Customer relationship management (CRM) is a term that refers to practices, strategies and technologies that companies use to manage and analyse customer interactions and data throughout the customer lifecycle – all with the goal of improving customer service relationships, customer retention and driving sales.
CRM systems compile customer data across different points of contact between the customer and the company, should as the company’s website, phone, live chat, direct mail, marketing materials and social media. CRM software can also give customer-facing staff detailed information on customers’ personal information, purchase history and buying preferences.
A brief history
CRM hasn’t always been the stand-alone software that so many businesses rely on today. Over the past four decades it has evolved dramatically, from the original Rolodex of business cards, through early content management and sales software from such vendors as Oracle and SAP, to the CRM systems we know today as a fully realised sales and marketing enablement solutions based both in the cloud and on-premises. Big names today are Salesforce, Zoho, Hubspot, Oracle and Microsoft.
Three Types of CRM
There are three types of CRM: operational, collaborative and analytical.
- Operational CRM refers to products and services that allow an organisation to take care of their customers. It provides support for various business processes, which can include sales, marketing and service.
- Collaborative CRM is communication with customers and covers direct interaction with customers including feedback and issue reporting. Interaction can take place through web pages, email, Automated Voice Response. Collaborative CRM greatly improves on services offered.
- Analytical CRM addresses the analysis of customer data for a host of different purposes. In general it is used to design and execute targeted marketing campaigns that optimise marketing effectiveness.
At the most basic level, CRM software consolidates customer information and documents into a single CRM database so business users can easily access it.
As markets grow and fragment, and consumer behaviours and technologies evolve at a rapid pace, CRM must keep up with those changes in order to remain valuable to sales-driven organisations. Additional functions have been added to CRM systems such as recording various customer interactions over email, phone, social media, automating various workflow automation processes such as tasks and alerts and giving managers the ability to track performance and productivity based on system data.
Indeed, marketing automation is now something that is expected from a CRM. The CRM software can automate repetitive tasks at different stages of the sales cycle, such as when a new sales prospect is entered into the system, it can automatically send out marketing materials to them via email or social media, with the goal of turning a sales lead into a customer. Sales, workflow and service automation capabilities can also help businesses by allowing them to streamlining standard workloads, which in turn enables employees to focus on more high-level tasks.
Some CRM systems include geolocation technology so they can create marketing campaigns based on the customer’s physical location. It can also be used to find sales prospects within a certain region or area.
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. Challenges can 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.
Future trends for CRMS
Integration of tools, features and services is a trend across every digital discipline and software, in particular, is seeing a high demand for all-in-one CRM software solutions due to the dozens of different data points that must be tracked for hundreds to thousands of customers. A key benefit of CRM is the ability to build operational efficiencies through data analytics, so it is vital that all of the customer information, including the up to date customer lifecycle, is housed and available to view in a single system for the entire organisation.
Every organisation is different – from your customers and your sales teams to your sales and growth. For a long time business owners have complained about the rigidness their existing CRMs and how difficult and expensive, they are to customise and adjust to their particular needs. Businesses often end up having to pay extra for additional features and setup and, in some cases, have to abandon a decision if the implementation does not go as planned and there isn’t high adoption.
However if a CRM is designed with customisation in mind from the start, businesses can easily make whatever tweaks they need and ramp up without external support resources or excessive downtime.
A speech-recognition-enabled CRM works in much the same way as Siri, Alexa or Echo, allowing you to dictate notes after calls with customers and prospects, send timely emails and social media communications, as well as performing database searches in an instant. Speech recognition ultimately increases productivity for people who want to work more quickly and efficiently, without being limited by how many words per minute they can type.
Which CRM to choose?
Finally, how do you choose which CRM is right for you and your business?
Firstly download free trials of all your potentials and try out their features and tools. Ask questions on the support chat about how it can help you and the way your business works. The more you use a CRM, the more you will come to understand which features are best suited for your workflow.
As with any new technology, the main hurdle is adoption and getting your team to use all of the available features to their fullest. As with any change programme, you will find people who are reluctant to move away from their existing processes and adopt a new CRM platform. However, with investment of time in on-boarding and training, the benefits of today’s CRMs should be are almost instantly apparent.