RFID's Connection to CRM

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On Friday I wrote about RFID's struggle for respect, a matter complicated by the original overheated expectations that tried to sell RFID as the solution to almost every business ill, from shoddy supply chains to poor customer relations.


So far, RFID has proven more successful in smaller-scale, closed-loop applications than in broader business initiatives, I mentioned. Despite this, some folks remain quite bullish on RFID's potential. One such person is Aberdeen Group analyst Michael Dortch, author of the report "Real-World RFID in Retail."


According to an Inside CRM item about the report, Aberdeen found that retailers it termed best-in-class were 80 percent more likely than their average counterparts to use RFID to improve asset tracking inside their stores. The same retailers enjoyed a 12 percent boost in customer satisfaction over a two-year period. Dortch sees a direct connection. He says:

Look at what it does when a customer comes in looking for a laptop. You know it's in the store, but you can't find it. What kind of customer support and service is that?"

While quickly and easily locating items on store shelves is a fairly compelling business benefit in itself, Dortch says the real value comes when retailers link RFID data to business intelligence and other enterprise applications. In fact, Dortch would like folks to start thinking of RFID as "real-time, fully integrated data" rather than "radio-frequency identification."


(As much as the tech industry loves its acronyms, I don't think it's going to be hip to changing its definitions midstream. It's hard enough as it is to keep up with what everything means. True embarrassing story: It's sometimes taken me several long, uncomfortable minutes to determine whether someone discussing BPM was referring to business-process management or business-performance management.)


The good news is, a number of vendors with RFID solutions are integrating their software with popular business apps. For instance, the article notes, NCR Corp. recently integrated its TransitionWorks for RFID and Mobility with Oracle's E-Business Suite. These kinds of integration capabilities may be enough to persuade some RFID fence-sitters to give the technology a try. Says Dortch:

It's not just about more efficient supply-chain management. If I can collect RFID-generated data and feed it back to my CRM application, I've got access to all kinds of real-time, granular data.