Objectives: This research aims to investigate electronic-Customer Relationship Management (e-CRM) in small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) in Ireland. The nature and role of e-CRM is compared between firms serving international markets and firms with a solely domestic focus. As a peripheral economy, Ireland has much need to embrace the Internet as a means for competitive advantage. The strategies behind e-CRM in SMEs are analysed as are the ensuing benefits and challenges.
Prior Work: Relationship marketing principles have seldom been applied to the SME. This paper seeks to develop what is a striking link by investigating the role of Internet technologies in the customer relationship management activities of SMEs. This research fits neatly beside studies into general electronic-business (e-business) in SMEs. Specifically, it is a comparative study investigating e-CRM in international and domestic firms.
Approach: The study has an exploratory outlook and a quantitative approach to data collection is adopted. This approach facilitated broad classification in an under researched area. A self-completion questionnaire was distributed to a sample of 1445 SMEs in Ireland. A response rate of twenty per cent was obtained, providing 286 usable responses. Univariate and bivariate analyses were performed.
Results: The findings of this study confirm that SMEs are implementing fundamental e-CRM practices. Those firms serving international markets tend to place greater emphasis on e-CRM and are reaping greater benefits. Benefits range from enhanced customer service, reduced business cost, increased sales and improved profitability. Challenges are few, but centre on a preference for face-to-face relationships and a lack of Government support.
Implications: It is hoped that this exploratory research has laid the foundation for further examination of e-CRM in the SME context. Future research will add explanation through in-depth qualitative methods, while the potential exists to replicate the study in other countries. The authors conclude that e-CRM can and must move on to a more strategic and integrated level if SMEs in Ireland are to compete both locally and globally.
Value: This research has shed light on the marginalised subject of e-CRM in SMEs. For SMEs operating in a peripheral economy such as Ireland the benefits to be gained from e-CRM are lucrative. SMEs viewing their market beyond national borders are using e-CRM to achieve a range of business benefits. The quantitative methodology adopted has provided an exploratory, yet solid, insight into an important area for academics and practitioners.
- Electronic-Customer Relationship Management (e-CRM),
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/patrick_ibbotson/9/