CRM Shortcuts – Faster Ways to Customer Relationship Management

Years ago, I ran product management for several  industry specific CRM data warehouses (in other words, business intelligence) for Teradata .  My team worked with large Teradata customers including Wal-Mart, Bell South (now AT&T), Delta and Continental Airlines and other household names who were using Teradata to locate all their customer data and compile it in a system capable of analyzing customer buying trends.  The goal was to increase cross selling and up-selling to existing customers as well as to retain them (at least the profitable ones!).  Data mining (“what if I did X instead of Y”) type analysis could help target new customers as well.

It was interesting, and profitable.  The customers targeted in different market segments (like Retail, Banking, Telecom, Travel, Hospitality and Healthcare) saved money because they did not have to “tweak” generic systems to their industry variances.  It was profitable for Teradata, because a good chunk of development could be spread over multiple customers instead of starting from “scratch” each time.

No CRM solution can be 100% “off the shelf” — even for small businesses.   There are certain things that are unique to the way a company does business.   Yet, the more that can be “out of the box” and functional, the faster the rewards and the easier to get it up and running.

The reason I’m traveling down memory lane is because last week I received an email from Lauren Carlson, a CRM Market Analyst.  She wondered if I’d be interested in blogging on the topic of industry specific CRM applications built around Microsoft Dynamics CRM.

If you’ve read my blog for awhile you may know I am a big fan of Dynamics CRM.   My curiosity was raised so I check out her blog, “Microsoft Dynamics CRM Industry Solutions:  Our 15 Favorites.”  Since there are over 750 industry solutions built around Dynamics CRM this was quite an undertaking!

For easy navigation, the article links each industry to its corresponding solution:

Financial Services Non-Profit
Agriculture Healthcare Pharmaceuticals
Automotive Hospitality/Travel Public Sector
Construction Insurance Real Estate
Distribution Legal Retail

If you take a look at any of these solutions for your industry segment heed these warnings:  check out the vendor’s track record for keeping up to date with Dynamics CRM.   Any time you have a third party “adding value” to another vendor’s product they can begin to slip behind in updates.  Suddenly your third party application may not work with newer releases.   Also, in your contract with the third party ask what happens if they go out of business.   Any customer / vendor relationship is a bit like a marriage — so go into your relationship with your eyes wide open, and a pre-nup in hand!

It also behooves you to check some happy users who have been with the third party independent software vendor (ISV) for a few years, to make sure the customer support and “bug fixes” are fast and relatively painless.   Keep in mind that you are paying a premium for the value add of the industry specific application (although you may get a discount on the CRM software) — do your due diligence to determine if the value you will get makes the additional cost of the third party application cost effective for your business.


About Sandra Eisenberg

Dynamic pragmatic marketing and sales executive whose biggest asset is converting technology to real corporate value -- for a variety of industries including health care providers (Adventist Health System Sunbelt), Teradata (Data Warehousing), RWD Technologies (quality improvement and professional services), Siemens and AT&T (telecom). Sandra brings twenty years of experience in sales, marketing and IT management. Her career spans entrepreneurial firms (E5 Marketing) and senior positions in sales, sales management (direct and indirect), marketing, channel development and product management at Bell Labs and NCR Teradata. A few career highlights: • Total product lifecycle management (PLM) using ISO 9001 and other quality methodologies. Sunset aging product lines and developed a migration path to a new, open standards platforms at Avaya, NCR and Bell Labs. • 1st woman to win the AT&T and NCR Teradata national sales awards -- top sales manager and sales rep at AT&T, NCR Teradata and Avaya • Delivered profitable marketing campaigns in the area of CRM, Business intelligence, contact centers and other high tech areas • Run call centers, sold call centers and been in product management of call centers (Avaya, AT&T and NCR) • Director of CRM Strategic Planning and Alliances at Avaya and NCR Teradata • Senior Manager of Product Management Bell Labs (business intelligence, data warehousing and CRM) Most recently Sandra managed the Central Florida territory for Siemens' telephony division. Siemens is selling this division soon and their loss can be your gain.

Posted on August 24, 2010, in BI, business intelligence, CMR, contact center, CRM, customer relationship management, Marketing, Pragmatic Marketing, product management, profit, revenue. Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. Hi Sandra, I really don’t see cross-selling as a CRM solution. CRM is about improving relationships. You are talking about campaign management that uses statistics to push more focused marketing messages. The future of CRm is about empowerment on both sides. The customer will own more of the relationship than the business and will demand from the business more real world interaction and less mass marketing.

    A great CRM solution does not need to be hardcoded for a specific market, which is why I think that Dynamics is not so great. The main problem are the hardcoded processes. Therefore the future will be user-driven, adaptive processes rather than hardcoded-CRM with lots of add-ons that – as you so properly mention – create later a management nightmare.

    • Max, CRM (customer relationship management) is a term that encompasses every aspect of customer interaction with a company — this includes sales and customer service. Some of the earliest forms of CRM were in the contact center (call center) as well as in the outside sales rep who, far too often, did not keep enough customer information in usable forms.

      If one were to “break down” CRM into categories the major two categories would be “front office” (customer facing — e.g., the call center applications, sales force automation, customer service, etc.) and “back office” (analytics including data warehousing, campaign management, etc.).

      Campaign management is an aspect of back-office CRM but it focuses on marketing campaigns from concept through execution and then analyzing them (to repeat if successful, improve and re-execute).

      Is there really a “great” CRM solution? So much still has to be customized, including integration to other systems, which may explain why the market is still so crowded (SAP, Siebel, Microsoft,, etc.). Industry solutions do have their niche and simply help to integrate and use the “language” of given industries. Can a generic CRM solution be used by just about any industry? Sure, but the modifications are usually made by someone. Consider healthcare — the “customers” are providers (doctors, labs, etc.) and patients — not “customers.” It may seem trite to an outsider, but the language of a given industry is considered important within it — and thus the interest in industry specific CRM.

      I do agree that the future is going to be more user-driven. Social CRM (the topic of my last blog previous to this one) is a hot topic. The conversation is definitely becoming multi-way and it is changing the rules completely. Thanks for your input and for reading the blog.

      • Sandra, thanks. Like with BPM, CRM is constantly being redefined and expanded. It is actually very little about relationships. I am not too much a believer in Social CRM, BPM or anything for business. Social is not empowerment. It is currently a hype because it allows customers to blow of steam. Empowerment is about goals, authority and means and Social doesn’t offer that.

        But if the software – rather than empty chat or arbitrary media sharing – would allow users to simply create their own terminology and processes without needing any customization, then there is no need for expensive modification. Current CRM software is really quite outdated in terms of technology.

        What businesses need is a consolidated, adaptive solution that includes CRM, BPM, and ECM.

      • Max, when CRM became a popular term — gosh, nearly 20 years ago now — the term became very muddied. Originally it meant total customer experiences — anything that related to customer interaction with a company. Thus you had the front office and back office applications. Everyone wanted to jump on the CRM bandwagon and soon the term became muddied to mean everything from call center applications and point solutions to complex total solutions. Coming out of BPM land myself (Teradata, aka business intelligence) I tend to think that to really have CRM you must be able to analyze what happens to your customers and have the ability to improve the interaction — to improve customer service or increase sales. Very few people actually use CRM in this way, and most simply use it as a way to track the history of a given customer.

        I do disagree with you that CRM is outdated. Some certainly is — primarily the big behemoths of Siebel (Oracle) and SAP. Microsoft Dynamics and (in the cloud) along with some other newer entrants like Pegasus have powerful new takes offering increased ROI.

  2. Thanks, Sandra. When I say CRM is outdated I talk about the hardcoded behemoths. I don’t think statistical illusions improve customer relationships, while they may increase revenue here and there. I know too many unhappy Salesforce customers too believe in the new Cloud Marketing scheme. I agree with you on Pegasystems. They are one of the few who see CRM as a process solution like us.

    What would improve relationships, is to understand the action patterns of customers and service personal and use that information in realtime. Statistics can’t do that, because you have to build all correlations as models manually. We use a pattern matching technique that analyzes the patterns around people actions in real-time and provides actionable knowledge as to which actions are correlated to which data patterns. The software analyzses the complete customer state space with no need for knowledge engineering or correlation models.

    ROI is always a consequence of improved relationships. It does not have to be targeted directly. It’s the measure to manage fallacy.

    Wrote a lot about it on my blog:

    Thanks again for the interesting posts and the answers. Max

  3. Max, we have divergent views on CRM (which isn’t surprising since most people have a specific take on the topic). CRM does not have to present real time, or even “near” real time customer data. The goal is improved customer relationships (at least for the profitable customers) — and analyzing historical data is part of that as is campaign management. The data should not be sold old that we miss seasonal markers, or other time sensitive factors (e.g., the winter season in Florida) — but if all we do is look at real time data we are looking at the customer information in a vacuum. Sometimes it is necessary to “step back” and look at the forest, aka the bigger picture, and this is also CRM.

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