While many organisations run some sort of customer help-desk or advice line, it’s surprising how often this function is supported by standalone technology rather than being part of the main CRM application.
Given that most CRM applications have some level of out of the box case/issue management functionality, I think a lot of businesses miss a trick by not making use of it. The following are some of the benefits of running a system that spans sales, marketing, and support:
- It reduces the need to input and maintain duplicate data in separate systems
- Issue logging times are often reduced because data like contact, company, equipment etc. may already exist in the system
- It potentially helps help-desk staff resolve issues more quickly as they have better information to hand. For example, access to sales proposals, design documents, site surveys, orders, invoices, contracts etc.
- It may improve the customer experience because the support team have better information available to address the issue and manage the interaction with the customer
- It can improve sales effectiveness because salespeople have better access to support information. For example, a salesperson can easily check if there are outstanding issues in advance of a key client meeting, or spot an opportunity to upgrade a customer if an existing piece of equipment is regularly failing.
- Marketing can use support data to drive marketing campaigns. For example one of our non-profit clients wanted to promote a training course they were offering on a very niche subject, and ran a very successful direct marketing campaign targeting people who had contacted their advice line on that subject matter.
- A single system better allows staff to share intelligence, for example the support team might well be the first to be aware of a potential sales opportunity
- Allow staff to collaborate more effectively on issues for example using social collaboration tools such as Chatter and Yammer
- Improve the breadth, depth and immediacy of management information through deriving reports from a single database
- Reduce the costs of maintaining and administering separate systems
Of course there may be good reasons not to amalgamate the support function with the CRM system. The case/issue management capabilities within many CRM packages are often relatively basic, and best of breed support packages often offer better functionality.
However in many cases where needs are relatively straightforward or are being addressed through fairly unsophisticated means currently, such as Excel, Access, or Outlook based systems, using the CRM system can be a compelling option.
In addition, CRM support functionality is becoming stronger and stronger. Salesforce.com, for example has the Service Cloud, and Microsoft recently announced the acquisition of customer service software provider Parature, which will presumably become part of its Dynamics CRM offering. These and other vendors, are likely to continue to build out functionality in these areas offering greater and greater opportunity to consolidate systems.
Even if a best of breed support tool is the preferred option, many of the above benefits can be achieved through integration. Either way, a more joined up approach to sales, marketing, and support can make a big difference, and it’s an opportunity a lot of organisations might be able to benefit from.