Underlying every grand plan for customer relationship management (CRM) is a centralized customer database one that consolidates information about each customer from sources throughout the company. This complete picture of each customer is the foundation for understanding what actions will get the greatest value from the relationship.
No one with meaningful CRM experience would minimize the effort needed to build such a database. In fact, most practitioners quickly acknowledge that it is by far the greatest technical challenge of a new CRM project. (Actually, this is not quite true. Vendors of integrated front-office systems often assume their standard operational databases will be the central customer repository. This breezy confidence typically crumbles when they are told they must integrate data from back-office operations and from the touchpoints there are always a few that run outside of the main front-office system.) Still, once the difficulty of building the database is solemnly noted, attention usually swings to more exciting tasks such as choosing vendors and fighting political battles. The nuts and bolts of customer data consolidation are set aside as problems to resolve during implementation. The unspoken assumption is the available tools all give roughly equivalent performance so there is no point in conducting a detailed assessment of them.
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