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Forgotten Features Could Squeeze Out More CRM Value

By Christopher J. Bucholtz
Jul 15, 2010 5:00 AM PT

If you've ever implemented a CRM application or trained to use one, you've undoubtedly noticed that there are an awful lot of features that you never touch. Some just aren't useful for your circumstances or for your particular vertical industry segment; some are overkill; some are just attempts by your vendor to anticipate a need that never materializes.

Forgotten Features Could Squeeze Out More CRM Value

However, in that morass of idle functionality, there may be a few items that you've sped past in the rush to adoption that could actually help you wring more value from your CRM investment. Doing things a certain way because you've always done them that way is not a recipe for success, and that goes for how you use your CRM application.

Your needs change, and your employees' work patterns change -- and as a result, a regular review of the data fields could be an extremely valuable exercise.

Important Insights

What that exercise reveals will differ from business to business, of course, but some examples should jog your imagination about critical data points that you may be disregarding.

For example, "rarely does marketing spend enough time capturing all the data points associated with their campaigns in their CRM -- like original response date, number of responses and number of download requests -- or capture useful profile data on the prospect or firm," says Jeff Lionz, president of California CRM consultancy Lionzforce.

"This data, when tracked not only by Web managers but in the CRM, provides important insights on the genesis of the prospect, and measures his profile value (lead score) against the company's ideal customer/prospect profile," Lionz continues. "When missed or ignored, marketers cannot establish a seamless chain or ROI value to their work or efforts, and sales -- both management and frontline staff -- can't know for certain how prospects were created or what their original motivations were."

Another routine data omission is the lead role, according to David Taber, CEO of consultancy Saleslogistix.

"When you convert a lead to a contact, that's when to assign a role, but way too many organizations look at that field and say, 'who cares?'" Taber says. "They should care! If you don't know what that contact's role is politically in the deal -- a project leader, someone to overcome, a champion -- you really can't do a coherent pipeline analysis."

Astonishingly, less than 20 percent of the CRM users Taber talks to record lead roles. "Apparently, it takes too long to spend a second and a half clicking a role from a pull-down menu," he jokes.

And there's the rub: Instead of seeing CRM as a constantly evolving discipline, too many companies and users see it as a set-and-forget tool. Once it's running, and once managers are happy with the reports it generates, people stop thinking about it. The thought may be "we've successfully implemented CRM." What the thought should be is "we've successfully implemented CRM -- for now."

Frequent Failure

The frequent failure to seize on the potential of CRM goes back to the mistaken belief that it's a technology. It's really a discipline and philosophy enabled by technology -- and if you focus only on the technology, you will be rudderless in your approach to understanding your customers.

No user employs every feature in a CRM system -- but smart users conduct a periodic review to make sure they aren't forgetting features that could help them maximize sales and build customer loyalty. And isn't that the reason you have a CRM system in the first place?


CRM Buyer columnist Chris Bucholtz blogs about CRM at Forecasting Clouds. He has been a technology journalist for 15 years and has immersed himself in the world of CRM since 2006. When he's not wearing his business and technology geek hat, he's wearing his airplane geek hat; he's written two books on World War II aviation, and his next two are slated for publication in 2010.


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