The author wishes to thank Jack Sumner for contributing to this column.

The concept of customer relationship management (CRM) in theory is simple: Listen to your customers and act on what they are saying to create a mutually beneficial relationship. To a customer, this translates into understanding the terms by which they prefer to do business, making the product to an acceptable level of quality and doing it all at a competitive price. No problem, right? The challenge for companies is to understand what customers are asking for in order to respond to ­ or, better yet, anticipate ­ their needs. Today, companies with current implementations of CRM technology can usually hear their customers; however, because they are only focusing on the operational and collaborative components of CRM, they cannot really understand them. They must also consider analytical CRM to optimize their customer relationships.

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