A customer is the most prestigious stakeholder of any business organization. The success or failure of its business is totally dependent on the consumption behavior and loyalty of its customers (Campbell, 2003). Therefore, making a long-term and strategic relationship with the customers must be among the top priorities of business organizations (Mithas, Krishnan, & Fornell, 2005). This relationship is managed through a process called as the Customer Relationship Management -- a multi-faceted phenomenon and a business strategy used by organizations to manage their interactions with customers in an effective and well-organized way (Homburg, Wieseke, Bornemann, 2009).
It is essential for a business organization to have good relationships with its customers as they are the sole source of earning profits (Krasnikov, Jayachandran, & Kumar, 2009). Customer Relationship Management involves managerial level efforts to attract new customers as well as retain the existing customers for the business (Ryals, 2005). It primarily aims to strengthen the company's image and contribute towards reduction in costs of doing business relating to marketing, promotion, and other business development efforts
Customer Relationship Management is not an old concept, however it has emerged as a powerful management technique since the beginning of the 21st Century (Robinson, Neeley, Williamson, 2011). There is not much written on this emerging topic but the current literature explains it by making its direct link with customer services, customer satisfaction, and overall organizational performance. However, the current literature has some voids and lacks that do not make full justice to this important issue of the present times. In this paper, a critical review of some recent journal articles has been made in a view to identify the areas of Customer Relationship Management that are under-researched or not yet covered in the literature. The major focus of this paper is to carefully review and critically analyze the voids and flaws in the current literature.
CRITICAL REVIEW OF RESEARCH ARTICLES ON CUSTOMER RELATIONSHIP Management
In order to write a deep critical review, 15 research papers were screened out from thousands of them available over the internet. The screening was done in such a way that only one research paper is selected for each aspect of Customer Relationship Management. However, those articles were not selected that define or explain the concept of Customer Relationship Management as a general practice and do not take it as a specific and defined strategy in the business world. To make the critical review look deeper, research articles have been taken from journals related to different fields of study, including the Journal of Marketing, the Journal of Service Industry Management, the Industrial Marketing Management Journal, the Business and Economics Journal, the Journal of Management Studies, and the Journal of Applied Psychology.
After critically reviewing the research articles on Customer Relationship Management, the very first thing that comes into knowledge is that most of the researchers are unable to properly define the Customer Relationship Management concept. That is, they define it in the sense of customer satisfaction, consumer behavior, service quality, relationship marketing, and some other concepts relating to marketing management, total quality management, operations management, etc. (Mithas, Krishnan, & Fornell, 2005). But in fact, Customer Relationship Management is much more than just intending to satisfy the customers or improving the quality of business operations (Ryals, 2005).
Secondly, some researchers also believe that Customer Relationship Management is just the task of sales force, customer services representatives, and other similar kinds of employees who have direct interaction with the company's customers (Waterschoot & Bulte, 1992). But the real concept is that Customer Relationship Management essentially requires the involvement of each and every member of the organization, from lower level workers to the top level executives.
Therefore, a strong critic can be made on the different definitions of Customer Relationship Management in the eyes of different researchers. Some believe that it is the process by which organizations actually know who its customers are and what do they want (Waterschoot & Bulte, 1992). Others are of the view that Customer Relationship Management is the use of advanced communication systems in the customer services with an aim to better serve the good clients (Mithas, Krishnan, & Fornell, 2005). Another group of researchers argue that it is the combination of advanced technology as well as human efforts applied in the area of customer services. In this paper, Customer Relationship Management is taken as a comparatively broader concept constituting the definitions stated by all the previous researchers.
Another most common thing in all the research papers available in the Customer Relationship Management literature is that they do not explain the consequences which an organization may face if this strategy is not implemented effectively (Waterschoot & Bulte, 1992). They just describe the fact that Customer Relationship Management process and the computerized CRM programs are among the heavy investments an organization makes in its life (Krasnikov, Jayachandran, & Kumar, 2009).
As Customer Relationship Management is a new concept, there are not much frameworks and analytical tools available which can measure its performance overtime. In other words, literature on Customer Relationship Management has very limited implications for new researches in this area. One of the reasons for this limited level of implication is that most of the researchers have discussed the same issues in one way or another. Therefore, they have used similar types of measurement instruments in their studies and analysis. There is a great need to introduce more analytical tools which will not only measure the improvements brought by the Customer Relationship Management process in the business operations, but also bring new insights for future researches.
The limited literature on Customer Relationship Management can also be criticized on the basis of how much stages of CRM life cycle are covered in the literature and up to what extent they are discussed. Being new, the literature on Customer Relationship Management mainly constitutes the initial stages of CRM life cycle including marketing research, planning, and implementation but does not include the final two stages; control and evaluation. It would be a great contribution to the literature if some researchers write articles on these final stages of Customer Relationship Management process and CRM program.
A big critic can be made on the current literature on account of its lack of generalizability and practical implications (Verhoef, 2003). Each of the research articles discusses the implications of a specific aspect of Customer Relationship Management that can only be generalized to a specific situation or problem within an organization. Therefore, if a manager wants to review some article for the purposes of finding a good solution for his organization's problem, he will probably not find the exact solution or have to review a number of articles before reaching a decision.
It is widely believed by researchers that customer relationship management is a concept emerged from marketing management which is a technique to identify, target, and then serve the potential customers in an efficient and a competitive way. But at the same time, most of them decline their own findings by saying that marketing management just takes into account the applications and significance of Customer Relationship Management concept in the business and are not concerned with the technology or computer applications it uses. This critic is also based on the conflicts made on narrow, unclear, and different definitions of Customer Relationship Management.
Moreover, Marketing Management is different from Customer Relationship Management in a sense that former is a practical approach towards business development while later is a value-addition service (Gustafsson, Johnson, & Roos, 2005). A good research should focus on both the theoretical as well as the practical aspects of management topics. Unfortunately, researches on Customer Relationship Management just focus on what constitutes in theories and concepts. The reason for this weak point is again the novelty of this concept in the literature.
Turning towards developing a focused research topic from this critical review, the most significant voids and under-researched areas include; the unclear definitions of Customer Relationship Management process, unavailability of considerable amount of literature on the final phases of CRM lifecycle, more emphasis on theoretical aspects instead of practical implications, and lack of literature on employees' involvement in the CRM process.
As far as the CRM definitions and points-of-views of different researchers are concerned, it can be said that it is a topic from general management where meanings of different concepts are revisited according to the topic under discussion (Boulding, Staelin, Ehret, & Johnston, 2005). The second thing is the unavailability of literature on the final stages of CRM life cycle. This critic will no longer exist when this concept will get older just like the other management concepts, like Organizational behavior, Marketing Mix, Total Quality Management, etc. (Skarlicki, Van Jaarsveld, & Walker, 2008).
In this paper, employees' involvement in the Customer Relationship Management is taken as the focus area. Reason being, it is an essential dimension of Customer Relationship Management and is of such an importance that it can not be ignored…