Master thesis report on functionalities of CRM tools to optimize the customer journey touchpoints and enhance the sales

Master thesis report on functionalities of CRM tools to optimize the customer journey
touchpoints and enhance the sales & marketing capabilities for a B2B company by
ensuring relevant exchange of information among customers and sales executives

(30.06.2018 – 30.08.2018)

Master thesis towards the degree full time Master of Business Administration (MBA)
In the study program International Management at ESB Business School,
Reutlingen University, Germany

Presented by:
Surendra Supriykumar Bannerji
Student ID Number: 764546

1
st
Supervisor:
Prof. Dr. Dennis De
Economics, Entrepreneurship,
ESB Business School, Reutlingen

2
nd
Supervisor:
Msc. Katharina Krüger
CO/SMD Customer & Markets,
thyssenkrupp AG, Essen

Reutlingen, 30.08.2018

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Abstract
This master thesis aims at understanding how CRM functionalities enhance particularly the
sales and marketing functionalities of a B2B company. Currently, with the increasing trend of
digitalization and digitization many B2B companies are resorting to strategies with focus on
customers. Therefore, today, almost every B2B company is utilizing and implementing CRM
tools for businesses to develop better relationship with customers, and thus generate higher
revenues and profits. While understanding the value additions from CRM functionalities in the
sales and marketing domains, this study also tries to map these functionalities with the
customer journey for a B2B company. A customer journey is a process that every buyer or
potential buyer undergoes before they make a final purchase. The customer journey is quite
easy to imagine and comprehend for a B2C business where a lot of information is available
online which influence the purchase decision, but in case of a B2B company, the customer
journey is different with different touchpoints. This study considers the phases of a customer
journey like ‘attract’, ‘nurture’, ‘convert’, ‘close’ and ‘retain’ and analyzes which specific
functionalities are most suitable in the respective phases so that in the end the customer
journey becomes superior, the customer experience is enhanced and the company becomes
successful in developing better relationships with existing customers and also attract new
customers. In the end, this study also throws light upon the implementation challenges
encountered during the implementation of CRM in a B2B company.

An in-depth theoretical research is conducted for topics on CRM functionalities,
implementation challenges, sales & marketing in B2B, customer journey and this literature
research is then validated by conducting qualitative interviews with experts in the fields of
CRM, BDS and change management.

Keywords: Customer journey in B2B, customer experience, CRM functionalities, sales &
marketing, CRM implementation challenges

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Acknowledgements

With the end of my master thesis, I would like to offer sincere thanks to everyone who has
offered me the support for the success of this research.

First and foremost, I would like to thank Prof. Dr. Dennis De for his unconditional support
and effort and for constant guidance at every step of the research study which helped in
getting clarity on the approach and methodology.

I would like to specifically thank, my supervisor Katharina Krüger (CO/SMD) for her support
and learnings received regarding the CRM and customer journey specific topics. I would also
like to thank Anja Schlepper for arranging the expert interviews so swiftly and guiding me in
terms of the structure and other relevant comments pertaining to the thesis.

Lastly, I highly appreciate all the thirteen interviewees who agreed to participate in my
research study, I am indeed grateful.

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Copyright & Restriction Note

This master thesis report contains confidential information and data of thyssenkrupp AG.

Publication, release, or duplication in parts or in the whole without the written consent of the
company is not permitted. Furthermore, disclosure of the information to anyone other than the
official supervisory, university lecturers and examination board is not authorized.

An inspection of this work by third parties requires the expressed permission of the author and
thyssenkrupp AG.

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Table of Contents
Contents
Abstract …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………. 2
Acknowledgements………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 3
Copyright & Restriction Note ……………………………………………………………………………………. 4
List of figures and tables …………………………………………………………………………………………… 7
List of abbreviations ………………………………………………………………………………………………… 8
1 Introduction …………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 9
1.1 Background …………………………………………………………………………………………….. 10
1.2 Research question and sub questions …………………………………………………………… 15
1.3 Purpose & objective …………………………………………………………………………………. 16
2 Theoretical research ………………………………………………………………………………………… 17
2.1 B2B sales and marketing …………………………………………………………………………… 17
2.2 Customer journey and customer experience ………………………………………………….. 19
2.3 Customer journey mapping with touchpoints ………………………………………………… 22
2.4 Customer Relationship Management (CRM) ………………………………………………… 24
2.5 CRM functionalities in the sales & marketing domain ……………………………………. 28
2.6 CRM implementation challenges and critical success factors …………………………… 32
2.7 Conceptual research framework ………………………………………………………………….. 35
3 Methodology ………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 37
3.1 Thesis research & methodology ………………………………………………………………….. 37
3.2 Qualitative data collection …………………………………………………………………………. 38
4 Results & Analysis ………………………………………………………………………………………….. 41
5 Discussion……………………………………………………………………………………………………… 47
5.1 Future work …………………………………………………………………………………………….. 47

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5.2 Validity, reliability and limitation of research ……………………………………………….. 48
6 Conclusion …………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 49
7 Bibliography ………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 55
Declaration of authorship of an academic paper ………………………………………………………….. 60

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List of figures and tables

Figure 1: Aspects of changing customer behavior
Figure 2: The 3C framework for digital sales
Figure 3: Complex structure of a customer journey
Figure 4: Streamlined customer journey with touchpoints
Figure 5: – Contextual analysis of inward-centered CRM worldviews
Figure 6: Research model by (Rodriguez & Honeycutt Jr., 2011)
Figure 7: Research model with path co-efficient (Rodriguez & Honeycutt Jr., 2011)
Figure 8: Conceptual framework of factors affecting CRM adoption
Figure 9: Conceptual framework of CRM
Figure 10: CRM implementation challenges and critical success factors
Figure 11: Streamlined customer journey for B2B company with touchpoints
Figure 12: Focus customer journey phases and functionalities
Figure 13: All functionalities mapped in the respective phases of the customer journey
Figure 14: Conclusive model of CRM
Figure 15: CRM types mapped in the customer journey
Figure 16: B2B customer journey
Table 1: List of interviewees

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List of abbreviations

MT Master Thesis
MBA Master’s of Business Administration
ESB European School of Business
tk thyssenkrupp AG
BA Business Area
BU Business Unit
OEM Original Equipment Manufacturer
CO/SMD Corporate, Strategy Markets ; Development
C;M Customers ; Markets
EPC Engineering Procurement Construction
CRM Customer Relationship Management
OLAP Online analytical programming
B2B Business to Business
B2C Business to Consumer
B2G Business to Government
BDS Business Development ; Sales
GE General Electric
IT Information Technology
KAM Key Account Manager
CJM Customer Journey Mapping

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1 Introduction
“The future of communicating with customers rests in engaging with them through every
possible channel: phone, e-mail, chat, Web, and social networks. Customers are discussing a
company’s products and brand in real time. Companies need to join the conversation”
Marc Benioff, Co-Founder and CEO of salesforce.com

“Get closer than ever to your customers. So close that you tell them what they need well
before they realize it themselves”
Steve Jobs, former CEO of Apple

Today, businesses are complex and the dynamism observed in the market makes it all the
more challenging. Amidst these challenges, it is important to focus on sales and profitability
and the businesses formulate and implement strategies to ensure top line and bottom line
growth. The attributes like quality and pricing are very competitive and now businesses are
looking at ways to differentiate themselves from their competitors. Focusing on customers,
customer experience and building and maintaining strong customer relationship emerged out
to be ways of having competitive advantages. With the advent of the digitalization wave, the
emphasis on customer needs and customer relationships has gained momentum.

A B2B company is an entity or enterprise involved in business transactions between other
businesses, such as one involving a manufacturer and wholesaler, or a wholesaler and a
retailer. This form of transaction is usually conducted between other enterprises rather than
between companies and consumers. Other types of business models are business to consumer
(B2C) and business to government (B2G) transactions. Among B2B companies there are
different types, companies like BASF, Bayer, Shell etc. are B2B companies but product
portfolio is linked to one another, by and large. Another type of B2B companies are the ones
like Siemens, GE, thyssenkrupp etc. who have equally large product portfolio but not all the
products are linked to one another and the sales processes, customers and business models
individually differ.

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This study considers a Business-to-Business (B2B) company with diverse business portfolio
and evaluates how Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tools and functions can
enhance a customer journey and sales and marketing capabilities for B2B companies.

1.1 Background
In the past, marketing strategies have given prime importance to agendas involving from
increasing market share to increase profits, and focusing primarily on transactional mass
selling. But today, it has become quite evident that retaining current customers and increasing
sales with current clients is far more cost-efficient (L. Jean ; Neeley, 2004).

For a large number of B2B companies across many sectors, the growing influence of
customer-experience strategies and the bold moves of customer-centric leaders pose a critical
challenge. Traditionally, winning in the B2B arena had been a matter of being in the right
markets, offering superior products and services, or being the lowest-cost producer. As these
advantages have come under threat from increasing global competition, many players have
invested in functional excellence. But while these benefits are substantial, these are dissipating
quickly as competitors tap the increased mobility of labor markets and expanded access to
knowledge. (Maechler, Poenaru, Von Collenberg, ; Schulze, 2017)

Recently, many B2B companies are focusing on digitization and digitalization tools to
succeed with customer-centric strategies. Customer-centric strategies, which were once used
extensively by only business-to-consumer players like Amazon and Google, are now
fundamentally changing the complicated landscape of business-to-business relationships, too.
For example, the chief executive of a global chemical business producer recently announced
at a top-management meeting that the company could no longer afford to deliver “a subpar
experience” to its customers and therefore would focus on a customer-experience
transformation encompassing all operative functions (Maechler, Poenaru, Von Collenberg, ;
Schulze, 2017).

What do my customers want? This is the question that every executive of a B2B company
asks and that the most experienced executives are asking more frequently than ever.

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Customers, today, are empowered with technology which has given unprecedented control
over the experience of purchasing goods and services. The buying process is increasingly
hypercompetitive, and always dynamic with many channels, touchpoints and individual
interactions. Every customer expects high degree of customer satisfaction which was
previously expected from B2C companies but now customers expect this even from the
sleepiest corners of markets across all industries. Therefore, leading B2B companies are trying
to differentiate themselves through technology (Duncan, Fanderl, Maechler, ; Neher, 2016).

Industry-leading B2B companies have to respond to intensifying global competition by
putting customer-centricity and experience at the heart of their strategy and using technology
tools to get competitive advantage. This often leads to changes in the business model:
Monsanto, for example, is transforming itself with an online platform from a supplier of seed
and crop-protection products to a productivity partner, providing advice on subjects ranging
from product selection to sowing and harvest timing. In the industrial-equipment sector, Atlas
Copco has a similar strategy, with a platform supporting customers in the selection, purchase,
operation, and maintenance of their equipment (Maechler, Poenaru, Von Collenberg, ;
Schulze, 2017).

Most of the B2B companies therefore operate in complex, highly unsettled business
environments where customers increasingly dictate the rules. According to a research
conducted by McKinsey;Company in 2016, 75% of the customers of a B2B companies,
expect “now” service, within five minutes of making contact online. Similar percentages want
a simple experience and use comparison apps when they shop for consumer goods. Moreover,
customers not only expect B2B companies to do business on digital platforms but also expect
a smooth customer experience with multiple touchpoints. The customers give a lot of
importance and trust online reviews as in personal recommendations. (Duncan, Fanderl,
Maechler, ; Neher, 2016)

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Figure 1: Aspects of changing customer behavior
Source: McKinsey ; Co.

Many B2B companies have already understood the fact that it is no longer enough to compete
on products or services but to focus on customer experience and customer satisfaction in order
to retain and obtain customers. Companies have to make it easier for new and existing
customers to connect in multiple ways. The best possible way would be to design and adapt to
processes, cultures, and mind-sets to manage the entire customer experience skillfully—which
will benefit not only consumers but also employees and the bottom line (Duncan, Fanderl,
Maechler, ; Neher, 2016).

Customer experience encompasses every aspect of a company’s offering—the quality of
customer care, advertising, packaging, product and service features, ease of use, and
reliability. However, in product businesses, the different operations cater to different aspects
of customer experience, for example, product development defers to marketing when it comes
to customer experience issues, and both usually focus on features and specifications.
Operations department is mainly concerned with quality, timeliness, and cost. The customer
service team personnel tend to concentrate on the unfolding transaction but not its connection
to those preceding or following it. Ironically, at the end, the service rep asks, “Is there
anything else I can help you with?” (Meyer & Schwager, 2007) Sometimes companies fail to
understand the importance of customer journey and customer experience. On the other hand,
many companies collect and quantify data on it but don’t circulate the findings and derive
definite improvement areas.

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According to another survey of Bain ; Company of the customers of 362 companies, only 8%
of them described their experience as “superior,” yet 80% of the companies surveyed believed
that the experience they have been providing is indeed superior. This wide disparity then
results in fewer improvement measures. But today, consumers have a greater number of
options than ever before, more complex choices, and more channels to pursue the options
(Meyer ; Schwager, 2007).

A lot of companies fail in delivering a compelling customer experience because managers at
these companies think in very narrow terms, focusing only on individual topics and forgetting
about the overall system for delivering value. This results in excelling in a few of the customer
interfaces but not the entire experience, both before and after the purchase. Another group of
companies focus on fixing the operations but do not consider the customer perspective on
operations. And most organizations still tend to underestimate the importance of the internal
cultural changes needed to achieve and sustain a new approach to the customer experience
(Duncan, Fanderl, Maechler, ; Neher, 2016).

However, there are a few companies who have zeroed in on customer experience and are
spending a lot of resources to use digitalization and digitization and as a result have access to
myriad data. Now the challenge is that, measuring customer experience does not necessarily
indicate methods of improvement. Customer satisfaction is essentially the culmination of a
series of customer experiences or, one could say, the net result of the good ones minus the bad
ones (Meyer ; Schwager, 2007). It occurs when the gap between customers’ expectations and
their subsequent experiences has been filled.

Digitization and digitalization have been able to provide high-quality customer interactions a
competitive differentiator, no matter the channel. Currently, the B2B selling models remain
firmly planted in the offline world and company websites are rich in product descriptions and
digital brochures but fail to provide an easy way for customers to buy. On one hand, sales
teams are working harder to navigate deals, on the other hand, they lack the analytics needed
to manage the sale profitably, understand who the real decision makers are, and what sorts of
outreach might prove persuasive (Catlin, Harrison, & Plotkin, 2016).

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But there are also few B2B companies who, instead of standing on the sidelines, have
embraced the digital revolution. A few of them are also outpacing consumer companies in
digitizing back-office workflows and resource planning and in modernizing their existing IT
architectures (Catlin, Harrison, & Plotkin, 2016). These processes not only focus on internal
cost and process efficiencies but also on innovation around sales and the customer
experience—and that’s where the real growth is.

Social media platforms like, social network sites, have become an instrument for digital
meeting places for friends and acquaintances, even from the professional background, and are
now viewed as significant communication areas where ideas and opinions are exchanged.
Social media support a range of social activities, including blogging, microblogging, photo-
sharing, social networking, and video sharing (Cawsey ; Rowley, 2016). These platforms
give the opportunity for individuals and businesses to capitalize on people’s networks which
also lead to the concepts to word of mouth, electronically and physically as well. Advanced
analytics gives them rapid customer insights, so they can move with unprecedented speed and
agility.

This in turn will make it difficult for B2B companies because they also have to deal with
shrinking product shelf lives, greater price transparency, and a changing cost basis on the one
hand while simultaneously growing the capabilities needed to create consumer-like
experiences on the other, with personalized service and hassle-free purchasing across
platforms and devices. Nontraditional players like Amazon Business and Alibaba are also
trying to exploit this digital trend by providing business buyers with simple and convenient
digital marketplaces (Catlin, Harrison, & Plotkin, 2016).

Therefore, the right combination of digital and non-digital transformation to improve
customer experience coupled with a holistic, cross-functional transformation of a company’s
core, including its culture, enabled by digitization offers a significant opportunity for
differentiation and competitive advantage. The key will be establishing the right balance
between digital and human interaction in B2B’s more complex customer relationships.
(Maechler, Poenaru, Von Collenberg, & Schulze, 2017).

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A systemic tool to establish the right combination of digital transformation is CRM. It is
primarily a tool designed extensively for sales professional to effectively manage customer
relationships. The CRM tools and functionalities are used by sales managers to collaborate
internally with sales representatives across the globe to get complete overview about
customers and improve the efficiency of the sales processes (Rodriguez & Honeycutt Jr.,
2011).

1.2 Research question and sub questions
This thesis examines different ways to enhance and improve the customer journey
(experience) with the help of CRM tools. The concept of customer journey and CRM tools
and functions is taken as a framework with emphasis on the improving the customer journey
touchpoints to strengthen the existing relationships with customers and also acquire new
customers. Keeping this view in mind, the research question is

How do CRM tools functionalities optimize the customer journey touchpoints and enhance the
sales & marketing capabilities for a B2B company by ensuring relevant exchange of
information among customers and sales executives?

To answer the main research question, there are a few sub questions, wherein the idea is to try
and answer each of the questions and the consolidated view of the answers to these sub-
questions will eventually answer the main research question. The sub-questions are-

1. How does the customer journey look like for a B2B product company?
2. With the latest technological advancements and easy access to digital platforms, how
has the customer buying behavior and pattern changed (evolved) as compared to
previous years?
3. What is CRM? Its tools & functionalities in the sales and marketing domain?
4. How do these sales and marketing functionalities add value to various touchpoints of
the customer journey for new and existing customers of a B2B company?

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5. What are the challenges and bottlenecks that can emerge or be envisaged while
implementing CRM functionalities-based customer journey enhancement and what are
the critical success factors?

1.3 Purpose & objective
The main purpose of the research is to understand different ways in which CRM can be
successfully used to improve the customer experience in a customer journey. With so much
importance given to customer experience and customer satisfaction, B2B companies are using
the CRM tool to impact the customer journey through the sales and marketing capabilities.
According to various studies, winning new customers can be up to five times more expensive
than maintaining existing customer relationships. As a matter of fact there is a negative
correlation between the defection of existing customers and company profits (L. Jean &
Neeley, 2004). CRM can ensure adequate sharing of information between customers and sales
representatives through various digital platforms giving customers more access to company
products and giving companies efficient ways to attract and retain more customers.

From a theoretical point of view, the thesis aims at giving a clear picture of customer journey,
customer journey touchpoints and functionalities associated with CRM. The relatively modern
approach of customer journey is analyzed through the prism of the B2B company sales and
marketing logics, thereby understating the theoretical framework of CRM for internal and
external process operations improvement.

From a more operational point of view, the purpose of this study is to understand the
implementation challenges and bottlenecks for a B2B company. Also, this thesis gives clarity
on how the CRM tools can improve the sales and marketing operations which in turn helps to
improve the customer journey of a B2B buyer. The study analyzes different dimensions of the
CRM and the customer journey framework for a B2B company. A tangible result of the thesis
will be validation of the theoretical frameworks, identify implementation challenges and
recommend possible measures to overcome the challenges for a B2B company.

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2 Theoretical research
This chapter addresses relevant knowledge, recent studies and theoretical concepts from
respective scholars and academic sources. The examination of concepts like B2B marketing,
customer journey mapping, CRM functions and implementation challenges is analyzed from a
theoretical perspective is discussed which is followed by an outline of theoretical aspects and
viewpoints that serve as a framework to approach the topic, and as a starting point for the data
collection. The framework is preliminary as certain parts still need to be explored throughout
this study. The framework is thus adaptive in nature but provides direction to the research.
First, the topic of B2B sales and marketing topic is discussed followed by introduction of the
customer journey and a theoretical B2B customer journey mapping. Then the topic of CRM is
introduced along with a conceptual illustration of the sales and marketing functions. Lastly,
the potential challenges in implementation and focus steps for successful implementation
concludes this theoretical research section.

2.1 B2B sales and marketing
Traditionally, sales in B2B scenarios have predominantly driven by sales representatives and
key account managers (KAM). Even today, sales reps and KAMs are crucial links between
buyers and sellers in B2B markets. They have the unique ability to link the needs of potential
customers (accounts) with the offerings or solutions provided by their company and this skill
is highly valued by global B2B companies. According to a study by Zoltners, Sinha, and
Lorimer (2012), they estimate that U.S. B2B firms spend approximately $800 billion annually
on sales forces, or roughly 7% of sales, entrusting these salespeople “with a company’s most
important asset: its relationship with its customers. These sales reps and KAMs have had
established comfortable grip over their relationships with the customers and these customer
relationships need to maintained and nurtured further (Shi, Sridhar, Grewal, ; Lilien, 2017).

Today, B2B sales are undergoing a revolution with a number of trends completely redefining
the sales and marketing strategies for B2B companies over the next couple of years. Advanced
analytics and machine learning have given sales reps and analysts access to historically
unprecedented amounts of data and computing power, permitting them to predict sales leads
and opportunities with a high degree of accuracy (Colter, Guan, Mahdavian, Razzaq, ;

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Schneider, 2018). Many companies are using advanced analytics tools to radically improve
their sales productivity and drive double-digit sales growth without significant additions in
manpower and time resources.

According to various research there is a significant gap between brand messages that suppliers
offer to customers and what their customers really understand and perceive. The digital sales
and marketing revolution have clear ramifications and impact on the consumer arena, as the
current consumers feel empowered, but this revolution has also impacted the world of
business-to-business (B2B) brand building. B2B customers connect and engage with
companies through search, online communities, and Web-based video, so these are potentially
powerful tools for delivering B2B brand messages and brand impact (Freundt, Hillenbrand, ;
Lehmann, 2013).

There have been radical changes in buyers’ preferences, with buyers being more content-
driven, technically savvy, and comfortable engaging via digital channels, and this has resulted
in the rise of sales skills with not only technical expertise but also strategic mindset to exploit
the digital platforms successfully. This particular transition has led to the way companies and
organizations are structured and operated. The B2B companies have invested in analytics
which supports the on-field sales team (B. Ramaseshan & Stein, 2016). The management
consulting firm Roland Berger has introduced a three C framework to capture digital sales.

Figure 2: The 3C framework for digital sales
Source: Roland Berger analysis 2015

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All B2B firms have always had the fundamental need to establish a strong customer
relationship and with the emergence of the digital platforms this can be done in a more
structured and transparent manner. Businesses still need to attract customers, build trust, and
create satisfaction with the products and services and in order to accomplish this, building
meaning and long-term relationships is the key. This results in B2B companies trying hard to
treat customers as individuals by allowing them to control the timing and extent of buyer-
seller interactions and through the customization of products and services. (L. Jean & Neeley,
2004).

As a matter of fact, customers today prefer a relationship-based marketing and sales technique
rather than the transaction-based sales. Especially, in the service industry in a B2B context,
customers often prefer KAM and sales representatives as a single point of contact, the person
who understands their exact needs and with whom a personalized communication is possible
(Bone, Fombelle, Ray, & Lemon, 2015).

Lastly, a significant shift toward subscription-based business models has now redefined the
methodology of customer relationship management. Today, a simple sale transaction is no
longer a one-time “won and done” deal. B2B companies want recurring revenues and
customers want better product quality and superior service. In this world of recurring revenues
and customized need of customers, sales need to be won every month, quarter, and year. And
therefore, sophisticated customer-relationship management tools are becoming increasingly
more valuable, and sales teams are aligning themselves closely to the long-term success of
their customers. This has led to the exponential rise of CRM tools and functions in the sales
and marketing process (Colter, Guan, Mahdavian, Razzaq, & Schneider, 2018).

2.2 Customer journey and customer experience
The relationship between a customer and a seller is strengthened by emotional engagement
achieved by interactive interfaces and entertaining devices, that empower customers with
dynamic visualization of information. Here, technology is used to connect retailers and clients
in a smart way with a common goal of achieving better customer dynamics and customer
experience (Foroudi, Gupta, Sivarajah, & Broderick, 2018).

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The basic definition of a customer journey is a visual depiction of the sequence of events
through which customers may interact with a B2B company during the entire purchase
process right from the point when a potential customer thinks about buying the product to the
point where the customer is using the product (Rosenbaum , Otalora, & Ramirez, 2017).
Customer experience, on the other hand, can be defined as the perception or acknowledgment
that results from the active observation or participation of a consumer in the buying process
which can enrich the value of the products and services offered by any company (Foroudi,
Gupta, Sivarajah, & Broderick, 2018).

Understanding customer experience and the customer journey over time is an important driver
for business success and competitive advantage and is therefore a focus area for across many
B2B and B2C companies. Today, customers interact with companies through several touch
points in multiple channels and media, and customer experiences are more social in nature.
This kind of dynamism has required companies to integrate multiple business functions, and
even external partners in order to create and deliver positive customer experiences. ( Lemon &
Verhoef, 2016). Customer experience and customer journey is indeed complex, dynamic and
difficult to measure and gauge. They are multi-dimensional and dynamic in nature and
encompass customer responses and customer behavior pertaining to all the interactions they
have had with the B2B companies (Homburg, C., Jozi?, D., & Kuehnl, C, 2015).

Customer experience is “holistic in nature involving the customer’s cognitive, affective,
emotional, social and physical responses to any direct or indirect contact with the service
provider, brand or product across multiple touchpoints during the entire customer journey”
(McColl-Kennedy, J.R., et al., 2015). The main aim to measure customer experience or
evaluate customer feedbacks is to use the responses to ensure higher levels of product and
service qualities to achieve long term customer loyalty (Homburg, C., Jozi?, D., & Kuehnl, C,
2015). Customer experience is both intrinsic and elusive and efforts to measure and manage it
require a lot of research and analysis. Interactions with multiple stakeholders and resources
external to the firm, including, other customers and intermediaries and also impact customer
experience ( Lemon & Verhoef, 2016). However, since customer experience is difficult to

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gauge, customer satisfaction and/or product/service quality are widely considered as proxy
measures of customer experience (Homburg, C., Jozi?, D., & Kuehnl, C, 2015).

Many a times, companies focus on customer perceptions of interactions in a single customer
journey. This approach becomes relevant when the individual customer is the user, perhaps
more relevant in a B2C context. But in a B2B context, there are additional complexities
caused by multiple stakeholders and there is no longer one single customer but a series of
people making the final decisions and different set of people actually using the product
(McColl-Kennedy, J.R., et al., 2015). Therefore, a single customer approach is unlikely to be
helpful in a B2B context, where there are usually multiple stakeholders and end users. Thus,
the notion of a singular journey is overly simplistic. For example, an automotive OEM buys
parts from various suppliers where the buying decision is made by the procurement team
while the end users of these parts are perhaps the quality people or the main customers driving
the automobile (Zolkiewski, J., et al., 2017).

For B2B companies, understanding how to measure customer experience is cardinal because
of the importance of interpersonal interactions that most customers come across and the
efforts by the B2B companies to build and maintain long-term relationships, as these
relationships drive sustainable competitive advantage, through trusted network partnerships.
Therefore, understanding customer experience in a B2B context is crucial (Meyer &
Schwager, 2007).

Considering a B2B scenario, capturing customer experience is more complicated because the
customer experience is derived from direct and indirect interactions between suppliers, client
and end users, and also other stakeholders involved in customer interaction. Thus, the result of
such kind of customer experience measurement produces not only individual perceptions but
rather a more holistic picture which can be categorized under the term ‘touchpoint’
(Zolkiewski, J., et al., 2017). Since in a B2B context there are multiple stakeholders,
interacting in different ways with different sets of agendas and requirements depending on the
role (e.g. buyer versus user) and individual objectives, the path followed by these customers
also differ (Mikolon, S., Kolberg, A., Haumann, T., & Wieseke, J., 2015). Therefore, there

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needs to be variety of customer journeys and identification of appropriate measures of
customer experience that can evaluate this diverse customer journeys. Thus, to fully explore
customer experience in a B2B context, these different and potentially conflicting customer
journeys need to be carefully considered and evaluated (Martin, 2017), (Ejenas, 2016).

2.3 Customer journey mapping with touchpoints
Customer journey mapping (CJM) is becoming a popular strategic management tool among
the B2B industrial community to understand the myriad customer touchpoints and evaluate
the customer experience at each touchpoint. Although, there is a lot of academic research
done in this field and many managers and companies are using this technique, there still exists
confusion as to how to create a customer journey map suitable to the specific sales process
(Rosenbaum , Otalora, & Ramirez, 2017).

Driven by the current momentum in the topic of customer journeys and customer experience,
B2B companies have come up with different approaches to map the customer journey.
According to these B2B companies, customer journey approaches are methods and practices
where the product sales and service process is analyzed, modelled, managed, or (re)designed
applying a customer journey perspective (Følstad & Kvale, 2018).

CJM illustrates all possible organizational touch- points any customer may encounter during
the sales/service exchange process. Detailed understanding of the customer touchpoints
enables senior management to work with cross-functional teams and employ tactics that foster
product and process innovation. The primary aim of these tactics is to improve customer
interactions by enhancing the customer experience associated with each touchpoint.
Touchpoints are typically depicted horizontally on a customer journey map in conjunction
with a process timeline. The timeline is then separated into three periods: pre-sales, sales, and
post-sales (Vázquez, et al., 2014).

It is not feasible for B2B companies to design an all-inclusive customer journey map that
contains all possible touchpoints, because doing so can result in a highly complex customer
journey map which can be difficult to comprehend and evaluate (Rosenbaum , Otalora, &

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Ramirez, 2017). The figure below shows a complex customer journey map relevant for a B2B
company.

Figure 3: Complex structure of a customer journey
Source: Illustration from SAP Hybris Marketing, Deutschland

Customer journey touchpoint mapping process is based on the common underlying
assumption that each customer touchpoint is equally important and should be represented and
managed with the same level of significance. Therefore, to eliminate the risks arising from
this assumption, marketing research is linked to the CJM process which enables gathering
customer information and identifying both critical and non-critical touchpoints (Rosenbaum ,
Otalora, & Ramirez, 2017). This paves the way for a simplified customer journey shown
below.

Figure 4: Streamlined customer journey with touchpoints
Source: thyssenkrupp AG Customers & Markets internal analysis

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To understand and prioritize the real touchpoints, it is also recommended to directly ask
customers which touchpoints they go through when making their journey for a product/service
required. This approach may require more time and resources at the beginning, but the trade-
off for this effort will be outweighed by the benefits of the improved map’s simplicity and
usability (B. Ramaseshan & Stein, 2016).

The customers today are empowered with various technology platforms and buying options.
The customers control their journey through the purchase cycle more than vendors control the
selling cycle. According to Forrester research, 74% of business buyers conduct more than half
of their research online before making an offline purchase. This dynamism in the buying
behavior changes the role of B2B marketing in a fundamental way and B2B marketers are
engaging with customers through various possible touchpoints in the customer journey,
example, through digital and social channels, from peers, on YouTube, at events, and through
your sales reps, trying to influence the decision-making process. There are different
approaches to achieve this influencing strategy because some buyers prefer to engage with a
sales representative while others prefer educating themselves through professional contacts
and peer-created content; and the rest are comfortable doing research on vendor websites.
Therefore, the customer journey touchpoints become important (Wizdo, 2015).

This concept of customer journey mapping with touchpoints is a part of the digitalization
wave in the B2B industrial community and the customer journey is directly and indirectly
linked to various multi-channel, multi-interface, high tech, low tech customer-client
interfaces. The crux of the idea is the challenge to simultaneously comprehend and strengthen
current and future customer experiences as customers move from one touchpoint to another.
To accomplish this task, analytics tools are required. Tools that can absorb and evaluate data
to support key decisions to enhance overall customer experience (Grillo, 2016).

2.4 Customer Relationship Management (CRM)
CRM is a technology that blends sales, marketing, and service information systems to
establish partnerships with customers. It is designed to depict a realistic picture of customer
relationships at various touch points in the customer journey where the customers and B2B

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companies interact. CRM can be considered as a set of business processes formulated for
companies to establish better relationships with its customers enabling companies to learn
more about the customers and markets in order to deliver better quality products and greater
value of service (Rodriguez & Honeycutt Jr., 2011).

In the past, CRM was often seen as a ‘quick fix’ IT project proposal implemented by
consultancies. According to Bergeron, CRM ‘was born around 1997’ and many researchers
claim that CRM evolved from total quality management in the 1980s. A few scholars
recognize the strategic and technological focus of CRM while others claim that CRM has its
original roots evolved from relationship marketing concepts. In this way the idea or concept of
CRM has evolved over the last decade, but there are different approaches and theories
surrounding its evolution (Maarit Lipiäinen, 2015).

Today, developments in the field of information technology combined with the demand from
managers have increased the use of CRM. B2B businesses using CRM to segregate the market
and identify target customers. Various industrial segments, from financial to engineering to
aviation and healthcare are routinely using CRM systems Businesses to capture and manage
customer data as a means of improving customer acquisition and retention levels. Companies
are leveraging CRM’s potential to enhance business performance ( Meadows & Dibb, 2012).

The aim of CRM is to streamline business processes and assist in formulation of strategy for
customer in order to build client loyalty and long-term profitability. The general premise of
sales force technology, such as CRM, is to enable sales representatives and marketing
professionals to become more effective and efficient with access to customer and market data.
CRM technology tools assist in reducing sales cycle time and increase the sales turn around /
conversion rate. B2B companies that are implementing CRM are potentially looking for
benefits like improved efficiency in sales processes; increased productivity in sales,
marketing, and customer support and the ability to record and understand customer needs
(Rodriguez & Honeycutt Jr., 2011). According to (Lawson-Body & Limayem, 2017), there are
seven major CRM components identified: 1) customer prospecting, 2) relations with

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customers, 3) interactive management, 4) understanding customer expectations, 5)
empowerment, 6) partnerships, and 7) personalization.

There are obviously two domains of CRM; CRM for B2B companies and CRM for B2C
companies. As discussed in previous sections of this research study, B2B products and sales
processes are indeed complex and so will the complexity of CRM for B2B. For any B2B
company, marketing and sales is more of developing and maintaining the relation with
customers while B2C firms are more transactional per customers. Therefore, understanding
CRM for B2B industry requires understanding of organizational and social structures and
interdependencies of business operations (Labus & Stone, 2010).

There are various dimensions, school of thought and frameworks pertaining to CRM.
According to (Labus & Stone, 2010), there primarily exists three. First one is the managerial
CRM which focuses on formulating, nurturing and sustaining customer relationships with
access to appropriate customer and market data. Second one is the IT & processes framework
where the technology side of CRM is explored and evaluated, for example, the IT
infrastructure required for CRM tools and the implementation challenges trying to integrate
different IT processes. The third dimension is focuses on market and stakeholders where the
CRM systems give knowledge and insights about the external factors of a business. The
iterative end result of such comprehensive analysis is that there is no unifying CRM model
embracing the unification of CRM holistically, but distinct models exists with partly
overlapping and dis-unified CRM ideologies but with the core fundamental principles
remaining constant.

The figure below tries to consolidate different dimensions and school of thoughts from various
academicians and research scholars.

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Figure 5: – Contextual analysis of inward-centered CRM worldviews
Source: (Labus & Stone, 2010)

There is another side of CRM that is also relevant considering the B2B scenario and that is the
social media aspect or social CRM. The ideological principle of social CRM takes CRM
ahead by capturing the changes brought about by the digitization and digitalization of the
communication landscape (Wang, Rod, Ji , & Deng, 2017). Social CRM can be defined as a
‘philosophy and a business strategy, supported by a technology platform, business rules,
processes and social characteristics, designed to engage the customer in a collaborative
conversation in order to provide mutually beneficial value in a trusted and transparent
business environment’ (Greenberg, P., 2010). According to the definition, social CRM
highlights the re-invention of company values and engages and manages dialogues rather than
managing customers. Customer engagement involves establishing a deeper and more
meaningful relationship with the customers that continue over a period of time (Maarit
Lipiäinen, 2015).

Social media is not just one channel but a motley of various channels and platforms meant for
communication. Today, social media includes a wide range of customer engagement forums
like basic blogs, discussion boards, chatrooms, forums, moblogs (sites containing digital
audio, images, movies, or photographs), and social networking websites. These can be
summed up under the category of word of mouth forums (Mangold & Faulds,, 2009).

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According to (Kaplan & Heanlein, 2010), there are six different types of social media
platforms: collaborative projects (e.g. Wikipedia, OhMyNews), blogs (blogs, podcasts, and
Twitter), content communities (e.g. YouTube and Flickr), social networking sites (e.g.
Facebook and LinkedIn), virtual game worlds (e.g. World of Warcraft) and virtual social
worlds (e.g. Second Life and Habbo). There are also internal social media applications used in
companies, ex. Salesforce.com (Andzulis, Panagopoulos, & Rapp, 2012).

Now-a-days, CRM is being a part of a company’s core activity and has gained significant
momentum with the advent of digitalization and industry 4.0 trends. However, like mentioned
earlier, the main goal of CRM will always remain the same, to enhance customer
relationships, because understanding and evaluating customers is crucial and requires different
business operative functions to work in tandem and ensure that the company is able to deliver
maximum value to customers (Maarit Lipiäinen, 2015).

There are definitely advantages and benefits of CRM integration with processes. CRM helps
business streamline the manufacturing, distribution and selling of products and services. It not
only reduces administrative and quality management costs but also improves the efficiency of
marketing. Other features include reducing the cost and effort of order entry by giving large
customers access to ordering functionality or stock data and option of tracking the status of
order (E., Zeng, Wen, & Yen, 2003).

2.5 CRM functionalities in the sales & marketing domain
CRM as a tool has many features of marketing automation and sales automation with
emphasis on business processes. The focus is on managing, improving and facilitating sales,
support and related interactions with customers, prospects, and business partners throughout
the sales buying process. Broadly speaking, a well- designed CRM tool involves the following
characteristics of relationship management, salesforce automation, technology & system
integration and opportunity management. Relationship management features include instant
service response based on customer input, one-to-one solutions to customers’ requirements,
direct online communications with customer anytime and anywhere, and customer service
centers that help customers address the specific queries regarding products or services.

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Salesforce automation functionalities include automation of sales promotion analysis,
automatically tracking a client’s account history for repeated sales or future sales, and
coordinating sales, marketing, call centers, and retail outlets. In any B2B business there are
plethora of IT systems being used for various business operations and the feature of
technology and system integration delivered by CRM provides valuable support. According to
International Data Corporation, IT services industry will make billions over the next couple of
years by assisting companies integrate their information systems with business processes. An
example would be applying data-warehousing technology to aggregate transaction
information, to merge the information with CRM solutions, and to provide key performance
indicators. Also, the opportunity management features include flexibility to manage
unpredictable growth and market demand of products with a sophisticated forecasting model
integrating sales history with sales projections (Wang, Rod, Ji , & Deng, 2017).

CRM software are user defined and user friendly enabling automatic tracking of events,
meetings, reminders, promises, integration features with the activity managers, electronic
filing cabinet by company, inbound/outbound call handling, and one click exit to any other
user function (Callaghan & Valos, 2015). The CRM software is designed to support an
intuitive issue tracking, project collaboration and communication system that provides a
central area for project teams to identify and collaborate on problems, develop action plans,
and reach resolutions. Sales & marketing teams use the threaded collaboration feature to trace
the history and sequence of conversations on virtually all customer and project issues
occurring during the project lifecycle. This functionality of CRM helps in onboarding new
team members quickly up-to- speed and for documenting the decision-making process
(Rodriguez & Honeycutt Jr., 2011).

CRM tools basically assist sales people of a company to manage customer relationships by
collecting, analyzing, and distributing information that enhances prospecting, improves
communication and sales, and delivers tailored product configurations (Hunter & Perreault,
2006). Another dimension of CRM tool is the provision to share critical client information
with other functional departments and colleagues within an organization. This feature of CRM
helps in coordinating and collaborating with other departments leading to internal

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transparency of business operations. This enables sales professional to better serve their
clients and provide information to management in real time (Rodriguez & Honeycutt Jr.,
2011).

B2B companies have significant focus on customers as companies want better relationships
for continued business. To achieve this, collaborating with peers and other functions is vital
and CRM tools assist in collaboration and integration. These two aspects enable sales
professionals in a company to align to business processes and simultaneously develop new
methodologies based on specific customer needs (Ingram, 2004).

(Rodriguez & Honeycutt Jr., 2011) designed five different hypotheses in pertaining to CRM,
sales performance and collaboration. The hypotheses and diagrammatic representation are
given below.
H1: Utilization of CRM leads to increased performance with customers.
H2: Utilization of CRM leads to increased sales process effectiveness.
H3: Utilization of CRM increases the ability to collaborate internally with peers and
management.
H4: Collaboration positively mediates increased performance with customers.
H5: Collaboration positively mediates increased sales process effectiveness.

Figure 6: Research model by (Rodriguez & Honeycutt Jr., 2011)

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The regression of customer performance on the antecedent constructs ‘CRM utilization and
collaboration’ produced an R2 (path co-efficient) of .488 (p < .01), which means the model
explains 48.8 percent of the variance in performance with customers. Both constructs were
statistically significant, with collaboration having the largest effect with a path coefficient of
.525 (p < .01). Similarly, the regression of sales process effectiveness on the antecedent
constructs ‘CRM utilization and collaboration’ produced an R2 of .477. In combination, these
constructs accounted for 47.7 percent of the variance in sales process effectiveness. CRM
utilization is statistically significant and had the largest effect with a path coefficient of .650
(p < .01).

Figure 7: Research model with path co-efficient (Rodriguez & Honeycutt Jr., 2011)

Therefore, as shown in the above figure, all the hypothesis from H1-H4 were supported and
proved true but only H5 was not supported due to lower path co-efficient 0.076, or 7.6% of
the variance in sales process effectiveness.

According to the B2B Sales Index, a sales professional spent twice as much time on pre-sales
analysis with other internal departments within their company and therefore, improving
functional relations between departments is crucial (Maltz & Kohli, 2000). Co-ordination
among sales departments and other internal functions like marketing, production, and
customer support helps companies provide higher service levels, customized solutions, and
increased customer value (E., Zeng, Wen, & Yen, 2003).

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Academic research also suggest that CRM systems improve the sales professional’s ability to
communicate clearly with new and existing clients thereby improving the ability to win more
business by understanding the customer and their needs. Thus, CRM tools and functionalities
bridge the gap between customers and companies and ensures internal collaboration and thus
impacting the sales performances (Rodriguez & Honeycutt Jr., 2011).

2.6 CRM implementation challenges and critical success factors
The previous sections of the study explain the CRM concept and the various functionalities
offered by the tool. This section discusses various challenges encountered during the CRM
implementation stage and also talks about the critical factors required for a successful
implementation of CRM.

Currently, many B2B companies have started using CRM tools, although the extent of usage
and coverage does vary, but almost every company does face myriad implementation
problems. B2B companies start on the CRM journey with market segmentation to identify and
target attractive customers but from this departure point, some companies progress to using
relationship marketing ideas to gain customer closeness, before moving on to implementing
full CRM systems, while others lag behind with technology and company bottlenecks. Hence,
the progress shown by organizations vary and with little uniformity in CRM uptake or
consistency in the achieved outcomes. The lack of uniformity in CRM driven outcomes can be
blamed to the significant gaps in understanding the CRM implementation concept and what
particular results do firms want to achieve in the end ( Meadows & Dibb, 2012).

The myriad implementation problems and barriers also arise because too often CRM
implementation is focused on the software features without an in-depth understanding of the
issues of integrating culture, process, people, and technology within and across an
organization. Therefore, the challenge is to integrate CRM successfully within the people,
processes, operations and technology to extract maximum value (Krasnikov, Jayachandran, &
Kumar, 2009). According to (Nguyen, Sherif, & Newby, 2007), there are three main reasons
for the failure of CRM implementation. First, when there is a clear disconnection in CRM
vision and its execution, i.e. a lack of understanding the definition of CRM. Ideally, it is a mix

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of technical and business strategy to increase the value of customer relationship. Second, poor
leadership for CRM project drivers also cause serious impediments in the implementation
process. Less motivated or less experienced leaders driving the CRM projects across business
units in a company significantly reduce the pace of implementation. Lastly, insufficient
support from CRM vendors also cause serious delays in the implementation process. CRM
vendors should not only highlight the important functionalities offered by their respective tool
but the vendors should also be knowledgeable enough to advise the companies as to how these
functions can actually add value to the business operations.

Other researchers like (Kim, Park, Dubinsky, & Chaiy, 2012) point out that the
implementation challenges include restrictive organizational structure, inflexible corporate
culture, poor understanding of the customer base, unsuitable or inflexible technological
resources, lack of real benefits for customers and limited HR policy around
training/recruitment. These aspects reflect the social and structural issues involved in building
relationships as well as harder technological issues ( Meadows & Dibb, 2012). These
challenges or bottlenecks can be succinctly captured in the 5-S framework constituting staff,
style, structure, systems, and schemes. The first two of which can be described as the
cognitive elements or software of strategy, while the other three elements are termed under
technical elements or the hardware of strategy (Osarenkhoe & Bennani, 2007).

The next important element to solve the implementation challenges is to understand the
critical success factors for successful CRM implementation. ( Meadows & Dibb, 2012)
highlight three priorities: (1) identifying the critical elements for CRM success; (2) identifying
the main moderators that influence the CRM implementation and success relationship; and (3)
considering what can be learnt from organizations which have been successful in their CRM
strategies.

For CRM implementation teams of B2B companies it is essential to understand industry’s best
practices and simultaneously the adaptation capability of their respective organizations. The
recommended critical success factors by (Nguyen, Sherif, & Newby, 2007) are

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1. Strategic context: The organization should understand how CRM fits into the context
of the company’s overall business strategy.
2. Capabilities assessment: The assessment is to be done to confirm the company’s
current CRM capabilities.
3. Business case development: The organization needs a good reason to implement CRM
other than new technology fever.
4. Implementation plan creation: Create and execute a plan, which clearly defines how to
achieve the goal and execute it.

Figure 8: Conceptual framework of factors affecting CRM adoption
(Williams, Nicholas , & Naumann, 2016)

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2.7 Conceptual research framework
There are numerous research scholars who have studied and worked in the field of CRM.
Different researchers have varied opinions and standpoints. Having consolidated these
viewpoints from previous research studies, this thesis presents a conceptual framework for
CRM. Figure 9 shows the conceptual framework established through the theoretical research.
The main idea is to validate this theoretical framework against the insights from the interviews
conducted and then formulate one final concise framework which will then be mapped with
which specific phase of the customer journey does it correspond to. For example, the
analytical dimension of CRM is currently being used in which phase of the customer journey
and which are the other phases where this dimension could be used will be evaluated in the
discussion and results section of this study. In this way, which specific dimension of CRM can
actually enhance the sales and marketing capabilities of a B2B company can be understood.

Figure 9: Conceptual framework of CRM

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Figure 9 depicts a perspective of CRM where it can be broadly classified into IT and Business
domains. The IT essentials consists of infrastructure support and system integrations. The
Business domain focuses on the business processes and the analytical insights that can be
drawn from the customer and market data. The business process dimension can be further
categorized into operational CRM and collaborative CRM. Operational CRM intends to
streamline and refine day-to-day business operations like ERP, HR processes etc. to improve
the efficiency and effectiveness of these processes. While, collaborative CRM ensures
different business functions are integrated to ensure transparency and smooth operations. The
analytical CRM targets sales and marketing functions particularly to give detailed insights
about the customers and markets through functionalities like sales forecasting models,
customer and marketing segmentation models etc. The conceptual framework shown in figure
9 conveys the fact that all the research and efforts in the field of CRM revolve around the
dimensions and domains mentioned in the framework.

The figure 10 below is used to sum up the challenges encountered during the implementation
of CRM and the critical success factors required for a successful implementation of CRM.
They are categorized into three types, strategic, tactical and operational. These challenges and
critical success factors will also be validated, whether a B2B company actually faces similar
challenges in the real-world scenario.

Figure 10: CRM implementation challenges and critical success factors

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3 Methodology
In this chapter, the methodology and process used for conducting the research is discussed.
The study is based on a qualitative approach which permits to generalize and draw individual
conclusions which is suitable for exploring new and unknown areas of research. The results
drawn from the qualitative data is then used to validate the concepts and framework derived
from the theoretical research.

3.1 Thesis research & methodology
A research study can be conducted with the help of either a deductive approach or an
inductive approach, or even both. In a deductive approach the initial hypothesis is defined
with the help of available theoretical research and then tested and verified with the results of
the research. An inductive approach is conducted by an initial identification of a problem area
or a research area which is then understood, examined and analyzed. This approach starts with
data collection and then theories and frameworks are established, in contrast to the deductive
approach wherein already established theories are validated. In this thesis, parts of both
approaches are used. The initial design frameworks and concepts are based on a deductive
analysis of relevant theoretical frameworks obtained from theoretical research, with emphasis
on CRM, customer journey and customer touchpoints in a B2B context. It is always beneficial
to refer to parts of the existing theoretical frameworks in reference to the analysis of collected
data, and then test it on the results of the study. In addition, inductive approach was used to
reach few conclusions which are normally observed in a qualitative and exploratory research.
The combination of both approaches gives a more vivid perspective on the research questions
and sub questions.

This thesis is based on a purely qualitative approach by conducting personal interviews of the
relevant industry professionals. The research topic of this thesis is of an exploratory nature
aimed at testing and generating new ideas in a new domain of CRM and customer journey in a
B2B context. Therefore, a qualitative approach makes logical sense as the data required to
answer the research questions and sub questions could not be collected in a standardized and
structured way like quantitative data. Also, the topics like customer journey and customer
touchpoints are subjective and diverse depending on the nature of business and customers. A

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qualitative research also has the advantage of providing a general understanding of the
research topic and the possibility to continuously re-define the expert interviews and other
forms of data collection along with growing experience and knowledge.

The knowledge likewise shaped the research study design and advocated certain data
collection methods. In qualitative research, the subjective viewpoints act as a conceptual lens
throughout the data analysis and exploration of findings. These viewpoints later on assists in
re-defining or adjusting the concepts of CRM, customer journey and customer journey
touchpoints. The literature review revealed that customer journeys and its touchpoints differ
across industries, products, geographies and contact platforms. Thus, in order to be specific, a
B2B company is selected for reference. This company has diverse business areas and equally
diverse product portfolio catering to multiple customer segments. Thus, specifying the type of
company helps focus on the research questions and sub-questions in more detail and depth.

3.2 Qualitative data collection
Data collection in a qualitative approach scenario is used as an instrument referring to the
assumptions / hypothesis made. As a result, the conclusions of a qualitative study are mainly
based on the researchers own interpretation of the empirical data.

Generally, there are two types of data collection techniques – primary and secondary. Primary
data is the original information collected by researchers with a specific agenda in mind, and
usually includes interviews, surveys, observations and experiments. Secondary data is
information collected for purpose that may differ from the researcher’s purpose, and include
books, articles, journals and data from online websites.

In this research, two primary data sources are used – internal observations and interviews,
with latter having more emphasis. Internal observations include the analysis and data
gathered, perhaps, during internship in a B2B company, because getting an inside company
perspective contributes in understanding the processes and identifying bottlenecks in a
corporate environment.

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As mentioned, the interviews were the main primary data source. It is important to hear the
respondents’ views and thoughts on the subject matter which enables to get details that is
difficult to obtain from secondary research. A total of 13 interviews were conducted and the
respondents and the organization are chosen to be anonymous. The roles and responsibilities
and the industry segment to which each of these respondents belong is mentioned.

Respondent Role & Responsibility Type of Company / Industry
A
Business Development and Sales – Head
of Customer and Sales Intelligence
EPC- Industrial Solutions
B Digital project manager – CRM Corporate- B2B Company
C
Group Processes & Information
Technology Manager
Corporate- IT Digitalization
Manager
D SMD- Customer & Markets Manager
Corporate- Digitalization
Manager
E SMD – Customer & Markets Manager
Corporate- Digitalization
Manager
F Technical Assistant to Managing Director Vendor- Implementation Partner
G
Business Development and Sales – Head
of Sales
EPC- Industrial Solutions
H
Business Development and Sales –
Program Manager CRM
EPC- Industrial Solutions
I
SMD-BDS – Manager Business
Development
Automotive Supplier
J SMD – Project Manager CRM Automotive Supplier
K Communications – Brand manager Corporate- B2B Company
L SMD – Customer & Markets Manager Corporate- Sales Excellence
M
Business Development and Sales – Head
of Business Intelligence
EPC- Industrial Solutions

Table 1: List of interviewees

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As shown in table 1, a total number of 13 interviews were conducted, each scheduled for
approximately 60 minutes. A semi-structured interview conduction process was used wherein;
the main questions to be asked had been predefined and communicated beforehand. However,
the questions did vary depending upon the type of interviewee and their respective roles and
responsibilities. The interview process started with general questions about CRM, relevance of
IT, sales processes and then moved into specific questions about customer journey,
touchpoints, CRM functions and implementation challenges. Based on the experience of the
initial interviews, there is always the option to modify / tweak the process for better output.
Few examples of questions asked were
1. How is IT contributing in the current digitalization wave?
2. What is the contribution of CRM in terms of digitalization in a B2B scenario?
3. What are the challenges encountered in successful implementation of CRM in a B2B
company?
4. How has the customer buying behavior and pattern changed over the years?
5. How can you link the CRM functions to a customer journey?

A large selection of literature, articles, journals, reports, online data sources etc. were used as
a secondary source of information, primarily to obtain a general understanding of relevant
theoretical frameworks pertaining to CRM and customer journey touchpoints in a B2B
context. As a part of the secondary research a lot of online websites of B2B companies were
visited to understand the dynamics around customer touchpoints. The information gathered
from secondary sources also helped in building a strong conceptual foundation for the primary
research and establishing hypothesis. The relevant secondary sources are cited in the text and
a detailed description is mentioned in the Bibliography chapter.

This study was conducted in a limited period of time of 6-8 weeks and the respondents were
interviewed within a span of 2 weeks. However, a lot of efforts was involved in scheduling the
interviews and formulating the correct questions based on the experiences and expertise of the
respective interviewee.

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4 Results & Analysis
This chapter contains the results and analysis of the qualitative data collected from the
interviews. The approach is deductive, meaning that the concepts presented in chapter 2 are
used as frameworks for the analysis, and tested on the results. The thirteen respondents
interviewed belong to two specific industrial sectors, first is the automotive industry where the
business area supplies automotive components to OEMs in the automotive industry and
second is business area which provides EPC and technology licensing services to industries
from various domains like cement, chemicals, oil & gas, mining, process industries, etc.

For the above mentioned two specific business areas, the customer journey followed by a
potential buyer along with the touchpoints is demonstrated below. This customer journey was
formulated by the Customers & Markets team of thyssenkrupp AG and is particularly
applicable for a B2B company.

Figure 11: Streamlined customer journey for B2B company with touchpoints
Source: thyssenkrupp AG, Customers & Markets Analysis

The first phase of the customer journey is the ‘attract’ phase where a stranger who is
interested to enquire about a product tends to visit the product website, or consider a hearsay
about the company or even come across representative of that company during a trade fair or
workshop. These are the various touchpoints which convert a stranger to a visitor who now
takes interest in the product and the company. Once the visitor is interested in the product and
the company, he/she/customer now becomes a lead who is genuinely interested in buying the
product/service and this is the second phase of ‘convert’. This lead now has to be converted
into an opportunity and it undergoes the ‘nurture’ phase wherein the company ensures all
relevant information about the product and prices reach the potential lead. The next is the

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‘close’ phase wherein now there is no online platform involved but more of face-to face
personal meeting to establish a relationship and rapport. For product and service clarification
the potential customer typically expects on-call support and easy contact with the sales reps.
So, these touchpoints in the ‘close’ phase needs to efficient. Lastly, the ‘retain’ phase is
important to ensure that the customers not only become loyal to the company but also
becomes an advocate of the product/service and spreads the word. In B2B business, retaining
customers is essential and companies use various methods like loyalty rewards, discounts,
preferred customer status etc. to ensure customers are retained.

Going further deep into the actual sales and marketing functionalities, the figure below
mentions the functionalities in the respective phases of the customer journey. It is important to
note that the customer journey and touchpoints mentioned above are subject to change
depending on the type and nature of business. For example, a B2B business would rarely rely
on television ads to attract customers, and therefore the touchpoints differ. Like mentioned
above, the customer journey taken into consideration consists of five phases starting from
‘attract’, ‘convert’, ‘nurture’, ‘close’ and ‘retain’ where a potential customer undergoes
transformation from being a stranger to being a loyal customer.
Currently, the CRM projects implemented are concentrated around the ‘nurture’ and ‘close’
phase of the customer journey.

Figure 12: Focus customer journey phases and functionalities

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The CRM vendors like ITVT and Orbis not only assists in integrating various internal systems
but also offer a wide range of functionalities. In the ‘nurture’ phase, there are five
functionalities illustrated. Visit planning and reporting comes very handy to understand the
level of engagement with the customer based on historical visit information and also helps in
planning future interactions. The leads management functionality typically helps in
prioritizing the leads/opportunities and then dedicate resources and time accordingly. While
submitting a final quotation to a customer, there are inputs required from different
stakeholders and different departments and it is important to have a seamless co-ordination.
CRM vendors also provide the functionality of product and service information suitable to
specific customer also with the pricing data feature which is dynamic depending upon the
customer, region etc.

Similarly, in the ‘close’ phase, CRM vendors offer functionalities like order management
wherein the planning and co-ordination for the next steps is done once the order is received
from the customer. Also, the workflow integration is a similar functionality and assist in the
post order receiving phase. The contract management functionality automatically reads the
contract once it is uploaded and makes a note of important pointers like renewal date,
conditional clauses etc. triggering an alert as and when necessary. As mentioned by various
respondents, the buying center analysis is a crucial functionality as it helps understand the
important decision makers in the customer organization and how and when to approach the
selected professional. Lastly, the win/loss analytical feature helps to gauge the strengths,
weaknesses and improvement areas within the organization to ensure higher bid conversion
numbers.

The CRM tools are designed with functionalities to add value at each and every phase of the
customer journey. In the diagram below, the functionalities offered by the CRM vendors is
outlined in blue for the respective phase of the customer journey. These functionalities are not
fully utilized by the business areas represented by the respondent group interviewed, but are
the potential ones to be exploited in the future. The functionalities in the other respective
phases are illustrated below.

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Figure 13: All functionalities mapped in the respective phases of the customer journey

In the ‘attract’ phase, measuring and improving the company visibility and establishing an
ease of contact is cardinal. There are touchpoints like google search ads, company websites
and social media platforms and these touchpoints can be successfully managed by CRM tools.
The functionality of touchpoint optimization helps assessing the significance of various
touchpoints through measuring their actual utility and prioritizing or even formulating new
touchpoints based on market popularity. CRM functionalities also assists in marketing events
planning and tracking the success or failure of these events.

The ‘convert’ phase is basically used to convert a visitor or an enquirer into a lead and CRM
functionalities can add value in many ways. For any B2B company, the customers and
markets define the leads and CRM tools help in various customer segmentation and market
segmentation methodologies. Currently, the segmentation is done on a simple excel sheet but
CRM offers sophisticated analytical tools connecting various dynamic parameters like market
growth, geographic potentials and generate a demand map for the product in question. An
important functionality to manage the ample customer data and information in one
consolidated manner. It is possible to meet many executives from a single company across
different geographical regions and a customer data management tool provided by CRM can
help in keeping all information pertaining to a single client together at once place which will
be easy to access. Simultaneously, managing contact data for the appropriate sales
representative can also be handled by the CRM tools.

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Lastly, in the ‘retain’ phase CRM tools manage the customer feedback or customer
complaints/issues which can help focus on the appropriate improvement directions for the
product, service or the sales process in general. Based on the historical buying pattern of the
customer, product upscaling and cross-selling is also a feature supported by the CRM tools
wherein high-end products and complimentary products could be sold to a customer thereby
enhancing the sales value. Also, for B2B businesses the contracts are long term and
sometimes subject to renewal, especially the service and maintenance contracts, and an
automatic triggered update can be helpful. To retain existing customers, a structured
mechanism to provide priorities and privileges to esteemed customers in terms of superior and
quick service or discounts on selected products can be achieved through functionalities of
CRM tools. In short, CRM can add value in every possible dimension relating to customers
and therefore is of tremendous value for B2B companies.

With respective to implementation challenges, all the respondents were very clear pointing out
the bottlenecks. Depending upon the ongoing projects, future projects and complexity of the
business processes and organizations involved, this study identifies top four major
implementation challenges.
1. Limited resources
2. Management drive
3. Employee acceptance and clarity
4. System integration

First challenge is the lack of resources, and this was pointed out by almost every respondent
stating that for implementing a CRM project of such a large magnitude, manpower, time and
monetary resources are extremely important. Second, the level of management support and
drive required is also equally important and consistency is required. For example, according to
a few respondents, the management enthusiasm levels started decreasing as the intensity of the
CRM projects increased. A clear management mandate and strong and consistence
involvement is indeed the key.
“The work force always appreciates the presence of management personnel in CRM
workshops” – BDS, Head of Sales, EPC industry

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Third, the user/ employee acceptance is also a challenge because the workforce using the
CRM tools find it difficult to migrate to new systems and this is where the change
management team come into picture trying to explain the users “what’s in it for them?”. This
challenge also arises from lack of clarity. Concept clarity can be defined as a challenge when
the various stakeholders, be it the user till the senior management have misaligned
expectations from the CRM tools. The expectations and vision for CRM should ideally be
uniform across hierarchies and well understood among business and IT personnel of any
organization.

Lastly, system integration is surely challenging, especially with bigger the organization, more
complex the processes and here the management needs to decide whether it is appropriate to
go with standardized or customized processes.
“It is crucial for businesses to understand the importance of standardization and how it can
assist in achieving better system integrations” – CRM Manager

The literature research categorized the implementation success factors into into strategic,
tactical and operational factors and lists in very detail, however, the respondents were very
succinct in identifying four major implementation challenges listed above. On a practical
basis, CRM managers encounter the challenges during the implementation process and in spite
of trying to be extremely prepared to address the challenges, there are sometimes new
challenges emerging out and need to be addressed on an ad hoc basis. Also, the theoretical
research conducted always considered IT and system integration as another dimension of
CRM, or rather an IT dimension of CRM but after conducting the interviews with the
respondents, IT, system integration and compliance are the primary foundations of the CRM
rather than being another dimension. Without a strong IT infrastructure, achieving a
successful CRM implementation is challenging. The theoretical research correctly mentions
the CRM functionalities in the sales and marketing domain and these functionalities are also
corroborated by the respondents and the research finally classifies the functionalities in the
respective phases of the customer journey.

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5 Discussion
5.1 Future work
This research studied only two business areas, automotive and EPC industrial solutions, and
there are more business areas to be studied in the future because the nature of the business is a
key determinant of the CRM functionalities to be used. Also, the CRM processes can be
standardized or can be kept as is with a high degree of customization depending on the
business requirements, stakeholders, complexity and monetary resources, because there is a
significant investment involved in IT systems and infrastructure and the return on investment
is not very easy to quantify.

In order to have a better 360° view of the customers, it is also important refine the existing
customer journey framework, making it adaptable depending upon the business and specific
operations, for example, sales, service etc. From the aspect of methodology, future work could
be carried on evaluating the effectiveness and efficiency customer journey map. This could
involve gathering, analyzing and aggregating data from sales representatives, mid-senior level
management, key account managers and most important the customers. Because in the end, it
is the customer who follows the buying journey and is involved in different touchpoints to get
in touch with the companies.
Therefore, based on the information gathered from the respondents, the ideal next steps for a
B2B company would be to first try and mitigate the implementation challenges encountered
during the CRM implementation journey to ensure a smooth change process. These challenges
are well documented in the results section of this study and are not very difficult to
comprehend or anticipate. Second, the results section also point out that currently the
interviewed business areas are focusing on the nurture and close phase of the customer
journey while it is equally important to start focusing on the other phases because the CRM
vendors are equipped with all kinds of functionalities to address these specific phases of the
customer journey and now it will depend on the business areas, management inclination &
drive, man-power resources and success of previous pilot projects to start venturing into the
other phases.

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As a future area of research, the CRM framework presented in ‘Conclusion’ chapter can be
used as a basis for further research on the dimensions of CRM. Also, the functionalities
mentioned for the respective phases of customer journey should be studied in more detail and
perhaps establish new functionalities depending on specific B2B business areas.
5.2 Validity, reliability and limitation of research
Like mentioned above, the participants of this study only represent two business groups. One
is the automotive sector while other is the EPC industrial solutions sector. It is also
noteworthy to mention that the respondents interviewed come from a strong educational
background and are highly experienced in their respective fields with not only in-depth
knowledge about the business processes but also cognizance of latest CRM developments.
No attempt was made to understand the ways and means to alleviate the implementation
challenges and it is completely at the discretion of the organization to act accordingly as they
see fit. Similarly, it did not consider specific implementation challenges arising during CRM
implementation in the other three phases of the customer journey viz. attract, convert and
retain. However, it is safe to assume that there is surely over lapses in terms of the
implementation challenges, because these are generic. Thus, the results of this study only a
small portion of business areas in the entire B2B industry.
Possible limitations of the study include limited theoretical research on customer journey
specific to B2B companies. The literature research consists of studies on customer journey for
specific industry domains like finance, telecom, retail etc. but not for a general B2B industry
customer journey. Also, this study only looks at two business areas, the industrial solutions
and automotive, study on more companies and other business areas will add greater value.
Though the findings presented in this study are tentative, the purpose is neither to generate
findings representing all B2B sectors nor to cover all the elements of a customer journey and
CRM in the customer journey. This study was designed to get insights about the CRM
functionalities in general and how these functionalities enhance the sales and marketing
capabilities of a B2B company and two sectors were studied for this purpose. To this point,
the results of the research are still insightful and valuable.

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6 Conclusion
Based on the analysis above, this chapter sets out the main conclusions to be drawn about
study and answers the sub questions and the principal question of the thesis. The qualitative
inputs from the respondents in conjunction with the theoretical research is summed up in the
framework below which can be used for further research.

Figure 14: Conclusive model of CRM

In the above figure, CRM is supported by three pillars. Operational, analytical and
collaborative CRM. Operational CRM includes sales and marketing functionalities involving
like managing customer information, website traffic, customer calls, customer visits/enquiries
etc. and these are primarily focused on the initial phase of the customer journey. The
analytical CRM consists of data mining, data warehousing and OLAP (online analytical
processing) tools which assist is analyzing markets, customers, prioritizing leads/projects,
analyzing win/loss projects and these are accomplished by data analysis. Also, OLAP tools
support online tracking of marketing events and customers activity. The analytical CRM is
currently very actively used in the ‘nurture’ and ‘close’ phase of the customer journey. The
last pillar is the collaborative CRM which is also considered to be the last stage of CRM
wherein different business process functions are integrated to ensure smooth interdependency
and transparency within businesses at a global level. The figure 15 below shows the types of
CRM being used in respective phases of the customer journey.

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Figure 15: CRM types mapped in the customer journey

Compliance and IT are the standard foundation blocks involving data governance regulations
and IT infrastructure & tools respectively. IT will always be the base or the foundation of any
CRM initiative and this is also observed in the theoretical research. It can be coupled with
compliance in this case. The important point to be observed is that marketing and sales are the
two business functions and CRM bridges the gap between them ensuring transparency. The
sales and marketing domain consist of the different functionalities specific to business
processes, be it automotive or EPC thereby focusing on external customers and market.
Examples of the functionalities includes, customer and market segmentation, opportunity/
leads management etc. Thus, CRM connects the sales and marketing functions with an eye on
adding value to customers. In the end, CRM still is a summation of IT and Business domains
which is also evident from the theoretical research.

The responses from the interviews also made it clear that change management is extremely
important to ensure appropriate employee acceptance in the CRM transition process. It
involves conducting employee workshops not only to educate the workforce about the benefits
of CRM in sales but also to understand and alleviate the implementation challenges
encountered by the users.

Sub-question: 1
How does the customer journey look like for a B2B product company?
The B2B domain is very vast comprising of diverse business models. The customer journey
for different businesses and for specific business processes vary and therefore cannot be
generalized. However, the phases of a customer journey almost remain the same for many
business sectors. The phases include, attract, nurture, convert, close and retain. Considering

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the standard phases, the top view of a customer journey for a B2B company can be
successfully described in the figure below.

Figure 16: B2B customer journey

Sub-question: 2
With the latest technological advancements and easy access to digital platforms, how has the
customer buying behavior and pattern changed (evolved) as compared to previous years?
In the B2B domain, the customer is indeed empowered with access to a lot of information and
data online about companies, products and competitors. These parameters influence the
decision making of a buyer. Therefore, it has become paramount for many B2B companies to
maintain a clear brand image and reputation in the online domain. However, there are still a
lot of business models where the traditional approach to sales is followed, i.e. through a key
account manager. Ex. EPC business. These businesses run and flourish on customer-company
relationship since the projects in these businesses have a significantly longer gestation period.
Hence, it is surely true that the digitalization has indeed empowered the customers and help
buyers in decision making, it is also true that there are B2B businesses that are still running on
the traditional sales model primarily because of the nature of the businesses.

Sub-question: 3
What is CRM? Its tools & functionalities in the sales and marketing domain?
As the name suggests, it is an approach that is used by businesses to manage the relationship
and interactions between existing customers and potential customers. The CRM systems or
software tools are employed primarily in the sales and marketing domain helping companies
to connect to new customer and streamline business processes thereby improving company
profitability. Currently, there are many CRM vendors in the market providing with a host of
functionalities in the sales and marketing domains. In the sales domain functionalities like
leads/opportunity management, customer contacts management, buying center analysis,
customer & market segmentation tools etc. provide insights about the customers and help

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structuring an approach process. Similarly, in the marketing domain, functionalities like event
planning and analysis and online social media marketing add value to the process. The CRM
functionalities give an analytical perspective in the sales and marketing functions which is
valuable for a B2B company.

Sub-question: 4
How do these sales and marketing functionalities add value to various touchpoints of the
customer journey for new and existing customers of a B2B company?
The illustrations of functionalities mentioned above add a lot of value to the internal
operations of any company. For existing customers, the functionalities ensure better quality of
products and services are delivered at competitive costs. The contracts are managed and
tracked well and there is always a key account manager or designated responsible personnel
for any future communications. Also, existing customers are timely informed about the new
products and latest technology in the market. As far as potential customers are concerned, the
sales and marketing functionalities help generate leads to identify potential customers and
understand the exact needs of these new customers to be. Once these needs or leads are
identified, the CRM tools assist right from the beginning of the bidding process till the bid is
submitted and the outcome is declared. The CRM tools also have the win/loss analysis feature
to contemplate the reasons of loss in the hindsight. Overall, CRM tools cater to both existing
and potential customers and it depends on the company for which particular feature they
intend to exploit.

Sub-question: 5
What are the challenges and bottlenecks that can emerge or be envisaged while implementing
CRM functionalities-based customer journey enhancement and what are the critical success
factors?
Based on the results and analysis of the interview process, it can be concluded that change is
indeed difficult and CRM implementation is nothing but a paradigm shift in-terms of
processes and mindsets. There needs to be efforts put in to make this change transition as
smooth as possible. Also, for this change to happen faster and smoother, there needs to be
significant drive for this change coming from the senior management or authoritative

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personnel in an organization along with suitable allocation for resources. Lastly, integrating
the multiple existing IT systems are particularly challenging considering the size and
complexity of the organization. These critical parameters determine the overall success of
CRM implementation and this success % is therefore different in different companies and
businesses.

Research Question:
How do CRM tools functionalities optimize the customer journey touchpoints and enhance the
sales & marketing capabilities for a B2B company by ensuring relevant exchange of
information among customers and sales executives?
CRM functionalities like customer contact management, marketing even planning and
evaluation and online website content & social media management assist the customers to first
have sophisticated touchpoints to contact companies and the specific product and service
requirement and even have a dedicated sales representative purely managing a group of
customers and acting as key account managers. Also, functionalities like contract
management, quotation management, product pricing, market and customer segmentation
ensure that the sales representative is prepared and updated with all the latest information
about the customer, product and market before facing the customer. The sales representatives
have access to all customer data, historical and current, including previous projects,
transactions and current potential projects thereby making the sales team efficient before
client meetings. This is especially beneficial for global B2B companies whose customers are
also equally international since there is one consolidated platform for customer information
with complete transparency and can be accessed from any geographical location. Lastly, these
CRM functionalities offer the provision to connect different business functions like sales,
marketing, purchasing etc. which not only these functions work together in perfect co-
ordination but also helps in understanding the roles of stakeholders in each of these functions
so that there is perfect synchronization between the operative functions of a business. In this
way, CRM tools and functionalities contribute in the pre-sales, sales and post sales process to
strengthen the existing sales and marketing capabilities of a company to finally deliver better
value and superior sales experience to customers.

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In the end, CRM should ideally be the only tool for sales process and it should be a part of
daily activities for the sales people, other tools and platforms available will be just used for
communication. This is the overall vision for CRM.

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Declaration of authorship of an academic paper
I hereby declare that I have written this paper myself and used no other sources or resources
than those indicated, have clearly marked verbatim quotations as such, and clearly indicated
the source of all paraphrased references, and have observed the General Study and
Examination Regulations of Reutlingen University for bachelor and master programs, the
specific regulations for study and examinations of my study program, and the Regulations for
ensuring Good Academic Practice of Reutlingen University.
Neither this paper nor any part of this paper is a part of any other material presented for
examination at this or any other institution.

Surendra Supriykumar Bannerji
Reutlingen, 30.08.2018