Irish firms ‘flying blind’: CRM expert

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Over two-thirds of Irish businesses don’t know where their business comes from, a Microsoft survey of 800 Irish companies reveals.

Nor do most Irish companies have any mechanism to record, manage and analyse vital business information to identify their best customers and where future business may be generated.

The findings of the survey, conducted by Microsoft Ireland, were unveiled on Thursday at the Sales Leaders’ Forum in Dublin. The survey focused on trends and practice of CRM (Customer Relationship Management) in Ireland.

The report also revealed that large corporations were no better than smaller companies at using CRM, and said Ireland suffered from an apparent apathy in relation to CRM, with many respondents using CRM merely to record customer details rather than as an analytical tool.

Several reports have recently exposed Ireland’s lack of customer insight as an Achilles heel that could affect the country’s ability to compete nationally and internationally, said John McCormack, chairman of the Sales Institute of Ireland.

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“Microsoft’s findings are especially worrying as they indicate a lack of understanding as to the competitive advantage that getting closer to customers can offer,” said McCormack. “It also means that these companies have no formalised way of harnessing the business they already have, and have little or no view of their sales pipeline.” In essence, he said, most Irish companies were flying blind if they are making decisions without this type of vital information.

Many Irish companies interpreted CRM solely from a technological standpoint, without an understanding of it as a business strategy.

Even where CRM technology was in place, it was typically used in only a few functional areas rather than across the entire organisation, so companies were not taking advantage of the rich set of features that CRM systems offer for managing their business.

Among the bespoke systems developed internally by Irish firms, 51 percent were more than five years old while 22 percent were over 10 years old.

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Among other results of the survey were findings that the term “customer” was often interpreted in the narrowest sense, as referring to the consumer, rather than referring to suppliers, distributors, retailers, consumers, end users, and decision makers. In addition, many respondents reduced CRM to a single element of the system, such as contact management or marketing campaign features. A large number of companies also erroneously referred to their financial software as a CRM tool.

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