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Integrating CRM & ERP: How efficient IT utilisation drives customer satisfaction

20th Apr 2015
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Customer relationship management (CRM) and enterprise resource planning (ERP) tools have been mainstays in the arsenal of enterprise IT departments.

Benefits of CRM platforms include better customer service, up-selling or the selling of products through recommendations, and improved employee work capacity or productivity through the streamlining of management processes.

ERP platforms, meanwhile, are centred on enhanced productivity made possible by improved communication, the adoption of industry best practices, fact-based decision making, and the elimination of duplicate data.

Image Source: http://infogrity.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/CRMERP-solutions.png

However, when CRM and ERP tools are used as integrated solutions, businesses are can reap even more benefits and advantages.

Representing efficient IT utilisation

Even small start-ups can benefit from utilising ERP and CRM solutions. But it’s not enough to use these; software must be used efficiently. One of the best demonstrations of how IT is effectively used in businesses is how such platforms are integrated into the business process. CRM acts as a front-office system, centralising information related to customer service, marketing, and the sales pipeline. ERP is used complementarily as a tool for automating and managing back-office activities, which include the tedious management of manufacturing processes, purchasing, accounting, collection, HR management, payroll, manufacturing and distribution.

In other words, integrated CRM-ERP provides a way of comprehensively addressing both front- and back-office activities of businesses. In most cases in the past, CRM and ERP tools were run separately or as standalone systems. Even with benefits, a lack of interconnection or interoperability limits the advantages. An integrated approach will mean functions and features complement each other in an end-to-end solution.

Efficiency through seamless integration

Most, if not all, of the advantages mentioned earlier (for both CRM and ERP tools) can be achieved by integrating CRM and ERP. In terms of productivity, having an integrated CRM-ERP system improves productivity by minimising workload by reducing or even eliminating duplicate data entry tasks, providing a system that ensures that the data used across different departments are the same, facilitating the establishment of an automated workflow, and enhancing organizational task management.

All of these boil down to the advantages of having and using the correct information, reducing records management related tasks, and adopting a clear flow of tasks in a business operation. Integration reduces operation costs by getting rid of duplicate tasks while keeping processes simpler and faster.

Other ways for ensuring efficient IT utilisation

Integration is just one of the ways to ensure effective IT utilisation. To make the most of IT resources, it is important to study the extent of how these are needed in a business operation. Applications have to be deployed taking into account how their presence affects the entirety of a business. More specifically, such resources can be better used through the following:

  • Investing in the necessary training to properly take advantages of the features and functions of the software tools and other IT resources being deployed.
  • Upgrading to the latest software version to ensure security and to get the features that address current needs and challenges.
  • Preference for Cloud solutions: Cloud Computing technology has myriad advantages that make for better efficiency and convenience. Cloud applications, for one, provide the guarantee that you will not lose your valuable business data in case of on-premises hardware failure. It also provides the advantage of being accessible anywhere as long as there is internet connection available.
  • Trying to avoid using certain IT resources: This sounds ironic, but it actually helps adopting an attitude of restraint or hesitation in investing in technological resources. Using technology is very important, but there are instances when significant investment is not needed. This particularly applies in investments for server hardware. If cloud solutions will suffice, there’s no need to spend for costly server equipment and to spend for the personnel or expert to maintain these equipment.

Reflecting IT efficiency in customer satisfaction

Efficient IT use influences customer satisfaction. Obviously, in the case of CRM tools, customers benefit from the way a business can respond to concerns more quickly and customise services base on preferences. CRM platforms facilitate good interactions and long-term relationships.

With ERP tools, customer satisfaction is attributable to the efficiency of business operations. Because of better business processes, companies are able to provide better products and services.

A post on the site of the ACA Group, an alliance of operations and supply chain experts, presents salient points on how ERP contributes to improvements in customer service. Some of the important things cited are the reduction in inventory and work in process in the pipeline, lowered direct and indirect labour, and minimised product defects and rework costs. Additionally, the post also highlights how ERP helps increase material availability, improve shop floor visibility, and facilitate more accurate work scheduling. All of these contribute to the benefit of customers through better products, product supply, and coordination or response in cases of complaints for defects and returns.

Companies concerned about the costs of ERP deployment or maintenance can count on ERP testing solutions to evaluate the impact of activities like patching, updates and change management. Such activities are particularly applicable to bigger enterprises where Big Data analytics can be effectively used.

Image Source: http://panaya.com/index.php?option=com_k2&id=83_e3ad8bca5136dc20ec986a1db99763bb&lang=en&task=download&view=item

 

In sum, efficient IT utilisation creates better customer experiences by improving business processes or operations. This results in better products that lead to greater customer satisfaction. Improved business processes or protocols, on the other hand, result in better product availability, possibly lower prices (because of lower overhead costs), and better responses in handling complaints due to improved product tracking and the quick identification of customers and transactions.

Daan Pepijn is a Cloud Computing, web security expert and blogger. His current interests include enterprise automation, cloud-based security and solutions. He can be reached at [email protected].
 

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