2001 is shaping up to be a difficult year for business. Every day, new companies announce layoffs due to budgetary pressures as a result of the slowdown in the economy. Consumer confidence indexes continue to provide evidence that consumers are postponing purchases. Inventories are too high; hence purchasing is decreasing across the board, creating downward pressure on the price of numerous goods. At the same time, every business magazine and most market analysts are telling companies to make investments in the latest customer relationship management (CRM) technology. The typical senior executive is trying to decide if now is the best time to focus more on customers or if it is necessary to scale down CRM budgets and wait until markets improve.

Waiting until markets improve is just what market leaders are hoping their competitors decide to do. Cus-tomers are looking to see who services them the best when the times are bad and will remember those companies as the economy improves. CRM is not about implementing the latest technology; it is about servicing customers better across the entire enterprise. Consequently, those who allocate funds for enterprise-wide CRM capabilities will be best positioned to take advantage of future opportunities. However, because enterprise-wide projects require huge investments in both people and in technology, how can CRM be implemented during this period of reduced budgets? The answer is by executing a "CRM at No Charge" strategy.

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