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The insideEdge (SAPinsider Vol. 8, Iss. 4)

by Bob Stutz | SAPinsider

October 1, 2007

It may sound crazy, but when implementing customer relationship management (CRM) systems, companies have actually been losing sight of the needs and wants of their customers. Find out why and how you need to bring your focus back on this strategic segment with SAP’s Senior Vice President and General Manager, CRM Global Strategy and Product, Bob Stutz.

No business can exist without customers, no matter how efficiently an organization operates. It's customers' perception of everything a company does that generates an image of that company's brand and eventually determines its success or failure as a business.

That's why successful companies build their business around the customer. They know who their most valuable customers are, and they understand their needs. They design and continuously improve business processes across their entire ecosystem — including suppliers and channel partners — to respond quickly to these needs. They strive to become a customer-centric enterprise, masterfully orchestrated to deliver superior customer value and an exceptional customer experience across all customer touch points.

Most business leaders have realized that internal efficiency alone is no longer enough to guarantee market differentiation and a competitive edge. Success is not only determined by price and product, but also by well-designed sales channels and service processes. To generate new growth, their focus has shifted from handling internal processes to managing relationships with customers — so they've rolled out a variety of CRM initiatives and technologies to improve sales productivity, call center efficiency, or marketing effectiveness.

While implementing CRM, though, many organizations actually lose sight of their customers. Their attention centers on efficiency gains. They focus on specific channels, ignore integration needs, and get only a limited view of their customers. The result? Missed sales opportunities and a negative customer experience. Organizations often automate existing bad processes instead of redesigning their customer-facing operations based on best practices. It's time to refocus on what CRM is really about — the customer — in order to achieve the results CRM has promised to deliver.

Successful organizations elevate the role of the customer throughout their business. They approach CRM with the same fortitude, care, and steadfastness with which they approach other vital business functions. By capitalizing on customer insight, they identify and prioritize opportunities faster and more effectively, discern and exploit sources of differentiation, spur product and service innovation, and foster relationships with both customers and partners. They streamline critical processes such as order management from initial customer contact to shipping and payment, improve decision making and time to market, better align supply with demand, and quickly shape demand in times of constrained supply.

SAP customers that have gone down this path, transforming their organization from a product-centric enterprise into a customer-centric one, can report amazing returns. There's no doubt about it: The future lies with a company's ability to manage its transition to a customer-centric organization. For years to come, more companies will embark on this journey to reach a higher ground — for their own sake, and for the sake of their customers.

Bob Stutz
Senior Vice President and General Manager
CRM Global Strategy and Product

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