A COMPARATIVE ASSESSMENT OF MEDIA CHANNELS FOR CUSTOMER RELATIONSHIP MANAGEMENT AMONGST TOURISM ENTERPRISES IN KUMBA, MEME DIVISION
|TOURISM AND HOSPITALITY MANAGEMENT|
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The rise in the adoption and use of information technology in different business sectors has pushed businesses to search for means to efficiently and effectively manage their customers to remain competitive. Such developments have yielded in the adoption of Customer Relationship Management (CRM).
This study was intended to carry out a comparative assessment of media channels for customer relationship management amongst tourism enterprises in Kumba, Meme Division.
The accessible population was made up of three hotels and three snacks: Marcklords Hotel, Azi Fiangep Hotel, Tower of David; Kanton restaurant, Bonangoh, and City grill. Management staff/employees and customers of these tourism enterprises constituted the sample population. Seven persons among each staff were administered questionnaires. Findings indicate that CRM is a process involving a set of activities and a range of media channels (developing, managing and maintaining customer relationships via traditional and new media channels respectively calls, SMS, Facebook, Twitter etc).
Also, if the efficiency of various media channels in CRM was addressed, findings demonstrate that social media are the main platforms used by tourism enterprises. Addressing the Problems associated with various Medial Channels has enabled us to find out that most challenge faced by organisation is the delay or the unwillingness in responding to customer’s preoccupations but also the fact that, communication utilizing new media requires several different disciplinary skills (creative producers, software designers, technical systems engineers).
In fine the analysis in our case study reveals that tourism enterprises in Kumba are still lagging in the use of some powerful media channels like social media. The majority of them are bound to using the traditional or classical methods such as face-to-face communication, calls and SMS. Thus our recommendation revolved around managers and employees of tourism organisations.
The latter was called in putting in place, strategies or activities efficiently leading to the effective usage of CRM (collection of data: preferences, complaints and suggestions), while the former was asked amongst others to skilfully adapt to ICTs and new media platforms, to ameliorate sales, customers management and customers relation techniques. These recommendations could contribute both in helping them earn a huge competitive advantage in their policy in retaining loyal customers, and attracting new ones but also contribute to the modernisation and growth of the Cameroon touristic sector.
Keywords: CRM, creative producers, software designers
Customer relationship management (CRM), as a management approach started to gain attention among scholars and practitioners in the early 1990s. The evolution of CRM as a strategy has been the result of several important trends that characterizes contemporary society (economy of scale, intense competition and ICTs, social media, etc). From a product-centric approach to a customer-centric method, or better still with a shift of focus from transactional to relationship marketing or with the adoption of product-based to customer-based structures industries worldwide have striven to adapt to the elasticity, dynamism and the intense competition of today’s business world. The origin, of the concept and abbreviation of the word CRM as an acronym, is said to have been a collaborative work between IBM and SIEBEL (both ICTs and computers giants in the USA): “ IBM coined the acronym CRM in the mid-90s while developing jointly with Siebel a web-hosted system marketed today as Siebel CRM on Demand’’. (Nelson, 2002). However, since its introduction in the early 1990s, customer relationship management (CRM) has developed a diverse set of identities. While some saw CRM as a technology solution for marketing, sales and services, others believed that CRM was a business tool encompassing an array of components including technology, marketing and customer service amongst others.
In a nutshell, CRM is a strategic process of support, against competitors, providing value for the buyers and sellers, and gaining excellent benefits. It is a commercial process in the B2C environment, which enables the organizational structure to improve and strengthen its relationships with loyal customers and attract new ones by meeting their myriad needs quickly (Lambert, 2010). The tourism sector has increasingly adopted CRM as one of the most important strategies in attracting and increasing tourist arrivals, filling the tourist facilities, and satisfying the needs of guests. “Customer parameters like customer satisfaction, customer retention, customer loyalty etc, have been widely studied in past and CRM is found to be significantly impacting these parameters” (Agus & Hassan, 2012). This has led to improving and specialising the relationships with the customers, responding to the customers’ complaints, attracting and protecting the customers, understanding and separating the customers, counterfeiting competition, and maintaining continuous growth and profitability (Bolton & Tarasi, 2006).
In developed countries, almost all scales of enterprises are enjoying the benefits of CRM. In the USA for example, despite the existing gaps between large firms and smaller firms in terms of the utilization of CRM, the former using legacy CRM systems, the latter using the low-cost legacy system, all of them share the same goals for their CRM systems: Identification of key clients; greater retention of key clients and; Increased wallet share of key clients over and above to earn a competitive advantage. Compared to the previous years before the 90s, with the use of a made-in-house program such as the client Service Call Center, an off-the-shelf CRM program with limited capabilities with both operational functionality (used primarily to store names, telephone numbers, and notes of salespeople), and strategic functionality (utilized by the IT department and the sales department to update daily sales data, and update the database daily as new clients were added). Irrespective of the organisation’s size, the organisations are strongly motivated to embrace CRM for effectively developing, managing and maintaining customer relationships (Payne & Frow, 2005). Disney Chairman, Michael Eisner employed a CRM strategy designed to help Walt Disney World restore the lustre of its ageing brand, increase efficiencies and boost attendance use of IT to reinvent the customer experience, influence visitor behaviour and ease crowding throughout the parks. The goal: is to reduce the hassle for visitors to the park by creating a more personalized environment, with IT at the core. Michael Eisner believes that CRM “is not simply an organization that deploys technology, but one that now integrates technology from a lot of different angles to improve the customer experience.” (https://www.cioinsight.com/author/cioinsightcom-staff/) accessed on Google.
As far as Russia is concerned, CRM is a relatively new concept. CRM started to gain recognition in the early 2000s. The finance and telecommunication industries are, the largest sectors employing CRM solutions. To address the need for the accelerating Russian CRM market and implementation, the Russian CRM Association was founded in July 2004. Aiming to increase awareness about CRM business practices and their development in Russia by providing and assisting organizations, with training and workshop seminars. In this new economy, Russian firms have understood a need to restructure their organizations and implement the latest technological advances including CRM to face competition and gain a competitive advantage (Griffin, Tamilla, Barrere, 2015).
The adoption of CRM in Developing Countries furthermore remains a relatively new phenomenon, particularly for Small Business Enterprises (SBEs) due to limited resources, bad infrastructure, and strong competition. Restaurant Brands International LP (quick-service restaurant (QSR) company which is engaged in the provision of service restaurants (doughnut/coffee/tea restaurant chains in North and South America) is a specific example. Due to its internalisation strategy, the organisation started to implement CRM in accessing its myriad of customers. Unilever is a consumer goods company whose products range covers foods, beverages, beautification and personal hygiene commodities, they make use of a CRM system to oversee customer relations for all its products. It helps Unilever to collect user data and experience & process that information to improve the quality of services and experience it offers and as a result, they have improved its relationship with consumers. It helps Unilever employ improved business strategies. They then collect the feedback data and analyze if the strategies they have employed are effective or where further improvements can be made ( Success Stories Of Organizations Using CRM. by Jigyasa Singh Medium). Eid (2007) investigated the different factors affecting CRM adoption and implementation in Egyptian enterprises. Findings revealed that adopting CRM by Egyptian SBEs is dependent on external and internal related factors impacting the organization. It is the case with Intrepid and Beyond the Nile Tour Tour operators companies which have recently started implementing CRM, aiming to manage and attract tourists during and after trips.( www.nomadicmatt.com/travel-blogs/best-tour-companiess_egypt) accessed on Google. On the opposite, East African industries just like those in many other developing countries are still lagging in terms of the use of e-CRM systems. Rao (2011) points out that most SMEs in Africa do not have e-CRM systems in place. Yuen, 2007 demonstrated that only 6% of SMEs in developing countries had successfully implemented e-CRM systems. In Uganda for instance, many SMEs have not adopted e-CRM even when its adoption would increase their efficiency, and profitability and reduce the failure rate among SMEs (Amit & Zott, 2001). Nevertheless, it is believed that the current state of e-CRM usage by SMEs in African industries is progressing no matter the difficulties encountered.
The case of Cameroon industries in that vein is interesting. Many SMEs and tourism organisations specifically are progressively adopting e-CRM to increase their efficiency, cope with the fierce competition, and trends and address all Customer parameters (customer satisfaction, customer retention, customer loyalty etc). Various industries such as tour operators, accommodation, catering and the transport industry are making use of CRM to improve the quality of services and experience they offer, to enhance the relationship with consumers. In Kumba, for instance, the lodging, catering and beverage sub-sector but also attraction parks, still lack policies in the implementation of CRM. Macklord hotel for instance, due to this lack of strategy is facing difficulties in terms of customer satisfaction, customer retention, and customer loyalty.
CRM is considered to be a quintessentially important means of establishing a competitive advantage. CRM is considered to be an important tool for increasing an organisation’s ability to gain, retain and satisfy customers through creating and sustaining good long-lasting relationships with them. This tool has been widely adopted by both large and small businesses worldwide with the primary goal of enhancing the relationship between the organization and its customers (Rajan & Bhatnagar, 2009). Nevertheless, despite these benefits for organisations, enterprises in the Kumba municipality are still reluctant to effectively use CRM and enjoy the myriad of CRM benefits such as repeated purchases and customer satisfaction. The majority of them lack strategies and policies for the efficient implementation of CRM. Better still, compared to organisations efficiently dealing with CRM, hotels such as Marcklord hotel for instance neglect putting into practice a range of criteria enabling to efficiently using CRM. Most tourism enterprises here have limited platforms for their interaction with customers and data collection. Simply put, they do not completely exhaust the various media channels like Whatsapp, Twitter, Instagram, and telegram; they do not manifest interest in collecting customer data like preferences, addresses and feedback or in conducting customer satisfaction surveys.
In addition, a lack of professionalism and trained employees lead to poor customer service and customers relationship. Thus, it can become difficult for tourism enterprises in Kumba Municipality to meet a wide range of business and customer parameters such as gain of profit, customer retention and satisfaction through creating and sustaining good long-lasting relationships with them.
Consequently, the lack of CRM policies and strong customer services are having negative impacts on the growth of tourism enterprises in Kumba. The tourism industry is specifically characterized by the intangibility and perishability of its products. Thus it becomes difficult for managers of tourism organisations to gain profit, retain customers and satisfy them due to their incompetence in using most CRM parameters.
Thus, one can easily notice the extreme value of CRM for the development and smooth running of enterprises. CRM has become almost essential for the growth of any industry. However, the exact awareness that enterprises and mainly tourism managers in Cameroon and Kumba have of the implementation and advantages of CRM is poor. There is a need to address certain facts and clarification on the use and advantages of CRM in tourism enterprises. Most researchers and academicians like Atem Jonas (2010), have written on the CRM as far as factors involved in its adoption and implementation are concerned. Few types of research have been carried out to address the various ways CRM is implemented by tourism organisations.
The research question is designed to bring out: the current state of Customer Relationship Management amongst Tourism Enterprises in Kumba.
In other words, what are the potentials, of Media Channels used for CRM by Tourism Enterprises in Kumba?
Our study is made up of general and specific objectives:
To assess the potential, of various Media Channels for Customer Relationship Management amongst tourism enterprises in Kumba.
1- To examine the CRM activities and media channels adopted by Tourism Enterprises in Kumba.
2– To comparatively analyse the efficiency of various media channels in CRM amongst tourism enterprises in Kumba.
3- To analyse problems associated with various medical channels for CRM amongst Tourism Enterprises in Kumba.
4- To suggest innovative strategies for better exploiting each media option for the effectiveness of CRM amongst Tourism Enterprises in Kumba