Four Key Integration Steps for Better CRM

Loraine Lawson
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Seven Steps to a Successful ERP or CRM Launch

Keep your project team on track.

To me, it's a no-brainer to believe better integration, particularly with CRM (customer resource management), leads to a more comprehensive insight into customers. After all, how can you know a customer's likes, dislikes and purchase patterns if the data is stuck in departmental silos?

 

But do all integration projects pay off equally? And is the value you'll get significant enough to justify the investment?

 

A recent two-part article series published on BeyeNETWORK takes an in-depth look at integration and CRM, specifically as it applies to online customer relationship management, or "e-CRM" for short. It's a long and very academic piece, but the findings suggest four integration steps that can provide the most pay-off for your CRM investment.

 


Actually, this article is an update of a piece called, "E-CRM Analytics: The Role of Data Integration," which ran in a 2003 issue of the Journal of Electronic Commerce in Organizations. It's written by Christopher Barko, Ashfaaq Moosa and Hamid Nemati, who were then at the University of North Carolina.

 

The first piece in the series is basically a thesis supporting five integration-related propositions the authors believe could create more value for organizations. The article uses a ton of external sourcing to show you how they arrived at these propositions. The second article explains the survey they created to determine whether these five propositions hold up in the real world. It goes into great depth about the methodology of the survey, but in the end, they surveyed 115 organizations and used ANOVA to access the results. The survey results included both B2B and B2C companies. They found that four of the five propositions did deliver significant value. The four integration-related efforts that mattered were:

 

  1. Integrating more data sources. The survey found that the total value of the e-CRM project increases as you integrate more data sources.
  2. Integrating offline data with online data. That seems like a big "no duh," since it'll give you more insight into customer buying habits, and it held true: Thirty percent of those surveyed did not integrate these two data sets. Not surprisingly, those who integrated experienced greater value from their e-CRM projects.
  3. Integrating external data-e.g., from government sources or social media sites. Seventy-four percent integrated external data in some form-interestingly, 62 percent said that external data comprised less than 20 percent of their total data, and still, the overall value increase was significant over those who did not integrate any external data.
  4. Using an enterprise-wide data warehouse or CRM-specific data repository as the backbone of your CRM does lead to better customer insight. Those who used a decentralized data repository-such as legacy databases, operational data stores or data marts-experienced significantly less benefits than those who centralized their data storage.

 

That last point might be worth pointing out to other business units if you're having a hard time gathering support for integration projects-and the survey also found that lack of buy-in and other organizational issues are the biggest barrier to CRM integration. As John Foley, Jr., CEO of interlinkONE, recently wrote, marketers and salespeople can only benefit from a more comprehensive view of customers, and integration is the key to providing it:

Marketers put themselves in a position to fail when all of those activities are stored in separate databases. If we do not have a holistic view of how our company has touched a contact or how they have interacted with us, we risk causing irritation and leaving a negative impression of our brand.

So what didn't pay off? The only project included in the survey that didn't show significant total value was how often companies update their data repositories, suggesting that when it comes to e-CRM, more frequent data refreshes can go lower on the to-do list.



Add Comment      Leave a comment on this blog post
Mar 14, 2011 11:44 AM Jason Pinto Jason Pinto  says:

Hi Loraine,

I just wanted to say thank you for posting this article. I think that the point on integrating offline data with online data is so important! More and more conversations are happening online -- via social media and other channels. That data can not only be used to personalize offline marketing efforts, but it truly can make the job of a sales rep a bit easier.

Thanks again for sharing this info!

Jason

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