Magazine Article | July 20, 2006

How Can You Ensure Success With CRM?

Source: Innovative Retail Technologies

Integrating your CRM (customer relationship management) solution, analyzing data properly, and receiving buy-in from associates can increase implementation success.

Integrated Solutions For Retailers, August 2006

Most retailers collect some form of data used for CRM. All retailers want to learn more about customers and retain them. Below, Brandon Zeuner, director of key accounts at Sage CRM Solutions, and Stephen Jackson, CIO for Harry Rosen, Inc., a menswear retailer, discuss their views on CRM solutions.  

What should retailers look for when selecting a CRM solution?
Zeuner: Retailers should search for the following features in a CRM solution:

  • A clean interface – If a CRM system is easy to use, visually appealing, and uncluttered, then the probability for successful user acceptance will increase dramatically.
  • Effective CRM architecture and account management tools – Salespeople require the flexibility to move from accounts to contacts to notes within a CRM system. They should also be able to share mutual information in a team environment without worrying about the database structure behind the technology.
  • Seamless back office integration – For salespeople to manage an account well, it is often necessary to have both accurate knowledge of and timely access to back office processes such as accounts receivable, catalog lookups, and product inventory status. The access needs to be transparent to salespeople and should not require them to leave the familiar environment of their CRM application. The application should integrate with technologies that are most appropriate for the business, such as point of sale systems. To provide additional benefits, CRM systems with prebuilt integrations to accounting and ERP [enterprise resource planning] systems can reduce the time and complexity of integrating.
  • Tools that enhance interactions with customers – A CRM system that automatically tracks important interactions with customers is valuable in helping salespeople communicate with a customer. One of our customers, Harry Rosen, Inc., extends its Sage CRM SalesLogix system to Pocket PC handheld devices enabling its sales representatives to have information [e.g. preferred brands, tailoring sizes] on clients the minute they enter a store.  


Jackson: The first step for many retailers is collecting detailed information on their clients. It is critical that the CRM system be seamlessly integrated into the POS system to eliminate double keying, interfacing, and other data integrity issues. A single, centralized repository of the client’s record is vital.

What is the most common mistake you see retailers making with CRM?
Zeuner: Too often retailers find themselves absorbed by demographics and psychographics for all the wrong reasons. Though these segmentation techniques for profiling are important, it’s how they are being used that is leading to marginal results. Many retailers shoot from the hip with decisions, which tends to be costly and can lead to follow-the-leader trends.

The problem with following the leader is that the leader often has big pockets for trial-and-error marketing. Even after making costly mistakes, the leader still receives a decent payback due to customer loyalty and brand awareness. However, for the flourishing and niche retailers, these types of campaigns can deplete budgets and jeopardize brand credibility.

Retailers should use segmentation/profiling to monitor customer behavior. Understanding behavior will allow the retailer to reposition its strategy around action items such as pricing, location and assortment, and in-store incentive programs. A thorough CRM system will include market analysis functionality and/or allow for add-on modules that complement the system and help retailers better assess their valuable customer data.

Jackson: The first mistake retailers make is not addressing their customers on an individual basis. Instead, many retailers apply a 10,000-foot view based on segments and profiles. The second mistake is incorrectly using the collected demographics at the POS. This information should be used to drive the traffic into the store or to enhance the shopping experience [i.e. applying the information to the specific purchases the customer is likely to make].

What can we expect from CRM solutions in the future?
Zeuner: CRM solution providers will continue to improve the functionality and ability for the CRM solution to integrate with other systems, while making the method of deployment (e.g. on-premises, hosted/on-demand, mobile devices, remote laptop synchronization) a more flexible decision for retailers. This will enable multiple data access methods for employees in administrative offices, sales personnel in stores, and executives and buyers who travel.

Jackson: Harry Rosen is making wireless PDA devices available to its sales associates. We have a custom-built application that allows us to quickly access the CRM information on a PDA, so that the associates have access to customer information for walk-in traffic. We will still use traditional PCs for campaigns and events or to prepare for appointments. Wireless PDAs allow employees to check inventory levels across the stores in real time. They can also access personal sales and other KPIs [key performance indicators], including their individual sales targets.

Our next step is to build an intelligent paging system, so that associates are fed the client’s file upon notification that the customer entered the store. We are also considering the ability to inventory a client’s closet, so that the system can assist with intelligent selling suggestions based on missing accessories, matching items, or items needing to be replaced.

How do you think a retailer can increase the chances of success with a CRM solution?
Zeuner: In order to experience success with a CRM solution, it is essential that companies achieve high levels of user adoption. Choosing a solution with a clean, easy-to-use interface is perhaps the most underestimated feature of a CRM solution. A poor interface can limit the user’s interest in the application, no matter how usable the technology. Additionally, high levels of personalization help the success of CRM solutions. This enables individual salespeople or stores to incorporate their preferences while following corporate standards and business processes.

Jackson: Getting buy-in from all areas of the company is the most important factor for success. Being triumphant with a CRM implementation will likely involve changing the culture within the company.  

Harry Rosen was founded on customer centricity. In many ways, it’s been easy to implement a CRM system, but it has also enabled us to push the functionality of our systems to an extreme degree. This has, in turn, taken us to a completely new level in terms of efficiency and effectiveness.

Do you think it’s beneficial to integrate CRM with other applications? If so, how?
Zeuner: Integrating a CRM system with familiar desktop applications is imperative. For example, Outlook or Lotus Notes e-mail integration aids a seamless working environment and allows history to be tracked for each customer, vendor, or partner interaction.

Jackson: We recently considered providing CRM information to our buyers, as well as employees. In addition to tracking items that are selling based on location, style, color, and size, buyers would be able to see the type of client that is purchasing their products. This categorizing would include customer status, including a new client, a tourist, or an existing client. For existing clients, a customer’s lifetime purchase history would also be included.

We are also considering integrating CRM with our communication systems. This involves presenting the associate who is answering the telephone with an advanced view of the client’s file or providing them with unified messaging for pages, e-mail, and voice messages.

What advice would you provide to retailers considering a CRM solution?
Zuener: Empower your strategic thinking and execution. Retailers need to capture as much information about consumers as possible in order to formulate an understanding of their needs. A CRM system and philosophy can help you take action using analytical data rather than employing guesswork tactics. It is time to get smarter and achieve a quantifiable return on the time and resources you put into CRM efforts.

Encourage customers to become self-empowered. Some CRM systems enable customer self-service portals on the Web that allow customers to check order status, find answers to product questions, and initiate service requests. When customers have an open forum like this, they feel better served. Additionally, they’ll begin telling you even more about what you’re doing right or wrong.

Jackson: Get started collecting and building detailed information on your clients. If you are past this stage, start looking at business processes, as well as how a system can help your associates be more efficient. Also, provide clear measurements and reporting, so successes can be tracked.