Customer Relationship Management
Customer relationship management (CRM) is a widely-implemented strategy for managing a company??™s interactions with customers, clients and sales prospects. It involves using technology to organize, automate, and synchronize business processes??”principally sales activities, but also those for marketing, customer service, and technical support. The overall goals are to find, attract, and win new clients, nurture and retain those the company already has, entice former clients back into the fold, and reduce the costs of marketing and client service. Customer relationship management describes a company-wide business strategy including customer-interface departments as well as other departments.
The three phases in which CRM support the relationship between a business and its customers are to:
??? Acquire: CRM can help a business acquire new customers through contact management, selling, and fulfillment.
??? Enhance: web-enabled CRM combined with customer service tools offers customers service from a team of sales and service specialists, which offers customers the convenience of one-stop shopping.
??? Retain: CRM software and databases enable a business to identify and reward its loyal customers and further develop its targeted marketing and relationship marketing initiatives.
Tools and workflows can be complex, especially for large businesses. Previously these tools were generally limited to contact management: monitoring and recording interactions and communications. Software solutions then expanded to embrace deal tracking, territories, opportunities, and at the sales pipeline, itself. Next came the advent of tools for other client-interface business functions, as described below. These tools have been, and still are, offered as on-premises software that companies purchase and run on their own IT infrastructure.
Often, implementations are fragmented??”isolated initiatives by individual departments to address their own needs. Systems that start disunited usually stay that way: soloed thinking and decision processes frequently lead to separate and incompatible systems, and dysfunctional processes.
Business reputation has become a growing challenge. The outcome of internal fragmentation that is observed and commented upon by customers is now visible to the rest of the world in the era of the social customer, where in the past, only employees or partners were aware of it. Addressing the fragmentation requires a shift in philosophy and mindset within an organization so that everyone considers the impact to the customer of policy, decisions and actions. Human response at all levels of the organization can affect the customer experience for good or ill. Even one unhappy customer can deliver a body blow to a business.
Types / Variations
Sales force automation
Sales force automation (SFA) involves using software to streamline all phases of the sales process, minimizing the time that sales representatives need to spend on each phase. This allows sales representatives to pursue more clients in a shorter amount of time than would otherwise be possible. At the heart of SFA is a contact management system for tracking and recording every stage in the sales process for each prospective client, from initial contact to final disposition. Many SFA applications also include insights into opportunities, territories, sales forecasts and workflow automation, quote generation, and product knowledge. Modules for Web 2.0 e-commerce and pricing are new, emerging interests in SFA.
CRM systems for marketing help the enterprise identify and target potential clients and generate leads for the sales team. A key marketing capability is tracking and measuring multichannel campaigns, including email, search, social media, telephone and direct mail. Metrics monitored include clicks, responses, leads, deals, and revenue. This has been superseded by marketing automation and Prospect Relationship Management (PRM) solutions which track customer behavior and nurture them from first contact to sale, often cutting out the active sales process altogether.
Customer service and support
Recognizing that service is an important factor in attracting and retaining customers, organizations are increasingly turning to technology to help them improve their clients??™ experience while aiming to increase efficiency and minimize costs. Even so, a 2009 study revealed that only 39% of corporate executives believe their employees have the right tools and authority to solve client problems. ???. The core for these applications has been and still is comprehensive call center solutions, including such features as intelligent call routing, computer telephone integration (CTI), and escalation capabilities.
Relevant analytics capabilities are often interwoven into applications for sales, marketing, and service. These features can be complemented and augmented with links to separate, purpose-built applications for analytics and business intelligence. Sales analytics let companies monitor and understand client actions and preferences, through sales forecasting and data quality.
Marketing applications generally come with predictive analytics to improve segmentation and targeting, and features for measuring the effectiveness of online, offline, and search marketing campaign. Web analytics have evolved significantly from their starting point of merely tracking mouse clicks on Web sites. By evaluating ???buy signals,??? marketers can see which prospects are most likely to transact and also identify those who are bogged down in a sales process and need assistance. Marketing and finance personnel also use analytics to assess the value of multi-faceted programs as a whole.
These types of analytics are increasing in popularity as companies demand greater visibility into the performance of call centers and other service and support channels in order to correct problems before they affect satisfaction levels. Support-focused applications typically include dashboards similar to those for sales, plus capabilities to measure and analyze response times, service quality, agent performance, and the frequency of various issues.
Departments within enterprises ??” especially large enterprises ??” tend to function with little collaboration. More recently, the development and adoption of these tools and services have fostered greater fluidity and cooperation among sales, service, and marketing. This finds expression in the concept of collaborative systems which uses technology to build bridges between departments. For example, feedback from a technical support center can enlighten marketers about specific services and product features clients are asking for. Reps, in their turn, want to be able to pursue these opportunities without the burden of re-entering records and contact data into a separate SFA system. Owing to these factors, many of the top-rated and most popular products come as integrated suites.
For small business, basic client service can be accomplished by a contact manager system: an integrated solution that lets organizations and individuals efficiently track and record interactions, including emails, documents, jobs, faxes, scheduling, and more. These tools usually focus on accounts rather than on individual contacts. They also generally include opportunity insight for tracking sales pipelines plus added functionality for marketing and service. As with larger enterprises, small businesses are finding value in online solutions, especially for mobile and telecommuting workers.
Social media sites like Twitter, LinkedIn and Face book are amplifying the voice of people in the marketplace and are having profound and far-reaching effects on the ways in which people buy. Customers can now research companies online and then ask for recommendations through social media channels, making their buying decision without contacting the company.
People also use social media to share opinions and experiences on companies, products and services. As social media is not as widely moderated or censored as mainstream media, individuals can say anything they want about a company or brand, positive or negative.
Increasingly, companies are looking to gain access to these conversations and take part in the dialogue. More than a few systems are now integrating to social networking sites. Social media promoters cite a number of business advantages, such as using online communities as a source of high-quality leads and a vehicle for crowd sourcing solutions to client-support problems. Companies can also leverage client stated habits and preferences to -target” their sales and marketing communications.
Some analysts take the view that business-to-business marketers should proceed cautiously when weaving social media into their business processes. These observers recommend careful market research to determine if and where the phenomenon can provide measurable benefits for client interactions, sales and support. It is stated that people feel their interactions are peer-to-peer between them and their contacts, and resent company involvement, sometimes responding with negatives about that company.
Non-profit and membership-based
Systems for non-profit and membership-based organizations help track constituents and their involvement in the organization. Capabilities typically include tracking the following: fund-raising, demographics, membership levels, membership directories, volunteering and communications with individuals.
Many include tools for identifying potential donors based on previous donations and participation. In light of the growth of social networking tools, there may be some overlap between social/community driven tools and non-profit/membership tools.