CRM Software, Customer Relationship Management, CRM

CRM Definition - What is CRM?

CRM, or Customer Relationship Management, is one of those terms that is used so often, in so many different ways, that many are left asking themselves: What is CRM, really? As the term is most often used, CRM is technology that's used to improve a process wherever the customer and the company interact with each other.

This contact can be what's called "inbound" where the customer initiates the interaction. Inbound contact can be anything from checking an account balance over the phone or online, calling the help desk to resolve an issue, or e-mailing an account manager to order and ask about delivery options for additional products.

"Outbound" contact is company-initiated, and can be anything from sales calls, e-mails to existing customers encouraging cross or upsells, or follow-up e-mails to customers who access online help making sure they have adequately resolved their issue.

Information about the customer's behavior when buying and using the product is then updated in a database. The power of CRM isn't in the contact management or in the database, but the way those two things work together. The preferences and the needs of the customer is always evolving, and with each contact, a CRM solution can further personalize and make the interaction more satisfying and enjoyable for the customer, and more efficient and profitable for the company.

CRM solutions have varying degrees of database reporting capabilities, and this is where CRM can significantly impact the long-term survival of a business by helping sales, marketing, and product managers hone in on an ever-moving target. Imagine an extreme close-up of the individual consumer and a sweeping panorama of the marketplace at the same time.

Not including the powerful data "snapshot" capabilities in a definition of CRM is like talking about a camera without explaining what kind of pictures it takes. CRM solutions usually have a permission structure in place so that each department and level of management sees the data that helps them do their job better-too much information can make a simple task unnecessarily complicated, and permissions are necessary to keep consumer information secure.

For example, the customer support representative is shown the data relevant to their job-the customer's hotel preferences at a travel agency. The marketing department would be able to see a market segment's responsiveness to different types of marketing programs. Key members of senior management would have access to all of the data, and would use the CRM system's data analysis features to understand wealth of information on the people who choose to do business with them.

For businesses, the meaning of CRM isn't so much customer relationship management, but customer relationship growth. Thanks to the Internet buyers are more informed than ever-the customer service experience is now the defining factor in many purchase and loyalty decisions.

For complicated sales cycles or businesses that invest significant marketing funds to acquire customers, staying aware of the customer's needs is imperative.

Although seeing how customers connect with the company is an integral part of any CRM suite, just as important is seeing where customers, or potential customer, don't connect with the company. For example, by studying behaviors of customers who don't repurchase a product or service, management might work with all of the departments of a company to increase the customer's awareness of all that the brand has to offer and improve the buying experience.