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The top CRM advice from experts in 2008

Get the top CRM advice from our CRM and call center experts in 2008. Find out about CRM market trends and get advice on the changing CRM and call center industry.

Our resident CRM experts provide a wealth of valuable advice on a variety of CRM and call center topics every month. We've put together this list of the most popular Q/As of 2008 so you can see what issues were on the minds of CRM and call center professionals this year. Find out about choosing a CRM product, preparing for a call center agent job interview, keeping customers loyal in a recession and more.


   1. How can we motivate our call center agents to up-sell?
   2. Preparing for a call center agent job interview: What skills are required?
   3.  Choosing a CRM product: Does the industry and type of business matter?
   4. How does Microsoft CRM 4.0 integrate with Microsoft Office?
   5. What are the basic needs of customers?
   6. Customer complaint handling and resolution policies
   7. CRM failure: The top six reasons CRM programs fail
   8. CRM for the midmarket: Siebel CRM Professional or SAP Business One?
   9. Managing call center stress: Three stress management training courses
   10. Keeping customers loyal in a down economy


How can we motivate our call center agents to up-sell?

Q: How can we motivate our call center agents to up-sell products when they were originally recruited for a technical support position?

A: As call centers continue to evolve from cost centers to revenue generating profit centers, call center agents will increasingly have some form of sales responsibilities – up-selling/cross-selling, customer retention, lead generation, etc. – added to their role. Call center agents, particularly those who were not originally hired for the sales function or who don't already possess this skill set, may feel apprehensive or uncomfortable about selling...

Learn how to get agents started with up-selling in the call center.


Preparing for a call center agent job interview

Q: I am looking for a job as a call center agent and I'd like to prepare for the interview process. What type of questions will be asked, and what skills will the interviewer be looking for? Any advice you can share would be appreciated.

A: The call center is a dynamic and fast-paced department. It's a highly-structured operating environment where constant change is the norm. Having said that, a typical call center agent candidate profile includes the following skill set requirements:


  • Excellent oral and written communication and interpersonal skills
  • Professional and courteous demeanor
  • Ability to multi-task in a fast-paced, high-volume environment

     See what other skills are included in the call center agent job description.


    Choosing a CRM product

    Q: What is the best way to go about choosing a CRM product? Does the industry and type of business matter when making a decision?

    A: When choosing a CRM product, the industry and type of business you are in will be major factors in selection. It is important to assess your business needs and requirements before you move on to evaluating CRM technology.

    The size of the company is also significant when choosing a CRM product. There are levels of sophistication and internal IT requirements that differ greatly depending on the size of a company...

    Read more about CRM business requirements.


    How does Microsoft CRM 4.0 integrate with Microsoft Office?

    Q: My company is shopping around for a CRM system. If we are already using Microsoft Office products, is Microsoft CRM 4.0 the best way to go, since it will easily integrate with Office?

    A: When it comes to integrating with Microsoft Office, it's hard to beat Microsoft CRM. Microsoft has offered extensive integration since the first CRM release with an integrated Outlook client, dynamic Excel PivotTable exports and reports and Word mail-merge integration for letters and custom emails.

    With Microsoft CRM 4.0, the integration with Microsoft Office is even better. Here are a few of the major Office-integration enhancements in the new release:


  • Ribbons: The new toolbar functions are integrated in the ribbons in Microsoft Office 2007.

    Find out what other Microsoft Office integration enhancements are available in Dynamics CRM 4.0.


    What are the basic needs of customers?

    Q: In your opinion, what are the basic needs of today's customers? What are customers looking for in customer service?

    A: When it comes to customer service, customers are seeking several things. Customers who are calling a call center with a problem have six basic needs:


  • Agents who can make decisions – Customers want to talk to an empowered call center agent who has the authority to help solve their problems.


  • Knowledgeable agents – Customers want call center agents to be prepared with information so the customer doesn't need to provide it repeatedly.

    Discover the remaining four basic customer needs.


    Customer complaint handling and resolution policies

    Q: How important is it for an organization to have a formal complaint-handling policy? How can it be used to analyze customer needs and create customer value?

    A: Every business has customers who have complaints. They complain to you, if they can and they're not too shy to do so, or they complain to others, which is more frequent. Therefore, it's not only vital to have a complaint handling policy...

    Read about the benefits of customer complaints.


    CRM failure: The top six reasons CRM programs fail

    Q: I have heard that there are technology-driven and customer-driven reasons that CRM programs fail. Can you expand on this a bit? What are some examples of technology-driven and customer-driven CRM program failures?

    A:  Often, CRM programs fail because companies rush to buy CRM technology without fully planning for the strategic and operational changes required. Organizations think that the technology will do the work; when in reality, the technology is just a tool. If you know what to do with it, you will see great results, and if not, it will just be an expense.

    Other reasons for CRM failure include:

    1. Lack of change management – The company does not plan for change management, including the changes in user behavior required to adapt to the new tools.

    Get five more reasons why CRM projects fail.


    Siebel CRM Professional vs. SAP Business One

    Q: I'm evaluating CRM software for a midmarket retail company. What is the most important difference between Oracle's Siebel CRM Professional Edition and SAP Business One? Where does Siebel stand out -- is it in functionality or otherwise?

    A: Siebel CRM Professional Edition is designed as a solution with deep "front-office" functionality and it is priced and packaged in a way that is more suitable for midmarket companies as compared to the Siebel Enterprise product. Siebel CRM software integrates well with legacy and "back-end" ERP solutions, but was not designed from the ground up to manage end-to-end business processes (i.e. front office and back office)...

    Learn more about SAP vs. Siebel for the midmarket.


    Managing call center stress

    Q: How can we help our call center agents deal with the emotional strain of the calls they are taking so that they can still handle each one with the appropriate amount of empathy and professionalism?

    A: Call center stress is very common, and the role of a call center agent is undoubtedly a highly stressful one. Call center agents are required to meet stringent productivity and quality standards, handle increasingly high call volumes, and satisfy a multitude of angry or frustrated callers. Agent stress is a significant contributor to poor performance, burnout, low job satisfaction, absenteeism and call center agent attrition.

    Call center agents require stress management training to equip them with techniques to defuse the tension of emotional calls and take control of conversations with confidence, proficiency and empathy...

    Find three stress management training courses for call center agents.


    Keeping customers loyal in a down economy

    Q: How can we take into account the impact the current economy has on our customers spending habits and loyalty, and how should we approach the customer experience in the current economy?

    A: Let me suggest a simple way to approach the customer experience in a down economy. Let's assume that we will not obtain new customers under the current economic conditions. All we have are our current existing customers. Let's also assume that our competitors will be going after our current customers more fiercely than ever before. Both assumptions are fair. In light of those things, the quality of our customer's experiences becomes very critical...

    Get more tips for keeping loyal customers in a recession.



    Browse the Ask the Expert archives for more CRM expert advice

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