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Contemporary commercial paradigm evidences that customer relationship management is nowadays positioned as one of the most important pillars of industrial success. While in the recent past production and technology remained the most important facets of effectively functioning enterprise, nowadays the task of paramount importance with which the executives are charged is to attract new and to retain the existing customers. Following the requirements of the market, contemporary customer relationship management has evolved into an academic discipline, addressing the needs of the practice.
In order to establish a successful customer relationship strategy, a typical business entity has to observe a number of indispensable conditions. The most illustrative evidence in this regard is the practice of InterContinental Hotels Group, a United Kingdom-based international holding. The executives of this business giant have recognized that effective customer relationship management revolves around five fundamental axes. The objective of this paper is to explore the importance of departmental alignment, financial risk minimization, precise data collection procedures, company organization disruption plan and expert advisory role for the establishment and further proliferation of effective customer relationship management.
Customers Relationships Improvement Campaign Factors
Nowadays, the unanimous opinion of the academics and practitioners is that a plethora of different factors should be interpreted as the foundation of effective customer relationship management (Zablah, Bellenger & Johnston 2004). However, the scholarly opinion should be always supported by the practice, which in this case precisely evidences that the most important factors remain departmental alignment, financial risk minimization, accurate and relevant customer's data collection, organization disruption plan and expert advisory.
First and foremost, it remains practically undisputed that the typical business entity is normally split into a number of interconnected departments, whose synergy ultimately constitutes a product of the company. In big corporations, similar to InterContinental Hotels Group the number of departments can be measured in hundreds. Different employees are working as IT consultants, sales managers, hospitality managers, waiters, administrators, accountants, lawyers and other specialized team mates. It is hardly considerable that all of them share the same company mission, while theoretically the most indispensably should. In other words, all the professionals engaged in a particular organization should precisely understand how the company's customer treatment mission is constructed and how it should be exercised practically. To be more pragmatic, the company executives should always elaborate specific instructions and algorithms, customarily made for each different department. The fusion of these instructions constitutes the companys strategic plan of customer relationship management.
Financial Risk Minimization
However impeachable and polished a particular customer-related initiative may seem to be, the most commonly encountered obstacle for its implementation is funding. The practice illustrates that the majority of the companies operating in the international and domestic markets nowadays are really eager to invest, and invest lavishly in such campaigns (Ryals & Knox 2001). The problem here is that this investment must be reasonable but also sufficient. Failure to make sufficient investments always results in disruption of the customer relationship improvement, whereas excessive financial abundance can lead to the most catastrophic consequences, including bankruptcy or loss of competitive advantage of the business unit. The strategy employed by InterContinental Hotels Group seems to be the most effective in this regard. More specifically, the top executives of the company always compare the expenditures spent on a particular customer relationship enhancement initiative and the revenues accrued by the hotel. If the ratio is negative, the project manager is immediately dismissed, and the strategy is completely altered (excluding long-term investment projects which may last more than one accounting year).
Permanent Data Collection
Technology has become one of the most important determinants of customer relationship campaigns promoted by different companies. However, it is necessary to highlight that some really experienced business actors fail to recognize the needs of the customers and implement the technological solutions immediately, without prior consulting on whether these brand-new and highly expensive solutions are really needed by the clients. The best example in this context took place in 2001, when the managers of InterContinental Hotels group decided to monitor the medical conditions of their clients during their gym classes. Purchasing the required equipment internationally and hiring the necessary workforce cost the company more than $5 billion. However, the customers feedback was far from the one which had been expected. The overwhelming majority (89%) of the hotels visitors did not utilize the installed gadgets and preferred to rely on their physicians opinions. This case explicitly evidences that before making any financially consuming technological advancement, the customers should be always consulted. Following this simple rule can result in significant risk minimization and further customer loyalty solidification.
Unforeseen Structural Changes Plan
Contemporary business agenda demonstrates that average life expectancy of a typical business entity does not exceed six years (excluding large corporations and transnational commercial holdings). Middle and small scale business units are perpetually subjected to reformations. They merge, acquire other entities, divide into independent agencies and so on. However fluctuating and drastic this business maneuvering may be, the customers should be always retained and the new ones should be attracted. Consequently, the actions which should be taken by the company management and other structural divisions in the event of fundamental commercial reorganization must be planned in advance (Maleki & Anand 2008). Otherwise, the havoc is likely to disrupt customer relationship management and completely annul the expected commercial consequences.
The needs of the customers are gradually but steadily changing. Every time a typical client needs something new. Moreover, the technology is dynamically evolving as well. Every year new software and new gadgets are produced by the flagships of international IT industry. It should be conceptualized in this regard that the managers of the company cannot reasonably perceive all needs of the customers, while the IT consultants cannot integrate all the most apt and effective technological solutions (Kale 2004). The most effective remedy in this regard is outsourcing expert advisory in these fields. This approach is considered rather unconventional, since it emerged with gradual recession of the global financial crisis as a cost-cutting measure. Nonetheless, it has ultimately evolved into one of the most fundamental pillars of effective customer relationship management. More specifically, in the event the company realizes that it cannot serve the customers in the most effective way, external expert advisors should be hired, then they should audit the activity of the company in question, and then their recommendations should be practically implemented. This practice is often criticized for being a rather expensive solution, but nevertheless it is becoming more and more effective (Reinartz, Krafft & Hoyer 2004). Gaining competitive advantage through this scheme has evolved into an internationally popular practice.
Having summarized the main findings of this essay, several inferences can be made. First and foremost, effective customer relationship management remains an essential prerequisite of successful commercial existence, specifically in the light of recent dynamic market changes. Nowadays, not the product but the customer in general and his loyalty in particular is prioritized and targeted by the sales departments of the business institutions operating domestically and internationally. Conceptually, five ingredients are necessary for the formula of success. In other words, departmental alignment, financial risk minimization, accurate relevant data collection, coherent disruptive plan composition, and timely and professional expert advisory constitute the framework of effective contemporary customer relationship management.