Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are vital components of our economies, and their marketing exhibits striking resemblances to customer relationship management (CRM) theory. However, SMEs’ marketing strategies tend to suffer from the effects of limited resources, limited expertise and a limited impact on their external environment. Through the use of Internet-based technologies (IBTs) SMEs may be able to enhance marketing performance and competitiveness, particularly by facilitating the development of customer insight through improved technology-enabled customer information management processes. In this regard, this paper will present research evidence to help us understand the impact of IBTs on the CRM activities (i.e. e-CRM) of SMEs on the island of Ireland. A quantitative online survey questionnaire was distributed to 1445 SMEs from which 286 usable responses were received; a response rate of 20 per cent. Exploratory factor analysis uncovered eight distinct yet inter-related factors underpinning the practices and processes of e-CRM in SMEs. A summary of the findings shows that SMEs are performing e-CRM to facilitate their capability to manage customer information. To varying extents, SMEs are adopting relatively simple IBTs to improve their customer information management capability and thus to create competitive advantage in their own strategic way. The influence of an integrated e-CRM system is found to be significant, where the SME’s information management capability is enhanced further. Theoretical and Practical Implications First, it is concluded that SMEs are ‘doing’ e-CRM, through using Internet-based technologies (IBTs) to manage their customer relationships. One particular capability is being facilitated by e-CRM, which is the management of their customer information. The role of e-CRM in this process, while facilitative, tends to remain rather primitive. Thus, SMEs are not using their ‘back-office’ systems to, for example, calculate customer profitability through. The conclusion is drawn that, while e-CRM makes customer information more accessible and easily managed for SMEs, there is a real struggle to integrate it with existing relationship management processes. In a practical sense, SMEs really do need to use relatively simple tools such as websites, e-mail and databases to build on their closeness to customers and to develop a customer information management capability. The potential then exists for this information to form the basis of business decision-making and to provide a better all-round service to customers.
- Information management,
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/patrick_ibbotson/19/