overview

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.

  • Marketing automation: CRM tools with marketing automation capabilities can automate repetitive tasks to enhance marketing efforts at different points in the life cycle. 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.
  • 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.

  • Workflow automation: CRM systems help businesses optimize processes by streamlining mundane workloads, enabling employees to focus on creative and more high-level tasks.
  • Lead management: 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: Analytics in CRM help create better customer satisfaction rates by analyzing user data and helping create targeted marketing campaigns.
  • AI: 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 mid market businesses, but these four tend to be the choice for large corporations. The types of CRM technology offered are as follows:

  • On-premises CRM: 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.
  • Cloud-based CRM: 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.

Open source CRM: An open source CRM system make source code available to the public, enabling companies to make alterations at no cost to the company employing the system. Open source CRM systems also enable the addition and customization of data links on social media channels, assisting companies looking to improve social CRM practices.

Open Source CRM platforms such as OroCRM, SuiteCRM and SugarCRM offer alternatives to the proprietary platforms from Salesforce, Microsoft and other vendors.

Adoption of any of these CRM deployment methods depends on a company’s business needs, resources and goals, as each has different costs associated with it.

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