Contrary to popular belief, customer relationship management (CRM) is not just another type of business management software; it is a business strategy to acquire, grow and retain profitable customer relationships. This distinction is important. CRM can only succeed if the CRM technology supports a truly customer-focused strategy and fits your unique requirements.
CRM (customer relationship management)
Customer relationship management (CRM) is the combination of practices, strategies and technologies that companies use to manage and analyze customer interactions and data throughout the customer lifecycle, with the goal of improving customer service relationships and assisting in customer retention and driving sales growth. CRM systems compile customer data across different channels, or points of contact between the customer and the company, which could include the company’s website, telephone, live chat, direct mail, marketing materials and social media. CRM systems can also give customer-facing staff detailed information on customers’ personal information, purchase history, buying preferences and concerns.
Components of CRM
At the most basic level, CRM software consolidates customer information and documents into a single CRM database so business users can more easily access and manage it.
Over time, many additional functions have been added to CRM systems to make them more useful. Some of these functions include recording various customer interactions over email, phone, social media or other channels; depending on system capabilities, automating various workflow automation processes, such as tasks, calendars and alerts; and giving managers the ability to track performance and productivity based on information logged within the system.
CRM tools with marketing automation capabilities can automate repetitive tasks to enhance marketing efforts at different points in the lifecycle. For example, as sales prospects come into the system, it might automatically send the prospects marketing materials, typically via email or social media, with the goal of turning a sales lead into a full-fledged customer
Sales force automation
Sales force automation tools track customer interactions and automate certain business functions of the sales cycle that are necessary to follow leads and attract and obtain new customers.
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Contact center automation
Designed to reduce tedious aspects of a contact center agent’s job, contact center automation might include prerecorded audio that assists in customer problem-solving and information dissemination. Various software tools that integrate with the agent’s desktop tools can handle customer requests in order to cut down on the time of calls and to simplify customer service processes.
Geolocation technology, or location-based services
Some CRM systems include technology that can create geographic marketing campaigns based on customers’ physical locations, sometimes integrating with popular location-based GPS apps. Geolocation technology can also be used as a networking or contact management tool in order to find sales prospects based on a location.
CRM systems help businesses optimize processes by streamlining mundane workloads, enabling employees to focus on creative and more high-level tasks.
Sales leads can be tracked through CRM, enabling sales teams to input, track and analyze data for leads in one place.
Human resource management (HRM)
CRM systems help track employee information, such as contact information, performance reviews and benefits within a company. This enables the human resource department to more effectively manage the internal workforce.
Analytics in CRM help create better customer satisfaction rates by analyzing user data and helping create targeted marketing campaigns.
Artificial intelligence (AI) technologies, such as Salesforce Einstein, have been built into CRM platforms to automate repetitive tasks, identify customer buying patterns to predict future customer behaviors and more.
Types of CRM technology
The four main vendors of CRM systems are Salesforce, Microsoft, SAP and Oracle. Other providers are popular among small to midmarket businesses, but these four tend to be the choice for large corporations. The types of CRM technology offered are as follows:
This system puts the onus of administration, control, security and maintenance of the database and information on the company using the CRM software. With this approach, the company purchases licenses upfront instead of buying yearly subscriptions from a cloud CRM provider. The software resides on the company’s own servers and the user assumes the cost of any upgrades. It also usually requires a prolonged installation process to fully integrate a company’s data. Companies with complex CRM needs might benefit from an on-premises deployment.
With cloud-based CRM, also known as SaaS (software as a service) or on-demand CRM, data is stored on an external, remote network that employees can access anytime, anywhere there is an internet connection, sometimes with a third-party service provider overseeing installation and maintenance. The cloud’s quick, relatively easy deployment capabilities appeal to companies with limited technological expertise or resources.
Companies might consider cloud CRM as a more cost-effective option. Vendors such as Salesforce charge by the user on a subscription basis and offer the option of monthly or yearly payments.
Data security is a primary concern for companies using cloud-based systems, as the company doesn’t physically control the storage and maintenance of its data. If the cloud provider goes out of business or is acquired by another company, an enterprise’s data can be compromised or lost. Compatibility issues can also arise when data is initially migrated from a company’s internal system to the cloud.
Finally, cost may be a concern, since paying subscription fees for software can be more costly over time than on-premises models.
For all of the advancements in CRM technology, without the proper management, a CRM system can become little more than a glorified database in which customer information is stored. Data sets need to be connected, distributed and organized so that users can easily access the information they need.
Companies may struggle to achieve a single view of the customer if their data sets are not connected and organized in a single dashboard or interface. Challenges also arise when systems contain duplicate customer data or outdated information. These problems can lead to a decline in customer experience due to long wait times during phone calls, improper handling of technical support cases and other issues.
CRM systems work best when companies spend time cleaning up their existing customer data to eliminate duplicate and incomplete records before they supplement CRM data with external sources of information.
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