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CRM's Emerging RFID Relationship

By making it easier to gather and access data on customer needs, preferences and behavior, RFID technology could help customer relationship management initiatives finally reach their full potential.
By Bob Violino
Tags: Retail
Nov 03, 2003—Customer relationship management projects fail for a number of reasons: lack of strategic planning; unenthusiastic support from sales, marketing or other key departments; or a dearth of accurate, real-time customer data. RFID technology doesn’t address the first two challenges, but some industry analysts expect RFID to help companies deal with the last issue by providing a wealth of information.
RFID could get him the right customer information

Although CRM means different things to different people, it is commonly defined as a corporate objective to learn more about customers’ needs, preferences and behavior in order to serve them better and develop better relationships with them. With CRM, companies use various technologies and processes to gain better insight into customer behavior and activity.

CRM software gives companies a centralized, relational database consisting of customer information. Data is gathered from a variety of customer interaction points, including retail stores, Web sites, direct-mail campaigns, call centers, mobile salespeople, and marketing and advertising campaigns. The database can include customer contact information; sales data; shipment and fulfillment dates; account, service and support records; and general customer demographics.

Analysis of this data can give a company a much clearer view of which products and services its customers tend to buy and where they buy them, how they use these purchases, what they are likely to purchase in the future, how they prefer to contact the company and other characteristics. It can also give a company a good sense of who its most valuable and reliable customers are. When CRM works well, it provides benefits such as improved customer service, more efficient marketing campaigns and cross-selling, more effective call centers, an expanding customer base and, subsequently, higher revenue.

But analysts familiar with the technologies and companies that are exploring RFID, don’t expect customer-related applications to be among the earliest uses of RFID. An EPC Forum survey of retail and consumer products executives conducted by IBM Business Consulting Services in May 2003 asked respondents to rank the importance of various early retail RFID applications based on EPC (Electronic Product Code) technology. Consumer insight and customer service management scored lower in priority than a number of supply chain applications, including inventory management, out-of-stock and theft reduction, and warehouse management. When respondents were asked to rank EPC manufacturing applications, they scored consumer insight and customer service management fairly low in comparison with supply chain applications.

But once some of these higher priority applications are in place, analysts expect many companies will begin launching customer-related initiatives, including linking RFID to CRM applications.
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