Staying connected: Guide to customer relationship management systems

Brokers talk about giving good customer service. But how much closer and more rewarding could your customer relationships be with the right software? MPA's Simon Parker looks at customer relationship management (CRM) systems, and how they can improve your marketing efforts

Garbage in, garbage out.
This is what my year nine mathematics teacher drilled into me when lecturing us on how to use calculators correctly. Put the wrong figures in, and you're guaranteed to get the wrong figures out.

The same would appear to apply for customer relationship management (CRM) systems. Rather than putting in the wrong information though, many put no information in at all.

"While some brokers are quite sophisticated users of technology, by in large brokers aren't using CRM functionality or systems very effectively," says Des Papac, general manager, strategy & marketing at Pisces Group. "This is clearly evident by the type of calls we receive at the Pisces Group broker help desk."

Before outlining some of the CRM packages that are currently available to brokers, it's important to understand the behaviour and resources required to successfully use a CRM system. The most sophisticated of systems will generate nil results if either the broker doesn't input the necessary information, or is unable to understand how to apply the information correctly.

"I believe there is an underlying desire on behalf of brokers to benefit from CRM software," says Andrew Duerden, national sales and business development manager at LoanWorks Technologies. "I also believe that there is a fair degree of systematic behaviour that is required by users to ensure that the customer data they add is relative to what they are aiming to achieve and maintained on a continuous basis."

Duerden says brokers must determine what they want their CRM system to achieve. "Is your goal to have a knowledge resource that can be used over time for consistent targeted marketing or do you just want a good contacts database?"

He points out that if the latter is true, then Microsoft Outlook running on an Exchange Server (something that can easily be rented from a hosting company such as Web Central) will provide a very flexible and interactive contact database with scope to customise the forms yourself.

Other options are off the shelf CRM packages like GoldMine and ACT! (see sidebox).

"If your organisation is larger, with staff in different roles and a plan to grow even bigger then it is best to find a software solution that is already tailored to your industry focus and is scalable," Duerden adds.

Papac adds 'CRM' is a very broadly used term. "To some it's just a contact management while for others it may be an organisational approach to doing business. What's important is the brokers and aggregators clearly identify the outcomes they need to achieve, and then the processes they have to manage."

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