But isnt Outlook Good Enough?

By: Brian Vellmure

I was recently speaking with a mutual friend who has been in sales for several years about the benefits of CRM. (For the sake of this newsletter, we'll call him Jim) Jim was quick to comment on how he didn't like any of the current CRM software packages, and had used several of them for his various employers. Jim told me how he swore by Outlook and that he had used it for many years, and had developed such efficiency that every other solution was less effective for him.

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We will talk in a few weeks about how important the CRM system end user experience is to the success of any CRM deployment, but for today, I would like to focus on another topic.


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You see, if "CRM" is only being implemented as a new contact and appointment manager, then Outlook probably is an appropriate tool. ACT! is the world's leading contact manager and there are tens of thousands around the world that swear by it. These are both good, solid, workable tools for some remote salespeople.

However, Customer Relationship Management is a much more comprehensive endeavor than simple contact management, or even efforts to automate the sales force's daily activities. It requires integration of processes, software applications, and databases.

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We are now talking about strategically making the customer experience better, across the organization...


When they interact with their salesperson...


When they call the finance department...


When they need technical support...


When they visit your website...


and when they are marketed to.


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Outlook cannot possibly enable such things, or capture information to be analyzed.

When I began to dig a little deeper to understand why Jim had this apprehension and distaste for CRM products, the picture became a little clearer. You see, he really let me know that his main problem was not necessarily the CRM products themselves, but rather the executive team and sales management's perception of the system and what is was supposed to do.

Many times, management recognizes the need for CRM. Their competition is "Implementing CRM". The press is talking about CRM. They know that they need to change something, increase their sales, while reducing costs. But a lot of times, CRM is reduced to just another contact manager, implemented with three times as much administration for the sales team, so that management can see what the heck they are doing. Tough sell? You bet. Especially to salespeople who are used to working autonomously, and earning six figures a year.

It is important for executives and senior managers to recognize that CRM is more than just getting information for themselves. This is a very critical requirement, and an essential gain for any implementation. However, we must go back to positioning CRM as an initiative focused around making the customer experience better. One of the ways to do this is to arm the people who are dealing with the customer with relevant, timely, easily retrievable information. It is also important to empower them with applications that make it easy for them to enter new information they discover during their interaction. The next step, the critical factor we are discussing today is to make that information available to all parties within the organization who might be able to take advantage of it - executives, managers, sales reps, marketing, tech support reps, finance, customer service, etc.

CRM truly is a mindset. It is the implementation of customer centric business strategies and processes that are intended to make the customer feel like they are the company's first priority. Implementing these strategies generally require the proper technology as an enabler to successfully deploy and implement the new systems and processes.

My converation with Jim continued, and went something like this:

BRIAN: "I assume you don't do any of the order processing, when your prospects sign a purchase agreement for your products and services."

JIM: "No, once I receive the signed contract, I fax that back to headquarters, and they follow up with fulfillment and billing"

BRIAN: "Are you ever aware of any issues that the customer has after the order has shipped?"

JIM: "Not always. Occasionally, when they are really mad, or are having serious trouble, I'll get a call."

BRIAN: "Have you ever gone to call on an existing customer, and walked into a landmine because they have a nagging issue with your tech support or finance department?"

JIM: "Yeah, that definitiely happens. It would be nice to know ahead of time somehow, but unless tech support is really proactive and knows our schedules, they really never notify us, especially because we are in different timezones"

BRIAN: "So you have no idea what is going on with your customer with other departments in your company, the other "touch points" your customer has with your organization?"

JIM: "Well, I try and stay in touch with the customer as much as possible, but no, I don't generally know what is going on with them unless there is a serious issue."

BRIAN: "Is it fair to say that the rest of your organization really has no visibility to what is going on with you and the prospect/customer either?"

JIM: "Pretty much. I sent in a report monthly of my activity to my boss, but that is about it."

BRIAN: "How about any financial information? Do you have access to any of that?"

JIM: "Quarterly we get a spreadsheet from corporate. I compare my personal spreadsheet to theirs just to make sure that my commission is right."

Perhaps some of you can relate to this situation. It is not that uncommon, but more and more companies are realizing the benefits of moving towards being a customer centric organization through a CRM initiative.

I went on to begin to paint a different picture for Jim about how his life could be made a lot easier and how he could be more productive with his time. Below are just 4 ways that integrating department silos, and disparate applications and data could improve a salesperson's life. I could expand and share a similar list about each end user of a CRM system, but I think that you can probably draw some conclusions on your own about how integrating information would help Sales Managers, Customer Service Personnel, Technical Support representatives, and Accounts Receivable specialists.

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  1. What if you could turn a quote into an order with the push of a button, and have it automatically inserted into your ERP/Financial system? Wouldn't that cut down on time and errors spent entering orders in two systems?

  2. What if you had visibility about all the open tech support or other customer service issues that your customer had called about, and you were able to proactively contact them, instead of being blindsided when you are trying to sell them additional products or services? Do you think they might be impressed with your level of service and attentiveness? Do you think that your unsolicited follow up might communicate to them that even when things go wrong, you are truly interested in helping them?

  3. What if you had access to see how much a customer had spent over the past year, the products they had purchased, and whether they were on time with their payments? Do you think this might give you increased visibility to who your most valuable customers are? Do you think it might help prioritze who you should be calling on?

  4. What if you could sort your customers easily by product line, and easily market to them with complimentary products and services that you offer? Do you think it might help enhance collaboration between Sales and Marketing departments in cross selling efforts?

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"An effective CRM implementation will have to be able to account for an entire spectrum of customer-based systems and how they interact with customers themselves. This is likely to include conventional personal interactions, paper-based transactions, Web site browsing, e-commerce, telephone contact or voice/data interaction via wireless technology. Organizations must be able to manage and maintain these multiple points of interaction to say they have an effective CRM system." says Charles Saunders in the September 24, 2001 edition of EAI Journal.

Outlook can be effective for managing your day to day tasks. But how much time is spent on the phone, through email, looking at 4 different spreadsheets to gather fragmented, out of date information? No wonder so many people are frustrated.

To learn more about how Initium Technology can help integrate your applications, data, and information silos into an efficient customer relationship system, please call us at

1-800-250-5732, or visit our website http://www.initiumtech.com/rfi.htm

Have a wonderful Valentine's Day and President's Day weekend! Be sure and take the time to express your love to the special people in your life!

Kind regards,

Brian Vellmure


Initium Technology


bvellmure@initiumtech.com

Copyright 2003 Initium, LLC. All Rights Reserved

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