Investigating the e‐CRM activities of Irish SMEs

Paul Harrigan (School of Management, University of Southampton, Southampton, UK)
Elaine Ramsey (Department of Business, Retail and Financial Services, University of Ulster, Coleraine, UK)
Patrick Ibbotson (Department of Business, Retail and Financial Services, University of Ulster, Coleraine, UK)

Journal of Small Business and Enterprise Development

ISSN: 1462-6004

Publication date: 7 August 2009



Relationship marketing principles have seldom been applied to the small‐ and medium‐sized enterprise (SME). The purpose of this paper is to develop what is a striking link by presenting empirical evidence on the role of internet technologies in the customer relationship management activities of Irish SMEs. More specifically, this is a comparative study investigating electronic‐customer relationship management (e‐CRM) in international and domestic firms. The nature and role of e‐CRM is assessed, the strategies behind e‐CRM delineated, and the ensuing benefits and challenges revealed.


The paper has an exploratory outlook and a quantitative approach to data collection is adopted to facilitate broad classification in an under researched area. A self‐completion questionnaire is distributed to a sample of 1,445 SMEs. A response rate of 20 per cent is obtained, providing 286 usable responses. Univariate and bivariate analyses were performed using SPSS.


The findings of this paper confirm that SMEs are implementing fundamental e‐CRM practices. Those firms serving international markets tend to place greater emphasis on e‐CRM and are reaping greater benefits. Benefits range from enhanced customer service, reduced business cost, increased sales, and improved profitability. Challenges are few, but centre on a preference for face‐to‐face relationships and a lack of government support.

Practical implications

It is hoped that this exploratory research has laid the foundation for further examination of e‐CRM in the SME context. Future research will add explanation through in‐depth qualitative methods, while the potential exists to replicate the study in other countries. The authors conclude that e‐CRM can and must move on to a more strategic and integrated level if SMEs in Ireland are to compete both locally and globally.


This paper has shed light on the marginalised subject of e‐CRM in SMEs. For SMEs operating in a peripheral economy such as Ireland, the benefits to be gained from e‐CRM are lucrative. SMEs viewing their market beyond national borders are using e‐CRM to achieve a range of business benefits. The quantitative methodology adopted has provided an exploratory, yet solid, insight into an important area for academics and practitioners.



Paul Harrigan, Elaine Ramsey and Patrick Ibbotson (2009) "Investigating the e‐CRM activities of Irish SMEs", Journal of Small Business and Enterprise Development, Vol. 16 No. 3, pp. 443-465

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Copyright © 2009, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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