM systems are seldom integrated into the rest of the company’s software. This results in the continuation of information silos and poor transference of intel between departments. Efficiency really only exists within vertical processes, each area of the business working with its own system.

Horizontal agility becomes a concept that’s difficult to realize – not ideal when these interdepartmental processes channel the company’s value stream towards the customer. Get this flow working well, and a company can stand out in terms of productivity, efficiency, and quality of customer service.

Operational, analytical and collaborative
Unlike traditional, vertical CRM systems which provide process management and analysis functionality to marketing and sales departments, collaborative CRM systems support vertical and horizontal management of company processes.

Powered by strong electronic workflows integrated with document management functionality, they enable information flow to all corners of the operation. They empower strategic customer management, offering effective control over people and processes in a genuinely integrated work environment.

Marketing and sales, the sole beneficiaries of traditional CRM, are still empowered to manage the sales opportunity funnel effectively – from the point a lead is generated through to its conclusion. It’s the rest of the additional features though that have the greatest impact:

• Company personnel avoid having to duplicate their tasks when entering or retrieving customer data from different systems.

• Whenever a customer need is detected by someone from outside marketing or sales, the information no longer needs to be forwarded by phone or email to the relevant account manager (with all the inefficiency and risk associated with these forms of communication). The system is the same for everyone, the structured digital workflows triggering automated tasks (in this case, a follow-up on a sales opportunity) at the people designated responsible for each stage of the process.

• Every instance of interaction between a customer and a member of company personnel (marketing, sales, administration, customer support, human resources, production, partners, etc.) can be recorded in the customer dossier.

• The system can initiate electronic tasks or workflows with personnel throughout the whole company -not only to the marketing and sales departments. Depending on which process map the company chooses to work with, efficiencies can be realized in operations as diverse as financial administration, human resources, quality or purchasing. Each process is then intertwined with the customer as much as is possible, enabling everyone within the organization to contribute to more effective customer relationship management.

Multiple systems and disconnected data bases do not support the effective sharing of information needed for genuine customer focus. Creating and then delivering real value to customers needs interdepartmental processes to thrive in a single system based on one source of truth. Only with one platform for all stakeholders can the customer truly be placed at the center of the operation.