Don't let the tough economic climate stop you from investing in customer relationship management strategies. Waiting will delay perceived benefits by at least 12 months once the economy recovers, giving rivals an advantage in the market, according to Gartner Inc.


Gartner analysts said that lesson learned from previous downturns indicate that 40 percent of companies will use the current economic slump as an opportunity to generate post-recovery growth via effective use of CRM strategies.


"Just because times are tough and budgets are being cut, companies should not think that means no CRM investment," said Scott Nelson, managing vice president at Gartner. "Companies need to think in terms of spending smarter, not spending less. There are zero, or low-cost strategies that can be implemented now that can make all the difference, generate competitive differentiation and not draw the attention of the CFO," Nelson said in a statement.

Gartner has identified five strategies that companies can undertake now that cost very little or nothing, but which will generate positive results from a CRM strategy point of view.

Customer Communities

Gartner predicts that CRM of the future will be about creating online communities of customers via emerging social media, such as Facebook, Twitter and similar Web sites.

Analytics

Once bought and installed, analytic tools can be put to good use during economic downturns. Many companies have more information than they know what to do with, and now they have the opportunity to put this to good use figuring out channel usage patterns.

Segmentation

Many segmentation schemes are based on psychodemographics, profitability or account attributes. However, a down economy provides companies with the opportunity to review their segmentation strategy and see if it really is the best one that they could have.

Process Redesign

Process is often an overlooked part of CRM and in many cases all that CRM technologies have done is taken out old, broken processes and made them run more efficiently.


Organizational Redesign

Organizational change is one of the most difficult areas of CRM strategy, but many companies need to make the move from product-centric to customer-centric.

Now is an excellent time to study customer processes with a view to redesigning them and creating a win/win situation for both the company - which gets greater efficiency - and the customer - who gets a "partner" that interacts with them in a meaningful way.

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