Impiric Seeks to Dispel CRM Myths

Impiric Philippines Inc., a subsidiary of New York-based Impiric, an international provider of integrated marketing and communications solutions, hopes to break into the local market by "demystifying" the myth behind customer relationship management (CRM).

"CRM is essentially about customers and retaining their loyalty," Impiric Philippines managing director Birgit Baier-Buesgen told Computerworld Philippines in an interview.

Baier-Buesgen explained that CRM is not only about the use of technology to manage customer relationships but also entails a strategy that will integrate this technology with people and business processes.

"The ongoing CRM myth among local companies is that they think CRM is a single application or a technology-in-a-box that could easily be implemented," said Damian Byrne, integrated business solutions consultant at Impiric. "We would like to break the myth by introducing that CRM is a methodology or a tool that involves both technology and management strategy."

Impiric, formerly known as Wunderman Cato Johnson (WCJ), has integrated data and communication technologies with creative and behavioral knowledge of the market, plus data analysis tools to measure and study results of marketing efforts.

Baier-Buesgen expressed confidence that the local market is gradually warming up to the idea and said that companies are now gaining more awareness about the significance of CRM in their business processes.

CHALLENGES

She noted, however, that CRM is still being misunderstood as a very complicated and very costly application that involves a lot of people. "Right now, CRM is still thought of as an application that companies can buy in a box rather than as a strategy or methodology," Baier-Buesgen said.

She also observed that companies tend to get overwhelmed by a CRM implementation, thinking that the whole thing is done in one fell swoop. "You don't have to have everything in place in the beginning, you can scale it. CRM is very simple, it is not science in a sense, it is a one-to-one communication. It is the right offer to the right customer at the right time. This is what companies should aim for."

Byrne cited three key areas of CRM that companies should consider before they implement a CRM solution -- infrastructure, knowledge and people. "A company must have an infrastructure in place where the technology will run, and the right people who will use that technology. What follows is knowledge. It implies that you learn from all the information your people gathered and turn that into something useful for your business and for your customers."

He admitted that infrastructure is the weakest area, saying that companies here are still faced with problems in infrastructure as well as speed. "In terms of the right people, there is no problem. The Philippines has the people who have the right skills. Knowledge gain is abundant as well."

MARKET OUTLOOK

Barely six months after the launch of its local office, Impiric already has a roster of clients such as IBM Philippines, Citibank, Ericsson, Ford Motor Co., SkyCable and TNT.

"The market here has great potential since a lot of companies are open to CRM. This is because the people are technology-oriented," said Baier-Buesgen. "You see, these companies, both multinationals and local ones, are realizing that the current system they have is limiting their business. So there is a need to be more competitive to get more clients."

Byrne said the trend now is going toward the consideration of management strategies and technical expertise in CRM technology. "It may not be fully developed yet, but people are beginning to understand that call centers and customer care services do not just involve consolidating the database and making sure the channels, the trade and the sales force are included," he said.

He added that there is still a need to educate the market to correct the misconception that CRM is an application. "An application is simply the software you install in a computer system. A CRM solution is a process that includes management strategies. So it also involves an attitude change from top management as well."

The Philippine office is part of Impiric's new global strategic direction that includes the formation of new research and development (R&D) capabilities, a redefined market focus and the establishment of new strategic partnerships, said Baier-Buesgen.

The company formed a worldwide R&D program called Marketing Lab, which focuses on all aspects of CRM through the incubation of ideas and the development and execution of new marketing programs and services.

Impiric offers a series of proprietary customer-oriented solutions, including The Thought Leadership Exchange, The CRM Cockpit Technology Project and The CRM Diagnostic Tool.

Other Marketing Lab efforts include research projects in interactive television and smart card technology, a new venture incubator that provides full marketing services to start-up companies, an electronic consumer project that studies new models of marketing, advertising and promotion on the Internet and a marketing pilot and demonstration center that explores unconventional approaches to marketing problems.

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