Customer Relationship Management, or CRM, refers to the way in which a company manages its interactions with its existing and potential customers. More specifically, CRM is a particular type of software package used by enterprise firms to more efficiently organise and process aspects relating to their customer interactions, whether that is sales data, marketing insights or customer support. CRM may also enable a business to automate some feature of its customer interactions, helping to streamline operations and improve efficiency.
CRM software differs depending on the developer, but it will usually enable businesses to easily identify individual customers so that issues can be resolved more effectively or so they can be targeted for future sales where relevant. This may take the form of a database of existing customers, relevant contact information and a history of their previous interactions with the company, such as past sales. In the modern world, customer interactions can take place via several different mediums including phone calls, online shopping, apps or emails. CRM collates all this diverse information into a single customer profile to ensure that service is personal and up-to-date.
As well as improving customer support efficiency, CRM is also used by companies to identify future sales. By analysing previous interactions and purchasing trends, CRM tools can automatically produce sales reports and help to identify opportunities to up-sell.
Alongside automatically updating customer data, CRM may be able to automate other features of the businesses-customer relationship. Virtual agents may be part of the CRM portfolio, where artificial intelligence bots help deal with customer queries and issues. Often these virtual agents are given a human appearance and undergo rigorous testing to ensure that they can deal with a multitude of customer service tasks. If the automated aspects of CRM prove ineffective, they will transfer the customer to a human agent.
However, CRM is not only relevant for customer support teams. Increasingly businesses are embedding CRM software across the company as a whole, enabling teams from different parts of the organisation to collaborate more easily. CRM is also a useful internal tool, helping businesses to assess how successful their partnerships are and where improvements can be made.
Like many other software applications, CRM is usually hosted in the cloud to provide businesses with added mobility. Where companies have customers based worldwide, CRM can be hugely useful in allowing them to analyse trends across different areas, while having data available for all their customers globally. Using a cloud-based CRM also helps employees to remain productive even when they aren’t based in the office.
CRM systems that are based in the cloud are often priced per the number of people accessing the system and have few initial costs, making them an attractive tool for smaller businesses. They are also easily scalable should businesses achieve rapid or unexpected growth.
Overall, CRM helps to cut down the amount of time companies spend on administration when it comes to the customer-facing side of their business, allowing them to focus on sales opportunities and growth areas.
It is easy to see “the customer” as one large, homogenous whole, particularly when trying to make sense of the huge quantity of data now available. The aim of Customer Relationship Management software is to help businesses understand the individual that makes up that whole to provide better results for customers and businesses alike.