Part 1: Introduction
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Along with the changing business world, customers change as well, becoming more demanding and knowledgeable than before. In turn, company management had shifted their focus on their clients or customers so as to stay successfully in business. This transition meant that organizations have to completely reformulate their conventional business aims and purposes from being process-focused to customer-centred. Rethinking and reformulating the organization on the other hand, entail the consideration of several factors such as various processes, technology, the environment as well as the success factors of people (Cohen & Moore, 2002). Hence, in order to bring out exceptional customer services within the company operations, the management should employ fine-tuned organizational restructuring. Moreover, employing proactive customer commitment involves the consideration on culture and infrastructure.
According to some authors, the implementation of customer relationship management (CRM) through the comprehensive approach can provide the company considerable competitive advantage (Butler, 2000; Cooper, Upton & Seaman, 2005). This aspect is very much essential to this time considering that most services or products offered by companies have certain similarities. Primarily, the main goal of this paper is to investigate the context of Customer relationship management systems. Herein, the use of descriptive approach will be considered. Furthermore, this paper has been able to use primary research on call centres to achieve the objective of this investigation.
Part 2: Literature Review
Several industries have been into the application of Customer Management Systems as part of their business strategies. Since the introduction of computer and information systems, various businesses have been interested on their utilization for various processes and business tasks. In the various industries such as call centres and others, CRM application has also been a common practice. Considering that manufacturing businesses have several other factors that need priority and support, the reason for focusing on CRM requires further investigation and research. Previous literatures have concentrated on this matter, providing possible reasons that encourage manufacturers to apply CRM systems. This literature review will focus on the context of CRM and the companies that have been successful in using CRM as well as those companies who failed in its application.
Customer Relationship Management
Strategy perhaps, is the most important key to the successful implementation of customer relationship management. In order to do so, company management must realize that, either directly or indirectly, the achievement of its goals contributes much to the customers’ or clients’ general experience with the company. Successful incorporation of people, process and technology is probably the most efficient strategy in CRM implementation (Greco & Ragins, 2003; Olson, 2001). This system begins with the purposeful and dedicated alignment of the processes employed by the management. These include the planning, organizing, directing and controlling procedures, which are all geared towards the customers (Cohen & Moore, 2002; Williams, 2003). Thus, customer management relationship (Gummesson, 2002), also referred to as customer service management, encompasses more than the attainment of customer satisfaction. This change management is a balance between enhanced company processes and renewed objectives. In other words, customers should also feel that the companies and businesses they support and patronize give due importance, essentiality and vitality to their operations (Gerson, 2005; Keefe, 2001). As much importance is given to this investigation, this research study aims to explore more of this issue. In this particular study, call centre organisation’s customers who have employed CRM into its operations was observed and questioned on the effects of this IT development. How customer relationship management had affected the company in terms of profitability, customer loyalty, work processes and other organizational aspects were the focus of this study.
Accordingly, CRM is concentrated on the use of information technology so as to aid the organization to stay abreast of its customers’ needs and concerns. Customer Relationship Management also helps the organization to respond in time and appropriately to their customers’ calls. On the other hand, Jarre (2000) stated that Customer Relationship Management is a business strategy and process issue that involves several other strategies other than the application of technology. The approach on CRM covers all business processes that an organization employs so as to determine, select, obtain, enhance and retain its customers (Patton, 2002). Indeed, at present, CRM is regarded as the integration of business processes, technological solutions and advanced analysis, which enables companies to understand clients from a multifaceted perspective. Through this understanding, companies are able to establish deeper and more profitable customer relations (Zabin, 2004).
Issues and factors concerning CRM
The CRM strategy may be thought as an important development in business and management, when in fact, it has been around since time immemorial. There may be variations of the old concept in comparison to the present time. However, the objective remains the same. Before, CRM is applied in businesses through personal interactions. For instance, a shop owner in the past would know all his customers by name, their lifestyles, hobbies, occupations and buying preferences. When needed, all this information is stored and readily accessible for the shop owner to use (Khirallah, 2000: Zabin, 2004). Nowadays, this may not be very much applicable to modern companies. As an alternative, companies now depend on go-betweens to establish the connection for them. These come in the form of marketing vehicles, which act as a go-between communication flows, and contact management channels to intercede service and support flows. No matter how varied people define Customer Relationship Management, its main rationale remains the same, and that is the application of strategies to improve customer relations (Clemons, 2000; Blattberg, 2002).
Accordingly, application of CRM systems may appear to be a simple management task (Stone, 2001). On the contrary, the implementation of CRM requires several factors. For instance, this strategy requires that an organization see customer relations as a means to recognize the needs and wants of its customers (Greenberg, 2001). The organization must successfully create, satisfy and sustain its clients while concurrently helping in the attainment of its objectives (Greco & Ragins, 2003). In order to come up with customized solutions geared towards the enhancement of customer functionality as well as to the recognition of new customer functionalities (Greenberg, 2001); customer intimacy and partnering are required. In turn, networking of customer relationships, which involves channel members, end users, advertising agencies, research firms are established and require management. In general, three important things must be incorporated to a CRM program (van Bennekom & Blaisdell, 2000). These include how to identify individual customers, how to gain relevant knowledge about individual customers and how to cross-sell to each individual customers in a real-time and context-sensitive manner (Zabin, 2004).
Behind The Seamless Single Access Number
The modern-day CRM organization is globally dispersed and a cost leader primarily because of Voice over IP Protocol (VoIP), which the Internet has made possible. A vast departure from the ancient scenes (circa 1960s) of a huge warehouse of people with hundreds of ordinary telephone company (telco) trunk lines snaking through warrens of cubicles, contemporary CRM is more likely to comprise autonomous teams either sharing one vast open floor plan in a skyscraper or (more likely) dispersed to different floors, other sites within the city, across two or more states or in English-speaking nations around the globe.
Cost per contact and overall cost per customer has trended down steadily. Salaries of frontline staff aside, operating costs used to be held hostage to whatever long-distance rates the dominant telco’s wished to charge CRM centres. VoIP changed all that forever, owing to the ability to convert audio to packets of digital data that could be transmitted through servers anywhere in the world the customer was calling from. This meant that CRM services could be outsourced “on shore” (within America or the UK), “near-shore” (Canada, Puerto Rico, Ireland) or offshore (Australia, India, Philippines), anywhere a pool of trainable, customer-friendly, acculturated English-speaking professionals could be found. Another phenomenon has come to be known as “homeshoring”. Since the residential market also have good Internet bandwidth, this meant that the “electronic cottage” also applied: work-at-home agents could be anywhere, in any time zone, be perfectly normal or severely handicapped, and still make their contribution to customer satisfaction felt (Johnsen 2006).
The essential benefit of the Internet has been to drive core operating costs down to around one-fifth (India, China) or four-fifths (Philippines) what it costs to perform the same service back in the U.S. or the U.K. without appreciable degradation of service. Coupled with the efficiencies of scale which leading outsourced service providers like Accenture and Convergys pass on to their clients, lower cost encourages companies of all sizes to maintain their investment in keeping callers satisfied. As well, even small companies can now afford professional CRM.
Satisfying the “mission-critical” requirement for speedy answers or problem resolution are several sub-systems and “best practices”. At the level of physical infrastructure, one needed to plan for an adequate number of trunks to accommodate anticipated call volume.
Beyond that came developments meant to enhance customer experience with CRM departments. The industry had to develop methods to realistically forecast demand, the volume of incoming calls , by daypart, by shift, by season, and as new advertising and promotion campaigns went on air. To meet the challenge of putting enough customer service representatives (CSR’s) against anticipated demand, the industry resorted to such tools and techniques as manpower planning, blending (an inbound call team could be ordered to shift to outbound sales calls when incoming queries temporarily petered off), Erlang C, occupancy planning (how many phones must be manned), netting out off-phone time (e.g., “after call work” when CSR’s may need to record the completed call in greater detail or get with Fulfilment schedules a repair crew visit), and workforce management software.
To minimize time in queue, the great breakthrough was automatic call distribution (ACD), a system that routes incoming calls to the next available agent. The queuing system is closely monitored because it is the key element in ensuring that customers get answers from a live operator within a reasonable interval of, say, 30 to 90 seconds. Much more than that and customer irritation factor can mount (Bergevin 2005). ACD combines with other elements of the CRM system (see, in particular, “Efficiency at any Price” below) to ensure that customers get attended to expeditiously.
Similar efficiency has been obtained with “auto-dialer” systems on the outbound/telemarketing side of the CRM business. By taking the task of selection and calling up away from CSR’s, auto-dialers minimize slack time on the floor. One is particularly struck by how such systems recognize busy signals, recordings or outdated numbers and “hand off” the call to the first available operator only when a human answers.
Still later in the inbound call process, average call length is monitored, principally to keep calls from degenerating into chatty irrelevancies; as well, a longer call than usual may be a signal for the floor supervisor that assistance is needed to deal with an aggravated customer.
One Size Fits All
The popular view of a large business enterprise accommodating millions of its customers with robust contact centre resources (e.g. IBM in New York and Transcom in the E.U.) does not mean small and medium enterprises (SME’s) do not have CRM expertise behind them, too. As I pointed out earlier, “Mom and Pop” operations do exemplify warm, direct and face-to-face customer relations in action.
Value-added IT resellers package the servers, computer-integrated telephony, network software and training expertise for the sake of SME’s that opt to retain CRM in-house. A passion for protecting proprietary information, preserving jobs and maximizing fidelity to one’s customer base are all valid bases for going with turnkey solutions.
Another type of compromise has had to be crafted for seasonal needs or generally call volumes. In this case, contact centre outsourcers like NuComm International in Toronto offer “pay as you go” services, typically under Cdn $5.00 for each call completed. These are, of course, usually of the inbound variety.
Efficiency at Any Price
ACD can be organised seamlessly with Dynamic Call Routing and Interactive Voice Response (IVR) essentially to direct a call to the team or agent best suited for it. At the very least, this makes call routing more efficient. A caller on the Continent wishing to have his Nokia mobile phone serviced may not mind what is obviously a computer-driven script if it saves him from being transferred over and over again because:
He is more comfortable conversing with an Italian-speaking agent;
Who is in the team that handles hardware issues;
For the N92i model;
That was bought from a specialist retailer in London.
Because the Dialled Number Identification Service component of the CRM system detects his call as arriving through the toll-free line in Italy, dynamic network routing could switch the call immediately to the Italian-speaking team (without waiting to trigger the language portion of the IVR script). In addition, ACD may have been programmed to receive from Automatic Number Identification and recognize it from the database as the residential number of a high-end cellular phone buyer. The call may then be routed to a an experienced CSR skilled in the N-series model. Imagine how pleasantly surprised the caller is to immediately get an Italian-speaking CSR who greets him by name and asks about his phone. This certainly whittles down call handling time.
Multi-Channel Service and First-Call Resolution
On the scale of servicing millions of customers – Citibank N.Y. or cable TV /”multi-system operator” industry leader Comcast come to mind – CRM systems offer self-serve alternatives mixed in with traditional communication channels. Credit card holders or cable TV subscribers receive flyers or see on the company web site that they have options for getting answers: straight from a web site with online or downloadable FAQ’s (“Frequently-Asked Questions” compilations), email, phone-in to an IVR and when all these do not suffice, contacting a CSR on toll-free lines. Such arrangements make CRM more cost-effective, it is true. Equally valid is the conclusion that consumers benefit by availing of alternative channels that enable them to resolve their concerns expeditiously.
The chat and email tools that the public has embraced as part of the Internet experience have also been employed to backstop frontline CSR’s. Instead of transferring a customer inquiring about a part replacement to another technical support group that keeps tabs on parts catalogues, inventory levels and locations, the CSR opens a chat window to them and addresses the caller’s other concerns until he gets the answers the customer wanted. For the caller, this is satisfaction par excellence; resolving customer concerns on the first call also happens to be the Holy Grail of the contact centre industry.
The principal obstacle to the untrammelled expansion of the contact centre business is the sheer intrusiveness of outbound telemarketing operations. This has become particularly annoying in markets where unethical operators inundate high-potential zip code areas with multiple calls each day, employ automated scripts or “robo-calling” and where both fixed and mobile phone subscribers are charged for incoming calls.
In addition to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission having implemented the “National Do Not Call List” Registry, the Australian Federal Government implemented the same type of registry just last year and placed restrictions on the hours when both “research” and outbound selling calls may be made.
Various companies have applied CRM into their operations. One of these companies is the Irish Life and Permanent, which offers a wide range of life assurance, investment products and pension for individuals and groups to over a million clients in Ireland. Being the market leader of the business in the area, the company intends to merge with TSB Bank so as to become the biggest provider of financial services within the country (CRMToday, 2004). Between these two separate companies, three customer relationship management systems were in use, making the identification of prospects difficult. Both companies wanted to employ a single CRM system in order to present a united post-merger image and provide its sales power the information it required to sell joint products. So as to maximize revenues and enhance customer satisfaction, a software platform that would sustain seamless, quality sales and services through multiple lines of business, product lines and channels of communication. Through this integrated profile, each client’s policy data and history would make it less difficult for Irish and Permanent to determine prospects for a more advanced business growth. The company had this problem resolved by having an HP server, which acts as the database server. With this, an integrated, single view of customer information is provided. Moreover, the CRM system gives a comprehensive picture of the company’s different products and services. The implementation of the new system had placed Irish Life and Permanent’s IT department under a great deal of stress and pressure in order to immediately get the solution implemented and in production (Dune, 2002). However, after overcoming initial challenges, the applied solution had enable Irish and Life Permanent to sell its items and products to their TSB clients through customer information analysis; automatic generation of recommendations; negotiation of financial models depending on the customers’ distinctive profiles and presentation of these solutions in various eye-catching graphical and text-based styles. The CRM system had also helped the company to present personal finance to customers in a highly professional, holistic and tailored approach. Overall, the CRM system applied by Irish Life and Permanent had enhanced customer satisfaction and helped the company to become Ireland’s best provider of personal financial services (CRMToday, 2004).
FAW-Volkswagen had been created in 1991 and was recognized for its production of modern cars in China. It is also the sole car manufacturing company in the country who was able to produce a medium and luxury class sedan. This company was also among the many others who have been dependent on CRM strategies. The company decided to implement a CRM system due to major business challenges such as unresponsive customer service, slow reaction times, lack of real-time information deficient incorporation of data and processes and shortage of IT personnel (SAP AG, 2001). The car manufacturing company put their products on sale through regional dealers. However, FAW-Volkswagen failed to acquire direct customer feedback it required to ascertain superior customer service and obtain market intelligence. Within six months, the company then decided to execute mySAP Customer Relationship Management (mySAP CRM) in order to improve its customer service and acquire more vital information about its client base. The company believed that mySAP CRM can reinforce their relationship with the clients and incorporate all function of customer service. The purpose of the company for implementing such CRM system is generally concentrated on three main aspects: sales, service and marketing. Through the system, the company’s clients are able to access the company’s services by telephone, fax, e-mail and the Internet. The system is tightly integrated, which enables the company to share communication and information with the clients, service representatives and the entire enterprise (SAP AG, 2001).
According to the company management, the CRM system had made real-time information on products, dealers and clients more accessible. As a result, the system had been a helpful tool in enabling customer service representatives to acquire the latest product information and attend to customer concerns anytime and anywhere (Ody, 2000). These assigned representatives can provide more informed decisions provided through firsthand information while monitoring and satisfying customer needs. In the long run, the company expects the system to help them achieve their longer term goals such as faster reaction to market changes, achievement of very high customer satisfaction and become the best automotive manufacturer in China. During the initial implementation, the company had assigned ten FAW-Volkswagen agents to work in the customer department, attending to about 800 calls per minute, both inbound and outbound. At present, the implementation of this system had given immediate positive effects, including inbound and outbound call processing, management of electronic mails and activity management that tracks, monitors and enhances all contact with customers.
The Interamerican Group, a leading Greek insurance company, is yet another organization who had implemented their own CRM system. For years the company was capable to sustain the first place position in the life insurance field. Furthermore, the company is among the leaders in property and casualty insurance sectors. Since 2001, Interamerican has been part of a Dutch Holding company, Eureko BV, in which at present, owns 98.07% of the insurance company’s share capital (SAS, 2002).
In spite of the progressive growth of the insurance company, competition within the Greek automobile insurance market remains active and strict. For the past ten years, the statistics of the industry have shown alarming results (Sowalskie, 2001). For instance, a 35% increase on the number of claims has been observed. A 317% increase was observed in the average cost of claims whereas only 226% increase was derived from the average premium (SAS, 2002). Though these results were not as bad as in the Interamerican case, still the results alone were enough for the company to be alarmed.
In order to resolve this problem, the company had to first determine the loss-ratio or the factor that indicates the gross profit for the business for different segments. For instance, in the automobile insurance, this should refer to the type of use of the vehicle, either private or professional, and so on (Prescott, 2001). Through this system, segments that contribute to the increase of loss ratio will be revealed. By considering all contributory factors for a high loss ratio, the exact risk exposure for case can also be determined. In response to this, Interamerican adopted the Rate Making Solution created by SAS, which is more than just the application of traditional regression analysis. SAS was chosen by the company to help them employ technology in order to obtain more knowledge about their processes and data. As the largest privately established software company in the world, SAS currently serves over 37,000 customer sites located in more that 111 countries worldwide. Known for its efficient services, more than 3.5 million of its users have witnessed how SAS can transform raw data into extraordinary insights (SAS, 2002). The application of this CRM system in the company had enabled them to attain their corporate objective based on revenue growth so as to augment market share without leaving profitability behind (Light, 2001). The project had helped the company in identifying customer segments and related exceptions. Furthermore, the CRM application had helped the company established underwriting rules through improved comprehension of the pricing policy and its implications. According to the company management, the project has not only allowed them to respond better to the changing trends of their market, but perhaps the most important thing the project has taught them was how to understand and serve their various rate groups better insights (SAS, 2002).
Part 3 Research Methodology
For this study, the descriptive method of research, specifically the case study approach, was utilized. The purpose of employing this method was to describe the nature of a situation, as it exists at the time of the study and to explore the cause or causes of a particular condition. The researcher opted to use this kind of research considering the desire to obtain first hand data from the respondents so as to formulate rational and sound conclusions and recommendations for the study. Since this study was focused on investigating the issues of customer relationship management implemented by a call centre organisations, the descriptive method was the most appropriate method to use.
CRM Secondary Data Collection
With this particular study, the researcher utilized documentary secondary data (in the form of articles from books, journals, magazines, and newspapers) that are generally about the marketing strategies and customer satisfactions as well as relevant literatures and survey-based data in order to meet the objectives of this study. The data was collected through the internet and online journals relevant to customer relationship management. The chosen secondary data has been analysed in included in the paper.
Primary Research Instrument
For this research, two research instruments were utilized: the questionnaire and interview method for the primary data. The questionnaire was structured using the multiple choice format in which the participants are to specify the letter of their choice for their answer. In order to gather better and more pertinent data, two types of questionnaire were prepared by the researcher, one for the company participants and the other for the customers.
The study also made used of a semi-standardized interview in which the researcher acted as the interviewer. Using this research tool, the researcher was able to ask a number of specific major questions as well as any question as he sees fit for the situation. Questions from the interview pertained to the problems, changes, improvement, and adjustments encountered by the respondents in relation to the implementation of the customer relationship management project of the company.
Part 3: Findings
In this section, the data gathered from the customers of call Centre Company in relation to its CRM project are presented. This chapter discusses the result of the survey and interview responded by 50 customers of the company.
Based from the results gathered from the customers of the call centre, the benefits gained from the CRM project was mainly derived from the promptness of the company’s response to customers’ concerns. In figure 3, 21 (42%) respondents said that a significant improvement in handling customer concerns have been achieved through the CR project of the company. Although some minor problems in handling customers’ concerns still occurs, this had significantly decreased in comparison to the company’s previous performance. According to 10 (20%) participants, this CRM project was specifically advantageous on the customers in such a way that they can access the company’s services through a single direct line. Since, a particular department, the communication centres, is in charge of handling the concerns of both the customers and other employees, every call and report is taken care of with lesser waiting time. Nineteen respondents (30%) also said that the project had benefited the company in improving its company-customer relations.
Analysing these benefits, this is somewhat similar to a chain reaction of events wherein the efficiency of the company employees had eventually pleased customers, thus increasing loyalty. Through the promptness of their response in addressing telecommunication concerns of the customers, the belief of the clients in the company had radically increased. As a result, the confidence of the employees in their work and performance was uplifted.
Part 4: Conclusions
In this study, it has been found out that some of the organisations which applied CRM systems have been successful and some have not that fortunate enough. The paper offers some insights into the rationale of the CRM strategy and the issues that it faces upon its implementations. Analysis shows that many believed that CRM systems applications must be suitable with the existing strategies of an organisation in order to achieve its major objective. In this research, various definitions of CRM have also been given as well as some factors and issues encountered by organisations upon CRM applications. It can be concluded that before an organisation applied CRM in their company, the management must be able to understand both the contextual and theoretical as well as the practical implications of the business perspective of customer relations management before embarking upon a CRM system application. Herein, it can be said that CRM systems must be noted as, potentially a major aspects of operationalisation of a customer relationship management approach and not only as a component. Such issues added to insufficient, at best and ill informed at worst selection procedures, a critical approach for comprehending the resultant problems and issues linked with CRM implementation and usage. In addition, it can be said that in order to be successful CRM systems applications need to be considered as more than the application of information technology, however, information technology should not be ignored. For instance, systems integration capabilities and potentialities as well as requirements are essential issues, specifically if a holistic relationship management approach is to be applied. Moreover, the findings in terms of the limitations of CRM systems acutely show the lack of learning of some organisation about the notions of IT and CRM. The misfit between the existing business strategy and CRM systems is yet another example. In this regard, the dominant management standpoint of the CRM systems at the case of a certain organisations recommends that companies that have unsuccessful CRM systems has a relatively low levels of maturity with regards to its real contexts (Dyche, 2002).
The use of CRM systems does not only improve the relations between consumers and the business; CRM systems are also used in order to enhance the relations observed within the company. This is particularly important for manufacturing companies since the businesses usually employ several employees. Alkadi and Alkadi (2004) noted that information technology, along with CRM systems has greatly helped in the communication process between the company and their target market.
Based from the cases given above, it can be concluded that CRM focuses on building relationship to be able to create customer profiles and predict buying trends. Doing so will allow the business to make necessary adjustments in their services of products so that it will become more suitable and referred by customers. In addition, knowing the customer’ preferences will give a company an edge over the competition since they will be able to develop products and service that can offer more benefits to the customers based on what they need.
CRM Programs help define the general attitude of the members of the company when interacting with customers. It is based on what the customer directly tell the business, information collected through other business transactions and other demographic acquired (Day, 2000, p. 66). Through these sources of information, businesses will be given the opportunity to get to know their customers on a different level. Aside from being able to identify the needs of their customers, they will also be able to differentiate customer requirements. With this, businesses can improve the way they interact with their customers by enhancing contacting methods, sales approaches and/or automated technology that they are offering and integrate it with the Customer relationships management
Hence, it can be argued that, if a medium sized organisation would want to implement CRM as part of their systems or strategies, the management of such company must be able to make a comprehensive and intensive planning and an efficient execution to achieve their organisational objective.
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