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Customer relationship management (CRM) issues can often be traced to ineffective business processes that involve human communication. Companies can overcome the limitations inherent in those marketing, sales, and service processes by pursuing communication-enabled business processes (CEBPs) -- processes enabled by communication systems that are tightly integrated with business applications. With CEBP, firms can reduce latency, enhance the ability to locate people with the right skills, provide recording of and visibility into interactions, and better enable end-to-end processes involving employees, customers, suppliers, and partners.

CEBP yields the most value in contact-intensive situations where service requests are complex. In particular, when business requirements call for a high volume of interpersonal interactions, when customers demand service through multiple contact channels, and where there are globally distributed resources, CEBP can bring the greatest benefits. When CEBP is well-deployed for CRM and other processes, it results in simplified interactions for a firm and its customers, faster response times, greater accuracy, a breaking down of organizational silos, and a better social context for communication.

Here's a story: at first, the chief marketing officer (CMO) of a global consumer electronics firm was quite pleased -- management was finally shifting from a technology focus to a marketing focus to enhance differentiation. But in the rush to initiate new programs, there was little time to carefully revamp customer relationship management-based marketing processes. Telemarketing staff across a dozen locations worldwide handled new campaign materials -- including call lists and scripts -- using paper, spreadsheets, and e-mail. Sales leads resulting from the campaigns were simply distributed by e-mail, and related call information wasn't recorded.

After months of stepped-up marketing investments, the CMO's C-level peers were deeply disappointed with the outcome. Marketing staff didn't have meaningful insights into responses to individual campaigns, and customer data was perpetually out-of-date. By the time new leads reached the sales force, they were cold.

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