Every kindergartner knows that sharing is a nice thing to do. The same rule applies in business, at least when it comes to collaborative CRM.
Collaborative CRM aims to get various business departments, such as sales, technical support and marketing, to share the useful information that they collect from customers. Feedback from a tech-support center, for example, could be helpful to marketing staffers by informing them about specific services and features requested by customers. Collaborative CRM's ultimate goal is to use information collected from all departments to improve the quality of customer service, and, as a result, increase customer satisfaction and loyalty.
While collaborative CRM certainly sounds like a good concept, most companies have trouble creating a workable system. The problem is that departments tend to function in their own worlds, and there is often little natural interaction between them.
Breaking down the barriers that separate departments isn't easy, particularly since many offices harbor deep rivalries and animosities. Think of the conflicts, for instance, between employees in marketing and legal or in product development and finance.
Fortunately, technology can build bridges between various departments, enhancing the flow of information. For example, business software giant Oracle and Web conferencing/collaboration specialist Cisco Systems recently introduced a new hosted CRM offering that's designed to promote internal information sharing.
The product, WebEx CRM On Demand by Oracle, offers a comprehensive set of CRM capabilities, including:
Many other CRM-oriented business intelligence and communications tools can also promote knowledge sharing — even a simple email message can transmit important data. Yet while technology can help forge communications links between departments, it can't force employees to share critical information. That job falls to managers, who must create a business culture that fosters the free flow of CRM-related intelligence. Here are some tips for building such an environment.
1. Think creatively. CRM information sharing doesn't come naturally. It arises out of recognizing opportunities and acting on them. Sales leads , for example, can come from the most unlikely sources, such as delivery personnel, service technicians, public-relations representatives or conference panelists — anyone who interacts with the outside world. Identify such information sources and link them to the people who can use them.
2. Talk it over. Department heads in sales, marketing, tech support, field service and other key areas should get together on a regular basis and brainstorm ideas for improving customer satisfaction and loyalty.
3. Create incentives. Employees who create new methods of collecting and distributing CRM knowledge within the organization, as well as staffers who provide prized bits of intelligence, should be rewarded with cash bonuses, prizes and other incentives.
4. Drive home the message. CRM is generally perceived as something that primarily concerns sales, marketing and service personnel. Drive home the message — in newsletters, Web sites, posters and other media — that customer service and satisfaction is everybody's business, and show them how they can share information.
The Bottom Line
Collaborative CRM can be a powerful business tool, as well as a good idea. Make sure your employ the above-listed techniques to get the most out of your information-collection processes.
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